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The smallest details speak the loudest

John Upton: The Stephen Lawrence inquiry, 1 July 1999

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry 
by Sir William Macpherson.
Stationery Office, 335 pp., £26, February 1999, 0 10 142622 4
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The Case of Stephen Lawrence 
by Brian Cathcart.
Viking, 418 pp., £16.99, May 1999, 0 670 88604 1
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... help because ‘they did not want to get their hands dirty with a black man’s blood.’ The day after the murder, the Lawrences, acting on advice from the Anti-Racist Alliance, took the unusual step of appointing a lawyer, Imran Khan, as their representative – an act of some legal sophistication. Imran Khan was to have a significant role in the coming ...

What did you expect?

Steven Shapin: The banality of moon-talk, 1 September 2005

Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth 
by Andrew Smith.
Bloomsbury, 308 pp., £17.99, April 2005, 0 7475 6368 3
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... in January 1972 at the Old Vic, Jumpers came two and a half years after the Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men on the Moon and less than a year before the Apollo 17 astronauts Jack Schmitt and Gene Cernan became the last. Between July 1969 and December 1972, 21 astronauts left on Apollo missions to put men on the ...

‘No view on it’

Paul Foot, 22 October 1992

Nuclear Ambiguity: The Vanunu Affair 
by Yoel Cohen.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 297 pp., £10.99, July 1992, 1 85619 150 8
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... and the maniacal raid on the Lebanon, led him to reflect on the likelihood that Israel might one day soon use these monstrous weapons. The argument of the ‘deterrent’, deployed so effectively to take the sting from the disarmament movement in countries like Britain and the United States, hardly applied to Israel. The governments of the other nuclear ...

How did we decide what Christ looked like?

Frank Kermode: How Jesus Got His Face, 27 April 2000

The Image of Christ 
edited by Gabriele Finaldi.
National Gallery, 224 pp., £14.95, February 2000, 1 85709 292 9
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... in the form of a film show, CD-Roms and audiotapes. A BBC book accompanies the series, and Neil MacGregor, the indefatigable director of the Gallery, not only does the TV presentations but is making a hectic lecture tour (Glasgow, Liverpool, Cardiff, Belfast: admission free). We are talking about as professionally orchestrated an art offensive as we ...

Fine Women

Neil Rennie, 6 July 1989

The Pacific since Magellan. Vol. III: Paradise Found and Lost 
by O.H.K. Spate.
Routledge, 410 pp., £40, January 1989, 0 415 02565 6
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Captain Bligh: The Man and his Mutinies 
by Gavin Kennedy.
Duckworth, 321 pp., £14.95, April 1989, 0 7156 2231 5
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The Sublime Savage: James Macpherson and the Poems of Ossian 
by Fiona Stafford.
Edinburgh, 208 pp., £22.50, November 1988, 0 85224 569 6
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... and ‘felt a stirring in my mind to go on such an undertaking’. He told Johnson the next day of his ‘strong inclination’ to sail on Cook’s next voyage, and Johnson responded: ‘Why, Sir, a man does feel so, till he considers how very little he can learn from such voyages.’ Spate’s chapter on ‘The Tahitian Venus and the Good ...

Britain’s Asians

Neil Berry, 29 October 1987

... in Tower Hamlets, and there are Bengali families which are cracking under the strain. The other day one Bengali family, broken by months of verbal and physical intimidation, fled London to take refuge with relatives in the North of England. A Bengali community leader, whose hand was smashed with a hammer while he was waiting for a take-away, says that no ...


Terry Eagleton, 6 January 1994

Safe in the Kitchen 
by Aisling Foster.
Hamish Hamilton, 347 pp., £14.99, November 1993, 0 241 13426 9
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... In Neil Jordan’s film The Crying Game, a renegade IRA man ends up in the arms of a male cross-dresser. It is a typical Post-Modern drift – from politics to perversity, revolution to transgression, the transformation of society to the reinvention of the self. Revolutions are made in the name of wealth, freedom, fullness of life; but those who make them are the worst possible image of the world they hope to fashion ...

Bustin’ up the Chiffarobe

Alex Abramovich: Paul Beatty, 7 January 2016

The Sellout 
by Paul Beatty.
Farrar, Straus, 288 pp., £17, March 2015, 978 0 374 26050 7
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... fired a few rounds into the ceiling while shouting: ‘Nigger, go back to Africa!’ ‘To this day,’ the sellout says, ‘I have a strange affinity for Neil Young, and whenever I have trouble sleeping, I don’t listen to recorded rainstorms or crashing waves but to the Watergate tapes.’ (‘Now your crosses/Are ...

The Most Beautiful Icicle

Inigo Thomas: Apollo 11, 15 August 2019

Reaching for the Moon: A Short History of the Space Race 
by Roger D. Launius.
Yale, 256 pp., £20, July 2019, 978 0 300 23046 8
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The Moon: A History for the Future 
by Oliver Morton.
Economist Books, 334 pp., £20, May 2019, 978 1 78816 254 8
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... In​ Neil Armstrong’s photograph of Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon, taken with a camera strapped to his chest, Aldrin stands at ease, his right arm hanging loosely at his side, the left raised as if he’s about to do something – look at his watch, perhaps? The photograph was taken fifty years ago, on 20 July 1969, and it’s one of the most recognisable photographs from the Apollo missions, among the most famous photographs ever taken ...

Anti-Social Climbing

Justine Burley: Mountaineering, 1 January 1998

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Everest Disaster 
by Jon Krakauer.
Macmillan, 293 pp., £16.99, August 1997, 0 333 69527 5
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Dark Shadows Falling 
by Joe Simpson.
Cape, 207 pp., £16.99, August 1997, 0 224 04368 4
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... which envelopes of thick cloud had descended. Visibility was reduced to a few feet. The following day, eight climbers were dead. Of the survivors, one had his nose and hand amputated, another all his fingers and toes. The storm, typical of the region and time of year, requires no explanation, but why were so many people still so high on the mountain that late ...

On Display

Dan Jacobson, 20 August 1998

King Khama, Emperor Joe and the Great White Queen: Victorian Britain through African Eyes 
by Neil Parsons.
Chicago, 322 pp., £15.25, January 1998, 0 226 64745 5
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... The latter were always treated as little more than serfs by the dominant Tswana; to this day they are generally confined by their masters to herding and domestic labour. Covered for the most part by a layer of coarse Kalahari sand, the territory is hot, dry and flat. Only in its north-western corner is permanent surface-water to be found, where the ...

Settlers v. Natives

Stephen Sedley, 8 March 2001

Questioning Sovereignty: Law, State and Nation in the European Commonwealth 
by Neil MacCormick.
Oxford, 210 pp., £40, October 2000, 0 19 826876 9
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Waitangi and Indigenous Rights: Revolution, Law and Legitimation 
by F.M. Brookfield.
Auckland, 253 pp., NZ $39.95, November 1999, 1 86940 184 0
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... sovereign state, by contrast, still commands intellectual allegiance in spite of evidence that its day is done. This is not to say that states do not continue to exist which both assert and possess the power to determine what happens inside their borders. It is to say that sovereignty no longer furnishes (if it ever did) an adequate account of the distribution ...

Davie’s Rap

Neil Corcoran, 25 January 1990

Under Briggflatts: A History of Poetry in Great Britain 1960-1988 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 261 pp., £18.95, October 1989, 0 85635 820 7
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by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 55 pp., £5.95, November 1989, 0 19 282680 8
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Possible Worlds 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 68 pp., £6.95, September 1989, 0 19 282660 3
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The boys who stole the funeral: A Novel Sequence 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 71 pp., £6.95, October 1989, 0 85635 845 2
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... dress Is sexual and she fingers it, the tent Above her like a conquering glans, it’s God Day-dreaming a new gender for the war In Heaven: a marvellous smile which runs Through flesh del parto, headlong on to love. This is knowingly allusive, sophisticated and wry: it knows not only the painting but, probably, some of the most recent criticism of the ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Novelists aren’t popstars, 23 March 2006

... the promotional material cheerfully promised, ‘if you travel by boat up the river. On a fine day, this will certainly be the most relaxed and enjoyable way of arriving.’ It was perhaps optimistic to rely on ‘good spring weather’ in London at the beginning of March. At least one delegate, having made the arduous journey east in order to speak at a ...

Into Apathy

Neil McKendrick, 21 August 1980

The Wedgwood Circle, 1730-1897 
by Barbara Wedgwood and Hensleigh Wedgwood.
Studio Vista, 386 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 289 70892 3
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... under a rarely-lifted log, all the more luminously strange for so rarely seeing the light of day. In such little explored shadowy corners we find Sarah Wedgwood, the last surviving daughter of Josiah and Sally, living alone. Sarah was tall, thin, solemn and sad, but above all remarkably fastidious. She was so fastidious that she kept special pairs of ...

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