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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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... with the Good Friday Agreement. Even those Britons who found the retaking of the Falklands, the bombing 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 ...

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 ...

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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... library, and 742,000 have been shipped to bookstores to meet the demand. It’s number one on the New 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 ...

Keep talking

Julian Loose

26 March 1992
Vox 
by Nicholson Baker.
Granta, 172 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 0 14 014232 0
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... into something rich and strange, because he can convince us that the everyday is quite exhilarating 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 ...

Harridan

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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... watches Joel Litvinoff, white-toothed and brilliant, an American lawyer with the physical assurance 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 ...

Diary

Mike​ Selvey: Dumping Gower

24 September 1992
... in the small press box at the Sussex ground at Hove, a County match was in progress, but there was little 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 ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: The Oscars

26 February 2009
... who seemed to thrive on his ‘extraordinarily ordinary’ looks.) Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and 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 ...

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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... the miracle removes the couple’s main means of employment, but more important, vision destroys their 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 ...
19 November 2019
... off a piece for the LRB. He became a member of the LRB’s editorial board in 1983. When I knew him 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 ...

Crowing

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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... of the US. The Olympic acquisition inspired Charles Rutheiser’s brilliant account of the city. 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 ...

Mother

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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... part than on his. ‘Play Hemingway!’ she in structed her dog Basket: ‘Be fierce!’ It was the 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 ...
31 October 2002
Sweet Sixteen 
directed by Ken Loach.
October 2002
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The Cinema of Ken Loach: Art in the Service of the People 
by Jacob Leigh.
Wallflower, 192 pp., £13.99, May 2002, 1 903364 31 0
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... how comprehensively can the method and the message be obscured by the medium? Those moments in Loach’s films when we can hear the feet mounting the soapbox are as disruptive to the drama as a boom-mike dipping into shot or a cameraman’s reflection in a patio door. Too often, Loach seems unable to think in political and cinematic terms simultaneously; in Hidden Agenda (a retelling of the Stalker ...

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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... August 1676. The German 17th century witnessed one of the great flowerings of European literature. 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 ...

Shakers

Denis Donoghue

6 November 1986
Write on: Occasional Essays ’65-’85 
by David Lodge.
Secker, 211 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 436 25665 7
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... of Norman Mailer’s The Prisoner of Sex, The Complete Uncollected Short Stories of J.D. Salinger, a book about the ‘Catholic sensibility’ of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Blake Morrison’s The Movement, Martin Amis’s Success, Tony Tanner’s Adultery in the Novel, Graham Greene’s Ways of Escape, Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, Truman Capote’s Music for Chameleons, the Oxford American Dictionary ...

Muted Ragu Tones

Michael Hofmann: David Szalay

20 April 2016
All That Man Is 
by David Szalay.
Cape, 437 pp., £14.99, April 2016, 978 0 224 09976 9
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... protection officers’, ‘Nespressos’, ‘Pret sandwiches’, ‘wet-room’, ‘a Smeg fridge’, ‘End of’, ‘Number still work?’ An encounter might go: ‘Been watching the snooker, Martin?’ ‘Not really.’ ‘No? Fair enough.’ Or: ‘Alright, Mossy,’ Simon says. ‘How are you? Alright?’ Mossy says something. ‘Yeah alright,’ Simon says. The whole of Spring can ...

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