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Christian v. Cannibal

Michael Rogin: Norman Mailer and American history, 1 April 1999

The American Century 
by Harold Evans.
Cape, 710 pp., £40, November 1998, 0 224 05217 9
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The Time of Our Time 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 1286 pp., £25, September 1998, 0 316 64571 0
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... immigrants like himself about the ‘nature of their heritage’. Something goes wrong when the page numbers change from roman to arabic numerals, however. The first page of Chapter One, ‘The Last Frontier’, introduces us to the theft of the land promised to the Cherokee Indians in perpetuity, and to the gap between a ...

Doctor, Doctor

D.A.N. Jones, 19 April 1984

The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea 
by Randolph Stow.
Secker, 276 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 436 49734 4
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The Suburbs of Hell 
by Randolph Stow.
Secker, 165 pp., £7.95, April 1984, 0 436 49735 2
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Kingsley’s Touch 
by John Collee.
Allen Lane, 206 pp., £6.95, March 1984, 0 7139 1633 8
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A Suitable Case for Corruption 
by Norman Lewis.
Hamish Hamilton, 185 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 241 11178 1
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... these novels might almost be called thrillers, their plots resembling sensational news items. With Norman Lewis we read of plans to assassinate statesmen in Egypt and Libya, with evil American agents blackmailing honest Britishers. John Collee tells of a wonder cure for cancer devised by a Hindu mystic in a Scottish city where surgeons’ knives are used too ...

In the Hands of the Cannibals

Neal Ascherson, 20 February 1997

Europe: A History 
by Norman Davies.
Oxford, 1365 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 19 820171 0
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... is also important. All historians must tell their tale convincingly, or be ignored. So writes Norman Davies, in the introductory pages of this huge, heroic book. Carlyle claimed in 1834 that ‘the only Poetry is History, could we tell it right.’ In this sense, Europe: A History is an epic work of the imagination. It achieves (among many other ...

Looking to Game Boy

R.T. Murphy: Modern Japan, 3 January 2002

The Making of Modern Japan 
by Marius Jansen.
Harvard, 871 pp., £23.95, November 2000, 0 674 00334 9
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... young firebrand John Dower, in an introduction to an anthology of writings by the Canadian E.H. Norman, the most important prewar Western scholar of recent Japanese history. Japan’s Emergence as a Modern State, written by Norman during the 1930s, and influenced by the Japanese Marxist scholarship so scorned by the ...

The Uncommon Reader

Alan Bennett: A Story, 8 March 2007

... knew that. Have you come far?’ ‘Only from Westminster, maam.’ ‘And you are …?’ ‘Norman, maam. Seakins.’ ‘And where do you work?’ ‘In the kitchen, maam.’ ‘Oh. Do you have much time for reading?’ ‘Not really, maam.’ ‘I’m the same. Though now that one is here I suppose one ought to borrow a book.’ Mr Hutchings smiled ...

Writing a book about it

Christopher Reid, 17 October 1985

Collected Poems 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 390 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 7011 3953 6
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... The most successful pieces in Norman MacCaig’s Collected Poems tend to be lists of one kind or another. He is best, too, when he has found something to celebrate. A poem such as ‘Praise of a Collie’, which enumerates the virtues of an admired sheep-dog, now dead, works well enough as a primitive catalogue. The fourth of its five three-line stanzas gives something of its flavour: She sailed in the dinghy like a proper sea-dog ...

Mummies

Ian Hamilton, 16 June 1983

Ancient Evenings 
by Norman Mailer.
Macmillan, 709 pp., £9.95, June 1983, 0 333 34025 6
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... than soft ... He is remarkably fit for a man of 60, which is what he became last Jan 31. Time on Norman Mailer, April 1983 His hair showed the silver of a virile maturity, while the lines on his face had not yet become a myriad of wrinkles, terraces and webs, but exhibited, instead, that look of character supported by triumph which comes to powerful men ...

Oswaldworld

Andrew O’Hagan, 14 December 1995

Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 791 pp., £25, September 1995, 0 316 87620 8
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... and specials, became the reporters’ reporter, the producers’ producer, and he later brought in Norman Mailer to write the book. He showed himself to be the king deal-maker and media broker, the chief documenter, of grand-scale American tragedy. Wherever there has been sensational news in America over the last thirty years, there you will invariably find ...

The Paranoid Elite

Michael Wood: DeLillo, 22 April 2010

Point Omega 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 117 pp., £14.99, March 2010, 978 0 330 51238 1
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... to minder. They return to the East Coast and the story ends. Before and after these events, on the page but not in narrative time – in narrative time things are more complicated – the novel offers us a section called ‘Anonymity’, dated 3 September, and a section called ‘Anonymity 2’, dated 4 September. The year, another ...

Mother! Oh God! Mother!

Jenny Diski: ‘Psycho’, 7 January 2010

‘Psycho’ in the Shower: The History of Cinema’s Most Famous Scene 
by Philip Skerry.
Continuum, 316 pp., £12.99, June 2009, 978 0 8264 2769 4
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... the advertisements, the newsreel and the main feature. No one dreamed of starting a novel on page 72, or dropping into the Old Vic mid-Hamlet (though perhaps music hall worked the same way; was that the origin of the movie habit?), and not even the smallest child would let anyone get away with starting their bedtime story halfway through, but the flicks ...

Incriminating English

Randolph Quirk, 24 September 1992

Language, Self and Society: A Social History of Language 
edited by Peter Burke and Roy Porter.
Polity, 358 pp., £45, December 1991, 0 7456 0765 9
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Images of English: A Cultural History of the Language 
by Richard Bailey.
Cambridge, 329 pp., £16.95, March 1992, 0 521 41572 1
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The Oxford Companion to the English Language 
edited by Tom McArthur and Feri McArthur.
Oxford, 1184 pp., £25, September 1992, 9780192141835
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The History of the English Language: A Source Book 
by David Burnley.
Longman, 373 pp., £25, January 1992, 0 582 02522 2
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The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol. I: Beginnings to 1066 
edited by Richard Hogg and Norman Blake.
Cambridge, 609 pp., £60, August 1992, 9780521264747
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... and across three millennia. It may be this diachronic range that makes Arabia ‘half empty’ on page 194 but endure ‘overcrowding’ by page 200. And as if to widen still further the range of conquest and imperialism, Kiernan takes women on board as having ‘a good claim to be classed as colonisées’. The model for ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Flirtation, Seduction and Betrayal, 5 September 2002

... by a lot of painstaking but washy verse masquerading as poetry . . . I felt I wanted a whole page adv. in the next issue explaining that I have nothing whatever to do with the N.S. nowadays. ‘Some people will like W-[illegible]’ you feel sure. I am sure too. But they are people of whom the Statesman has few amongst its readers & would like to have ...

Thatcher’s Artists

Peter Wollen, 30 October 1997

Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection 
by Norman Rosenthal.
Thames and Hudson, 222 pp., £29.95, September 1997, 0 500 23752 2
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... pages of artists’ biographies, a bibliography and, as the very last item in the book, a six-page checklist of the 110 works in the exhibition, with an apparatus of dates and dimensions. The cover design of the book is not drawn from the works on display in the show but was produced for the book by a design company. It is as vivid and arresting as the ...

Wittgenstein’s Confessions

Norman Malcolm, 19 November 1981

Ludwig Wittgenstein: Personal Recollections 
edited by Rush Rhees.
Blackwell, 235 pp., £9.50, September 1981, 0 631 19600 5
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... Wittgenstein: ‘Now that is all I want: if it should be God’s will. Bach wrote on the title page of his Orgelbuchlein, “To the glory of the most high God, and that my neighbour may be benefited thereby”. That is what I would have liked to say about my work.’ After Wittgenstein’s death in Cambridge the small group of his friends gathered there ...

Megalomaniac and Loser

Norman Hampson, 21 March 1985

Beyond the Terror: Essays in French Regional and Social History 1794-1815 
edited by Gwynne Lewis and Colin Lucas.
Cambridge, 276 pp., £22.50, October 1983, 0 521 25114 1
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Chouannerie and Counter-Revolution: Puisaye, the Princes and the British Government in the 1790s 
by Maurice Hutt.
Cambridge, 630 pp., £60, December 1983, 0 521 22603 1
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Britain and Revolutionary France: Conflict, Subversion and Propaganda 
edited by Colin Jones.
Exeter, 96 pp., £1.75, June 1983, 0 85989 179 8
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... by reasoned argument. The book is handsomely produced, but so it should be: at almost 10p per page it must be one of the most expensive pieces of recent scholarship, and the quality of the proof-reading is no credit to a university ...

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