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Old Europe

Jeremy Harding: Britain in Bosnia, 20 February 2003

Indictment at The Hague: The Milosevic Regime and the Crimes of the Balkan Wars 
by Norman Cigar and Paul Williams.
New York, 339 pp., $24.95, July 2002, 0 8147 1626 1
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Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia 
by Brendan Simms.
Penguin, 464 pp., £8.99, July 2002, 0 14 028983 6
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Under Orders: War Crimes in Kosovo 
by Fred Abrahams.
Human Rights Watch, 593 pp., £18, October 2001, 1 56432 264 5
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Milosevic: A Biography 
by Adam LeBor.
Bloomsbury, 386 pp., £20, October 2002, 0 7475 6090 0
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... It’s thought that her presence saved the lives of the other staff on several occasions. Norman Cigar and Paul Williams argue that war crimes prosecutions are necessary not simply for the well-rehearsed reasons – ending cultures of impunity, achieving ‘closure’, restoring faith in due process – but because they seek to establish ...

Grandfather Emerson

Harold Bloom, 7 April 1994

Poetry and Pragmatism 
by Richard Poirier.
Faber, 228 pp., £20, November 1992, 0 571 16617 2
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... and A World Elsewhere (1966), through a middle phase in The Performing Self (1971) and Norman Mailer (1972), on to the major study of Robert Frost: The Work of Knowing (1977), and culminating in The Renewal of Literature: Emersonian Reflections (1987) and Poetry and Pragmatism (1992), now belatedly under review. More perhaps than anyone ...

A Conversation with Gore Vidal

Thomas Powers: Meeting Gore Vidal, 30 July 2014

... four storeys up, looking out over Trastevere. He was quick to refill our drinks. I smoked a cigar. Candace was pretty in her yellow dress. Gore talked, imitated, made sexual allusions, mimicked accents, occasionally asked a question, and in general worked hard to be a good, entertaining guest. He’d been just the same way back in 1965 and ...

Supersellers

John Sutherland, 8 November 1979

The Devil’s Alternative 
by Frederick Forsyth.
Hutchinson, 479 pp., £5.95
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The Four Hundred 
by Stephen Sheppard.
Secker, 374 pp., £5.25
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... valued, foreigner: ‘At home on the outskirts of Sheffield, the great steel town of Yorkshire, Mr Norman Pickering kissed his wife and daughter farewell …’ Would Bennett have ventured that (for us) redundant information as to Sheffield’s location and industry? But Bennett, of course, was a best-seller of a previous era and 80 per cent of his income was ...

Keep slogging

Andrew Bacevich: The Trouble with Generals, 21 July 2005

Douglas Haig: War Diaries and Letters 1914-18 
edited by Gary Sheffield and John Bourne.
Weidenfeld, 550 pp., £25, March 2005, 0 297 84702 3
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... credited with ‘winning’ several of America’s most recent military encounters. In 1991, Norman Schwarzkopf handily dispatched the Iraqi army in what Saddam Hussein had proclaimed would be the ‘Mother of All Battles’. At the time, Operation Desert Storm appeared to be as close to flawless as any major operation in modern military ...

A Company of Merchants

Jamie Martin: The Bank of England, 24 January 2019

Till Time’s Last Sand: A History of the Bank of England, 1694-2013 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 879 pp., £35, September 2017, 978 1 4088 6856 0
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... the time. After the Napoleonic Wars, the bank cracked down on the wild atmosphere. Drunkenness, cigar-smoking, singing and gambling were made sacking offences, and it was threatened that men’s moustaches would be removed by force. Few of the bank’s employees had university educations, and until the late 20th century – when economists began to fill out ...

Haute Booboisie

Wendy Lesser: H.L. Mencken, 6 July 2006

Mencken: The American Iconoclast 
by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers.
Oxford, 662 pp., £19.99, January 2006, 0 19 507238 3
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... tones of the progressive tradition extending from Mark Twain and William Dean Howells through Norman Mailer, Murray Kempton and beyond, you are mistaken. Mencken also wrote this: The educated Negro of today is a failure, not because he meets insuperable difficulties in life, but because he is a Negro. His brain is not fitted for the higher forms of ...

If you don’t swing, don’t ring

Christopher Turner: Playboy Mansions, 20 April 2016

Pornotopia: An Essay on Playboy’s Architecture and Biopolitics 
by Beatriz Preciado.
Zone, 303 pp., £20.95, October 2014, 978 1 935408 48 2
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Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny 
by Holly Madison.
Dey Street, 334 pp., £16.99, July 2015, 978 0 06 237210 9
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... women and salacious cartoons, he published (or rather, mostly republished) work by John Steinbeck, Norman Mailer, Arthur Conan Doyle, Margaret Atwood, Vladimir Nabokov, Jack Kerouac, Saul Bellow, P.G. Wodehouse, Anne Sexton and John Updike. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was first serialised in the magazine. ‘I only read it for the articles,’ joked ...

Who had the most fun?

David Bromwich: The Marx Brothers, 10 May 2001

Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx 
by Stefan Kanfer.
Penguin, 480 pp., £7.99, April 2001, 0 14 029426 0
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The Essential Groucho 
by Groucho Marx, edited by Stefan Kanfer.
Penguin, 254 pp., £6.99, September 2000, 0 14 029425 2
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... trouble he knows he deserves. To work his magic he needs a higher-class mark than they do – his cigar and tails are qualifications necessary for success; but the audience knows that he will be gulled by the antic pair who drive a cheesier trade. They are inert, lumpen, almost aimless. Harpo is often shown sleeping or sleepwalking not because he is tired but ...

Karl Miller Remembered

Neal Ascherson, John Lanchester and Andrew O’Hagan, 22 October 2014

... Karl was introduced to the mighty poets of Milne’s Bar and the Abbotsford: Hugh MacDiarmid, Norman MacCaig and Robert Garioch, among others. MacIver played some of the part of a father, taking Karl all over town to whatever was happening on stage or on screen. MacCaig was to become a lifelong friend, guide and admirer; they shared the same dryness of ...

Skating Charm

James Wolcott: Kenneth Tynan, 13 December 2001

The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan 
edited by John Lahr.
Bloomsbury, 439 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 7475 5418 8
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... a fucked-out burn-out who still has a seductive way with words. To borrow a word from Norman Mailer, Tynan was a sexologue – an ideologue about sex. He was an admirer of the renegade psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, about whom he was writing a book-length study (never completed). With his once-voguish theories about armoured personalities and orgone ...

All change. This train is cancelled

Iain Sinclair: The Dome, 13 May 1999

... walls of the dining-room: Harold Wilson, Derek Nimmo, David Steel, Jeremy Irons, Clement Freud, Norman Tebbit, Barbara Castle, Elaine Paige, Cecil Parkinson, Nigel Lawson, Robin Day. It’s like being compulsorily inducted into a dinner party from hell, a nightmare mix of half-forgotten careerists and political dinosaurs who can’t switch off. But ...

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