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Worse than a Defeat

James Meek: Shamed in Afghanistan, 18 December 2014

The Good War: Why We Couldn’t Win the War or the Peace in Afghanistan 
by Jack Fairweather.
Cape, 488 pp., £20, December 2014, 978 0 224 09736 9
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Investment in Blood: The True Cost of Britain’s Afghan War 
by Frank Ledwidge.
Yale, 287 pp., £10.99, July 2014, 978 0 300 20526 8
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British Generals in Blair’s Wars 
edited by Jonathan Bailey, Richard Iron and Hew Strachan.
Ashgate, 404 pp., £19.95, August 2013, 978 1 4094 3736 9
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An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict 1978-2012 
by Mike Martin.
Hurst, 389 pp., £25, April 2014, 978 1 84904 336 6
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... of Serbia and the deployment of British troops in Ulster repugnant could take pride in General Mike Jackson’s refusal, in Kosovo in 1999, to follow the orders of a hot-headed American general that could have led to an unnecessary skirmish with Russia. It’s clear from these books, and from my own very short time with British troops in Helmand in ...

The Most Corrupt Idea of Modern Times

Tom Stevenson: Inspecting the Troops, 1 July 2021

The Changing of the Guard: The British Army since 9/11 
by Simon Akam.
Scribe, 704 pp., £25, March, 978 1 913348 48 9
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... the British nor the Americans had much understanding of the civil war into which they had waded. Mike Martin, a former officer commissioned to research British military operations in Helmand (he published his findings in An Intimate War, despite the MoD’s attempts to suppress it), described the British approach to the conflict as ‘so far removed ...


Mike Selvey: Dumping Gower, 24 September 1992

... at that point to set the juices racing. ‘I think a cup of coffee is in order,’ I said to Martin Johnson of the Independent and Alan Lee of the Times, ‘and the only place on the ground that serves a proper filtered cup of the stuff is the Hove Shop.’ Most County grounds have an establishment like this, where anything that can reasonably be sold at ...

Cloud Cover

Adam Phillips, 16 October 1997

Night Train 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 149 pp., £10.99, October 1997, 0 224 05018 4
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... For three words once, in 1987, Martin Amis sounded like D.H. Lawrence. ‘Art celebrates life,’ he wrote in his keenly anti-nuclear Introduction to Einstein’s Monsters, and then he went back to being himself: ‘and not the other thing, not the opposite of life.’ Before nuclear weapons had dawned on him – ‘I say I “became” interested, but really I was interested all along’ – it was not always clear what life Amis’s writing was on the side of ...

On Michael Neve

Mike Jay, 21 November 2019

... he dismissed this as a relic of a past life occasionally glimpsed in anecdotes of drinking with Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens, or lunching with Mick Jagger. He maintained he had done nothing to earn his credit for years, and as a result it took me a long time to recognise how considerable his contribution had been. The range of his two dozen pieces ...

The Word on the Street

Elaine Showalter, 7 March 1996

Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics 
by Anonymous.
Chatto, 366 pp., £15.99, February 1996, 0 7011 6584 7
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... York Times bestseller list; North American paperback rights have been sold for $1.5 million, and Mike Nichols has bought the movie rights for another million. Garry Trudeau has put it into Doonesbury. Street vendors in Washington are selling buttons that read ‘I am not Anonymous.’ Primary Colors, the funny, literate and juicy roman à clef about the 1992 ...

Did he leap?

Mendez: ‘Harlem Shuffle’, 16 December 2021

Harlem Shuffle 
by Colson Whitehead.
Fleet, 320 pp., £16.99, September 2021, 978 0 7088 9944 1
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... at Dozier School for Boys: it tells the story of Elwood Curtis, a talented 16-year-old acolyte of Martin Luther King Jr, who has hope and promise snatched away by the torturous racial violence to which he’s subjected at a reform school in Florida in the early 1960s.Assured of another bestseller, Whitehead turned back to Harlem Shuffle. Unlike Elwood ...

Keep talking

Julian Loose, 26 March 1992

by Nicholson Baker.
Granta, 172 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 0 14 014232 0
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... enough. Room Temperature (1990) contracts the workplace lunch hour to the short span it takes Mike to feed Bug, his baby, in the ‘lulling domestic setting’ of home. A part-time technical writer and reviewer of TV commercials, Mike (like Howie) is possessed of an active inner life, is always ‘primed for awe’. As ...

What’s Coming

David Edgar: J.M. Synge, 22 March 2001

Fool of the Family: A Life of J.M. Synge 
by W.J. McCormack.
Weidenfeld, 499 pp., £25, March 2000, 0 297 64612 5
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Interpreting Synge: Essays from the Synge Summer School 1991-2000 
edited by Nicholas Grene.
Lilliput, 220 pp., £29.95, July 2000, 1 901866 47 5
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... illusions about themselves and each other. Believing his wife to be beautiful, the newly sighted Martin walks straight past her to the luscious young Molly (to receive a rude awakening); Mary, too, realises that if she ever was, she is now far from being ‘the beautiful dark woman of Ballinatone’. In the hands of a different playwright, this cruel ...


Rachel Cohen: Zoë Heller, 6 November 2008

The Believers 
by Zoë Heller.
Fig Tree, 320 pp., £16.99, September 2008, 978 0 670 91612 2
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... of an athlete and the intellectual assurance of someone who has just been asked to work on Martin Luther King’s legal team. He rapidly takes stock of her beauty – ‘Is she one of mine?’ he asks a member of the calmly anti-semitic crowd – and guesses, as the reader does, at some intensity in the young woman that seems to match his own bravado ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: The Oscars, 26 February 2009

... In the Heat of the Night both starred Sidney Poitier, who always looks nice, but in the year of Martin Luther King’s death – an event which held up the ceremony by two days – it was quite something to see two films in which a black man appeared not only to assert himself but to do so with a certain degree of moral disdain. In the Heat of the Night has ...


Michael Rogin, 5 September 1996

Imagineering Atlanta 
by Charles Rutheiser.
Verso, 324 pp., £44.95, July 1996, 1 85984 800 1
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... An anthropologist teaching in Atlanta, he writes in the tradition of urban studies established by Mike Davis’s pathbreaking City of Quartz. But there is more ethnographic texture in Davis’s Los Angeles: Rutheiser’s subject, which invokes a term invented by Disney, is ‘Imagineering’, the promotional synthesis of imagination and engineering that, from ...


Wendy Steiner, 19 October 1995

Gertrude Stein in Words and Pictures 
by Renate Stendhal.
Thames and Hudson, 286 pp., £14.95, March 1995, 0 500 27832 6
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‘Favoured Strangers’: Gertrude Stein and Her Family 
by Linda Wagner-Martin.
Rutgers, 346 pp., $34.95, August 1995, 0 8135 2169 6
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... pictures that first drew strangers to the apartment. Gertrude and Leo, along with their brother Mike and his wife Sally, owned more contemporary paintings and drawings than the Paris galleries; Leo and Gertrude bought more Cézannes than the Luxembourg Museum. Alfred Barr said that between 1905 and 1907 Leo was ‘possibly the most discerning connoisseur ...

Time to Rob the Dead

Jeremy Adler: Simplicius Simplicissimus, 16 March 2017

The Adventures of Simplicius Simplicissimus 
by Johann Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, translated by Mike Mitchell.
Dedalus, 433 pp., £13.99, April 2017, 978 1 903517 42 0
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... In poetry, drama and fiction, writers followed the new formal rules laid down by the Silesian poet Martin Opitz in his Buch von der Teutschen Poetery (1624) and brought about a national literary revival. They wrote in a vivid and dynamic style, with larger than life characters and supernatural occurrences. But the rhetorical flourishes that worked well for ...

‘I’m not signing’

Mike Jay: Franco Basaglia, 8 September 2016

The Man Who Closed the Asylums: Franco Basaglia and the Revolution in Mental Health Care 
by John Foot.
Verso, 404 pp., £20, August 2015, 978 1 78168 926 4
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... that emerged in the 1980s as part of the backlash against ‘antipsychiatry’, particularly Martin Roth and Jerome Kroll’s The Reality of Mental Illness (1986).* Roth and Kroll wrote about Basaglia in the present tense though he had died six years earlier, and took him to be both a Marxist and of the opinion that psychiatric diagnoses were no more ...

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