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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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... the female aides . . . was repeatedly interrogated and told to stop working at the clinic, but she stayed.’ It’s thought that her presence saved the lives of the other staff on several occasions. NormanCigar 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 ...
7 April 1994
Poetry and Pragmatism 
by Richard Poirier.
Faber, 228 pp., £20, November 1992, 0 571 16617 2
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... the development in American criticism during the last three decades, from The Comic Sense of Henry James (1960) 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 ...

A Conversation with Gore Vidal

Thomas Powers: Meeting Gore Vidal

30 July 2014
... a while when young, but it seemed to be heavy in pensées and complaint. It was cool on George’s terrace, 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 ...

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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... of their fellow citizens, or the respect of history. Consider the fate of the senior US commanders 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 ...

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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... and fraud weren’t unheard of. In-house wrestling matches were a popular way for bored clerks to pass 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 ...

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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... example, will routinely insert parenthetic guide-book material for the ignorant, but commercially 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 ...

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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... war was fought for freedom, the home and God. If you think you can hear in these passages the ringing 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 ...

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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... readers feel they were part of an elite gentlemen’s club. To this aim, alongside the scantily clad 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 ...

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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... conspiracy. Groucho always has an intimation that Harpo and Chico together spell trouble, but it is 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 ...

Karl Miller Remembered

Neal Ascherson, John Lanchester and Andrew O’Hagan

22 October 2014
... of café society still flourished in Edinburgh. You knew which set you’d find in which pub, and young 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 ...

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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... at the camera wearing sunglasses and sporting a white goatee, the very picture of the playboy philosopher – 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 ...
13 May 1999
... I am not talking about the fish, but the ranks of inscribed black and white photographs that line the 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 ...

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