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17 December 1992
... out. Near at hand fast river speeds under the tickety sun leaves river swirls under wallowing beech shades, something in sliding of flow-speed under fragmented stirring. In front, then, these near woods; behind, the hilly woods and green freckles on the blue simple sky. Wilderness valley grazed as by sheep by tree tops. Seeing holds lazily in union, or the eye keeps particularising: across stream, a ...

Cross Words

Neal Ascherson

17 November 1983
The Story of the ‘Times’ 
by Oliver Woods and James Bishop.
Joseph, 392 pp., £14.95, October 1983, 0 7181 1462 0
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Good Times, Bad Times 
by Harold Evans.
Weidenfeld, 430 pp., £11.95, October 1983, 0 297 78295 9
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... watches, one eye – as Harry Evans noticed in his final days of struggle to stay above the surface – much redder than the other, and contemplates his next meal. The quotations are from the Woods and Bishop Story of the ‘Times’, which, though commissioned by Sir Denis Hamilton, is not an ‘official’ history. With such an apologia for the status quo, who needs one? And, in a way, one ...

Where the Apples Come From

T.C. Smout: What Makes an Oak Tree Grow

29 November 2007
by Oliver​ Rackham.
Collins, 609 pp., £25, September 2006, 0 00 720243 1
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Beechcombings: The Narratives of Trees 
by Richard Mabey.
Chatto, 289 pp., £20, October 2007, 978 1 85619 733 5
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Wildwood: A Journey through Trees 
by Roger Deakin.
Hamish Hamilton, 391 pp., £20, May 2007, 978 0 241 14184 7
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The Wild Trees: What if the Last Wilderness Is above Our Heads? 
by Richard Preston.
Allen Lane, 294 pp., £20, August 2007, 978 1 84614 023 5
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... Oliver Rackham’s Woodlands is Volume 100 of the New Naturalist series, started by Collins after the Second World War with the aim of making ecology accessible to the increasing numbers of people who ...


D.J. Enright

18 September 1980
Flaubert and an English Governess 
by Hermia Oliver.
Oxford, 212 pp., £9.50, June 1980, 0 19 815764 9
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The Letters of Gustave Flaubert 1830-1857 
edited and translated by Francis Steegmuller.
Harvard, 270 pp., £7.50, March 1980, 0 674 52636 8
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... and 1857. Her acquaintanceship with the novelist lasted till his death in 1880, but the nature of the acquaintanceship is in dispute. The most tender of Flaubert’s affairs? Or a non-affair? Hermia Oliver believes that Juliet was ‘almost certainly’ Flaubert’s mistress: but the present book, a record of indefatigable research and meagre revelations, is stuffed with ‘probably’s’, ‘may’s ...
22 January 1987
The History of the Countryside 
by Oliver​ Rackham.
Dent, 445 pp., £16.95, April 1986, 0 460 04449 4
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Gilbert White: A Biography of the Author of the ‘Natural History of Selborne’ 
by Richard Mabey.
Century, 239 pp., £14.95, May 1986, 0 7126 1232 7
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The Journals of Gilbert White 1751-1773: Vol. 1 
edited by Francesca Greenoak.
Century, 531 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 7126 1294 7
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An Account of the Foxglove and its Medical Uses 1785-1985 
by J.K. Aronson.
Oxford, 399 pp., £25, February 1986, 0 19 261501 7
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The Oxford Dictionary of Natural History 
edited by Michael Allaby.
Oxford, 688 pp., £20, January 1986, 0 19 217720 6
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... and widened some of Hoskins’s pioneer perceptions, adding support to them with biological data. Beginning to overtake all of these in practical effectiveness, however, is the remarkable figure of Oliver Rackham, a throwback to earlier centuries in his solitary, single-minded endeavours made at the expense of an orthodox – and secure – career. Rackham’s achievement has been the more impressive ...

Roaming the Greenwood

Colm Tóibín: A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition by Gregory Woods

21 January 1999
A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition 
by Gregory Woods.
Yale, 448 pp., £24.95, February 1998, 0 300 07201 5
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... Kipling – that represented his own secret dotted line to the past. He could not have done without them. It is easy to argue about the uncertain Irishness of certain writers. Was Sterne Irish? Was Oliver Goldsmith Irish? Was Robert Tressell Irish? Is Iris Murdoch Irish? But the argument about who was gay and who was not and how we know is more difficult. How can someone be gay if, as in the case of ...

Unaccommodated Man

Christopher Tayler: Adventures with Robert Stone

18 March 2004
Bay of Souls 
by Robert Stone.
Picador, 250 pp., £16.99, February 2004, 0 330 41894 7
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... their frequently thriller-like plots. The chargesheet could be extended to include queasy existentialism, hard-to-define politics, and a tendency for characters to run amok with AK47s. But he’s not Oliver Stone: he has it in for Oliver Stone. Nor – despite his beard, his tan, his Key West holiday home – is he Hemingway Reloaded. He has written literary novels about things that many literary ...
30 August 2012
... inorganic. Even the something else has been made out of something else. Orwell’s hero is a lot funnier than the most famous gamekeeper in English literature, but his jeremiad descends directly from Oliver Mellors’s explanation of why Constance Chatterley is the woman for him. The great thing about her, he says, is that she isn’t ‘all tough rubber-goods-and-platinum, like the modern girl’. She ...

Get planting

Peter Campbell: Why Trees Matter

1 December 2005
The Secret Life of Trees: How They Live and Why They Matter 
by Colin Tudge.
Allen Lane, 452 pp., £20, November 2005, 0 7139 9698 6
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... the houses by many metres and form a summer tunnel of green. In other places and at other times the lopped branches would have been a resource. In Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape (1976), Oliver Rackham makes a distinction between wood and timber. Wood, the renewable crop, the source of staves, bean poles, hurdles, fodder and firewood, is what was coppiced from the same stools or pruned from ...


Vadim Nikitin

21 February 2019
Moneyland: Why Thieves and Crooks Now Rule the World and How to Take It Back 
by Oliver​ Bullough.
Profile, 304 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 1 78125 792 0
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Dark Commerce: How a New Illicit Economy Is Threatening Our Future 
by Louise Shelley.
Princeton, 376 pp., £24, October 2018, 978 0 691 17018 3
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... Some of the money may also have gone towards Putin’s first presidential campaign in 2000, which probably seemed an excellent investment at the time. Such schemes comprise what the journalist Oliver Bullough calls kleptocracy. Moneyland, his impassioned but at times specious book, depicts the universe inhabited by global money launderers and calls out the Western bankers, lawyers, property ...

Time of the Red-Man

Mark Ford: James Fenimore Cooper

25 September 2008
James Fenimore Cooper: The Early Years 
by Wayne Franklin.
Yale, 708 pp., £25, July 2008, 978 0 300 10805 7
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... land where Natty and Chingachgook had once hunted. ‘I’m form’d for the wilderness’ is Natty’s insistent cry, and he observes the pioneers’ ‘wasty ways’, their destruction of the woods, their slaughter of migrating passenger pigeons, their over-fishing of the lake, with an ever increasing sense of displacement and dispossession. He even suffers the indignity of standing trial for ...


Jeremy Harding: Ash Dieback

6 December 2012
... governments should have paid more attention to the disease when it was first reported but in Britain it’s only recently that we’ve paid attention to the common ash at all. In Ancient Woodland, Oliver Rackham drew up a table, under the heading ‘The Notice Which People Take of Trees’, and mapped ‘the percentage frequency with which tree species are mentioned’ in two Anglo-Saxon charters, a ...

Every three years

Blake Morrison

3 March 1988
Fifty Poems 
by Ian Hamilton.
Faber, 51 pp., £4.95, January 1988, 0 571 14920 0
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A Various Art 
edited by Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville.
Carcanet, 377 pp., £12.95, December 1987, 0 85635 698 0
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Between Leaps: Poems 1972-1985 
by Brad Leithauser.
Oxford, 81 pp., £5.95, September 1987, 0 19 282089 3
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by William Scammell.
Peterloo, 71 pp., £4.50, October 1987, 0 905291 88 3
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by John Ash.
Carcanet, 127 pp., £6.95, September 1987, 0 85635 695 6
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The Automatic Oracle 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 72 pp., £4.95, November 1987, 0 19 282088 5
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by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 64 pp., £5.95, February 1988, 0 7011 3313 9
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... poets are Cambridge poets), but with a rather cold admiration for all the seeming austerity, which is evident, too, in the beautifully produced, unostentatious separate recent collections by Douglas Oliver and Anthony Barnett,* contributors to the Carcanet volume. ‘America’ is one acknowledged influence on these poets, though ‘America’ turns out to mean chiefly Ashbery, Olson and Pound. That ...

You Dying Nations

Jeremy Adler: Georg Trakl

17 April 2003
Poems and Prose 
by Georg Trakl, translated by Alexander Stillmark.
Libris, 192 pp., £40, March 2001, 1 870352 51 3
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... just too late. Trakl had died at the age of 27 of a cocaine overdose, a response to the Battle of Grodek. He left behind a poem that expresses the suffering he had witnessed: At evening the autumn woods resound With deadly weapons, the golden plains And blue lakes, the sun overhead Rolls more darkly on; night embraces Dying warriors, the wild lament Of their broken mouths. Yet silently red clouds ...


Ian Hacking

5 April 1990
Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf 
by Oliver​ Sacks.
Picador, 186 pp., £12.95, January 1990, 0 330 31161 1
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When the mind hears: A History of the Deaf 
by Harlan Lane.
Penguin, 537 pp., £6.99, August 1988, 0 14 022834 9
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Deafness: A Personal Account 
by David Wright.
Faber, 202 pp., £4.99, January 1990, 0 571 14195 1
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... grammatical forms are evolving in ways that suit its medium – movement in space – rather than my medium, sound. There is just one easy place to go to find out about all of these things at once: Oliver Sacks’s new book of three essays. Like all his writing, the essays are engaging, funny, informed, humane and speculative. One, a brilliant piece of journalism, describes the 1988 revolution – the ...

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