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5 March 2015
... One of the​ things Cameron and Obama have in common is that they both owe their rapid political ascent to a single, shortish speech. Obama gave his in 2004 at the Democratic Convention in Boston, where he deftly managed to combine his unusual personal history with a vision of a post-partisan America, and ...

California Noir

Michael​ Rogin: Destroying Los Angeles

19 August 1999
Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster 
by Mike Davis.
Picador, 484 pp., £18.99, June 1999, 9780330372190
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... The first picture to greet the reader shows cars half-submerged under water, scattered in all directions as far as the eye can see. ‘January 1995 storm (Long Beach)’, the caption reads; ‘Apocalypse Theme Park’ is ...

Divided We Grow

John Barrell: When Pitt​ Panicked

5 June 2003
The London Corresponding Society​ 1792-99 
edited by Michael T. Davis.
Pickering & Chatto, £495, June 2002, 1 85196 734 6
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Romanticism, Publishing and Dissent: Joseph Johnson and the Cause of Liberty 
by Helen Braithwaite.
Palgrave, 243 pp., £45, December 2002, 0 333 98394 7
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... The London Corresponding Society was founded early in 1792 by a group of tradesmen who met in a pub off the Strand. The Society was to educate its members – expected to be artisans, mechanics, shopkeepers – about politics and history, and would function as a pressure group to persuade the Government to adopt the ‘Duke of Richmond’s plan’, the twin reforms of ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: ‘Miles Ahead’

18 May 2016
Miles Ahead 
directed by Don Cheadle.
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... The places​ were Philadelphia and New York, the names were John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bill Evans and a few others, heirs to Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, spoken of with awe in every version of the story. Something called West Coast jazz, thought by many to be an oxymoron, was making itself heard in the persons of ...

The Rear-View Mirror

Michael​ Hofmann

31 October 1996
The End of the Story 
by Lydia Davis.
Serpent’s Tail, 231 pp., £8.99, October 1996, 1 85242 420 6
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Break it Down 
by Lydia Davis.
Serpent’s Tail, 177 pp., £8.99, October 1996, 1 85242 421 4
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... Nothing in me wantsto believe – nothing in the book makes me want to believe – that The End of the Story is a performance, but just for that reason I have to begin by saying what a good and believable performance it is: how much I admire the characters and the description and the action, and what a wickedly good account it gives of a novel that doesn’t  ...
7 March 1991
A Dubious Codicil: An Autobiography by 
by Michael​ Wharton.
Chatto, 261 pp., £15.99, December 1990, 0 7011 3064 4
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The House the Berrys built 
by Duff Hart-Davis.
Hodder, 299 pp., £16.95, April 1990, 3 405 92526 6
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Lords of Fleet Street: The Harmsworth​ Dynasty 
by Richard Bourne.
Unwin Hyman, 258 pp., £16.95, October 1990, 0 04 440450 6
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... acknowledge that the most accurate as well as the funniest portrayal of their profession is Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Scoop. No one who has ever worked for a paper with a baronial proprietor could fail to recognise Lord Copper and his bevvy of fawning executives. Equally, anyone who has ever been a foreign correspondent will admit that Waugh’s dreadful pack of war reporters is all too realisti...

St Malcolm Martyr

Michael​ Wood

25 March 1993
Malcolm X 
directed by Spike Lee.
May 1993
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By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of the Making of ‘Malcolm X’ 
by Spike Lee and Ralph Wiley.
Vintage, 314 pp., £7.99, February 1993, 0 09 928531 2
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Malcolm X: The Great Photographs 
compiled by Thulani Davis and Howard Chapnick.
Stewart,​ Tabori and Chang, 168 pp., £14.99, March 1993, 1 55670 317 1
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... The reviews and the hype hadn’t prepared me for Malcolm X at all. I expected it to be dull and worthy, a straight and long-winded retelling of a famous life. I found it lively, pretty dramatic, not all that much too long. It is a glossy parable of the sinner who came to virtu...
16 July 1981
Utopia and the Ideal SocietyA Study of English Utopian Writing, 1516-1700 
by J.C. Davis.
Cambridge, 427 pp., £25, March 1981, 0 521 23396 8
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Science and Society​ in Restoration England 
by Michael​ Hunter.
Cambridge, 232 pp., £18.50, March 1981, 0 521 22866 2
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... Dr Davis’s book is a long, careful and detailed study of utopian writing in England from Sir Thomas More tothe end of the 17th century. He has interesting things to say about well-known figures like More, Bacon, Winstanley and Harrington, but I found his chapters on lesser writers even more instructive. Robert Burton and Samuel Gott are revealed as more ...
6 December 1984
The Lyttelton Hart-Davis​ Letters: Correspondence of George Lyttelton and Rupert Hart-Davis
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 193 pp., £13.50, April 1984, 0 7195 4108 5
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... We now have the sixth and final volume of the Lyttelton Hart-Davis Letters. George Lyttelton died on 1 May 1962, thus ending a correspondence which had begun in 1955; the first of the volumes edited by the survivor was published in 1978, the rest have appeared at  ...

The Power of Sunshine

Alexander Cockburn

10 January 1991
City​ of QuartzExcavating the Future of Los Angeles 
by Mike Davis.
Verso, 462 pp., £18.95, November 1990, 0 86091 303 1
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... City of Quartz’? Los Angeles is indeed bright, hard, opaque. Even the astonishing sunsets one can see from Interstate 15, looking west towards Pomona, have a sepulchral flush tothem as the red light filters through the foul air rolling towards Riverside and the desert seventy miles east of the Pacific. And when the Santa Ana winds blow the other way and clean out the whole ...

Neo-Catastrophism

Eric Klinenberg: Sinful Cities?

9 October 2003
The Unfinished CityNew York and the Metropolitan Idea 
by Thomas Bender.
New Press, 287 pp., $30, September 2002, 1 56584 736 9
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Dead Cities: and Other Tales 
by Mike Davis.
New Press, 448 pp., $16.95, October 2003, 1 56584 844 6
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... the 1990s New York was the capital city of America’s economic boom: now it is the epicentre of urban insecurity. The city is familiar with crisis, however, and no one could say it had surrendered tothe new and old dangers it faces. Although disaster experts warn that a dirty bomb could result in the evacuation of millions of panicked residents and require the demolition of contaminate...

People’s Friend

Michael​ Brock

27 September 1990
Lord Grey: 1764-1845 
by E.A. Smith.
Oxford, 338 pp., £37.50, March 1990, 9780198201632
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... and been disputed, more violently than that of ‘Lord Grey of the Reform Bill’. Soon after his retirement in 1834 the Courier pronounced that no other public man had ‘ever had so great a claim tothe gratitude of his country’. Less than two years later an ex-colleague, John Cam Hobhouse, commented: ‘I am surprised how, by mere fluency of speech and arrogance of manner, this really ...

Vote​ for the Beast!

Ian Gilmour: The Tory Leadership

20 October 2005
... the Conservatives any longer a serious party?’ A serious party can be one of two things. It can, like the Greens, be concerned with only one issue or one group of issues. Its members are not hoping to form a government they know they are never going to do that – but they believe the presence of some Greens in Parliament, Brussels and local government will help them publicise the issues they ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: ‘Miami Vice’

17 August 2006
Miami Vice 
directed by Michael​ Mann.
August 2006
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... There are all kinds of differences between movies and television, and one of them is that TVthrives on situations, faces, interruptions and short-term drama, which is why games, soap operas and interviews make such ideal material for it. What TV doesn’t seem to need is a world, a create...

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