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On Putting Things Off

Robert Hanks, 10 September 2015

... When I hear​ other people talking about procrastination, I find myself getting proprietorial: surely their fleeting pauses are as nothing to mine. Procrastination is the main way I express anxiety and depression, if I can use these medicalised, dignifying terms. It’s franker to say that I put things off because much of the time I’m frightened and sad (too frightened and sad for procrastination to be enough of an outlet: I also have an array of psychosomatic symptoms: rashes, headaches and stomach disorders – not that the line between procrastination and illness is necessarily sharp, if it’s there at all ...

Pay Attention, Class

Robert Hanks: Giles Foden, 10 September 2009

by Giles Foden.
Faber, 353 pp., £16.99, June 2009, 978 0 571 20522 6
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... Much has been written about the potentially stultifying effects of creative writing courses on novelists, usually on the assumption that it’s the students who are going to feel these effects. But what about the teachers: is there a danger that too much time spent trying to pin down what constitutes Good Writing (and not enough time spent on the writing itself) might be bad for them? Giles Foden’s first two novels, The Last King of Scotland, about Idi Amin’s Uganda, and the Boer War-set Ladysmith, seemed, though far from flawless, almost effortlessly distinctive and intelligent; and while his third, the self-consciously terse, thrillerish Zanzibar, was less impressive, it is with Turbulence, his first book since his appointment as professor of creative writing at the University of East Anglia in 2007, that real difficulties begin ...

Michael Gove recommends …

Robert Hanks: Dennis Wheatley, 20 January 2011

The Devil Is a Gentleman: The Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley 
by Phil Baker.
Dedalus, 699 pp., £25, October 2009, 978 1 903517 75 8
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... In 1975, when he was 78, Dennis Wheatley finally achieved his long-held ambition of being elected to a really smart gentlemen’s club, White’s. On entering the building, so he told a friend, his first objective was to consult the membership book to find out how many had supported his candidacy – a gratifying 35. ‘Not bad for the Streatham born son of a shopkeeper ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Da Vinci Code’, 8 June 2006

The Da Vinci Code 
directed by Ron Howard.
May 2006
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... were suing for intertextuality. In the novel, Robert Langdon, the Harvard scholar played by Tom Hanks in the movie, has a fine nonsensical riff on the presence of Mary Magdalene and ‘the subjugated goddess’ in modern popular culture, and what we might call the Walt Disney code (‘Like Leonardo, Walt Disney loved infusing hidden messages and symbolism ...

To Hairiness!

Cathy Gere: Hairy Guanches, 23 July 2009

The Marvellous Hairy Girls: The Gonzales Sisters and Their Worlds 
by Merry Wiesner-Hanks.
Yale, 248 pp., £18.99, May 2009, 978 0 300 12733 1
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... the hirsute offspring were three girls: Maddalena, Francesca and Antonietta. As Merry Wiesner-Hanks admits in the preface of The Marvellous Hairy Girls, everything that is known about the Gonzales family can be told in a few pages, and so most of her book consists of lengthy disquisitions on such matters as Spanish conquests, the world of the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘No Country for Old Men’, 21 February 2008

No Country for Old Men 
directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.
January 2008
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... else could have driven them to their 2004 remake of the Ealing comedy The Ladykillers? Even if Tom Hanks is funnier in that film than our idea of Tom Hanks ought to allow, he’s not Alec Guinness. And what about Intolerable Cruelty (2003), with George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones, which doesn’t look like a Coen ...


Randolph Quirk, 25 October 1979

Collins Dictionary of the English Language 
by P. Hanks, T.H. Long and L. Urdang.
Collins, 1690 pp., £7.95
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... under impresario Urdang, and they later moved on to make dictionaries for Longman. Patrick Hanks was recruited to complete the Collins when he had finished a somewhat similar job for Hamlyn. Both Urdang and T.H. Long were earlier on the Random House Dictionary. All very cosy. But while it desirably makes for shared knowledge and a solid tradition (a ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: HBO, 10 June 2010

... been described, in Britain and elsewhere, as the television event of the year. Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg at a cost of more than $200 million, it was filmed in pretty gruelling conditions in Australia with a cast of hundreds, aiming to capture the story of America’s war in the Pacific. Nine of the ten episodes have now been shown, and the ...


Jenny Diski: Hairdressing, 2 March 2000

... the chair while behind me Robert, the senior stylist, cast his professional eye over me, lifting hanks of my long hair with a comb and letting them drop, flicking sections this way and that to see how they fell, examining its possibilities. Finally, he pocketed his comb and with a sigh that would have broken a Mock Turtle’s heart intoned to my mirror ...

Man without a Fridge

Thomas Jones: Haruki Murakami, 17 April 2003

After the Quake 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin.
Vintage, 132 pp., £6.99, March 2003, 1 84343 015 0
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Earthshaking Science: What We Know (and Don’t Know) about Earthquakes 
by Susan Elizabeth Hough.
Princeton, 238 pp., £17.95, May 2002, 0 691 05010 4
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... fail to rise proportionately as the earthquake size increases.’ In the late 1970s, Tom Hanks and Hiroo Kanamori worked out a new logarithmic reckoning that is consistent with the Richter scale between magnitudes two and five, but more useful at higher values. On Hanks and Kanamori’s scale, which has become the ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Nautical Dramas, 15 July 2021

... the barometers and clocks in brass casings, the bulkhead lights, binnacle rings, compasses, piston hanks and wall brackets. And I won’t be the only one to miss the hanging shop sign when it’s taken down: ‘Yacht Chandlers, Established Four Centuries’.One piece of evidence for the shop’s long ancestry is a document from the 1790s, which has John ...

Pink and Bare

Bee Wilson: Nicole Kidman, 8 February 2007

Nicole Kidman 
by David Thomson.
Bloomsbury, 311 pp., £18.99, September 2006, 0 7475 7710 2
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... faked her orgasm in When Harry Met Sally (1989) but had also taken a couple of turns opposite Tom Hanks in romantic comedies, at a time when Hanks was becoming the biggest male movie star in the world, and done a widely admired emote-a-thon as an alcoholic in When a Man Loves a Woman (1994), just to confirm her actorly ...

Why Goldwyn Wore Jodhpurs

David Thomson, 22 June 2000

The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper 
by Dominick Dunne.
Crown, 218 pp., £17.99, October 1999, 0 609 60388 4
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Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers 
by Maria Cooper Janis.
Abrams, 176 pp., £22, November 1999, 0 8109 4130 9
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... was photographs of Gary Cooper, presented by his daughter, Maria, and with an introduction by Tom Hanks (only five when Cooper died). It’s not a riveting or important book, but it makes clear how far Cooper was made into a society figure by the movies. He began acting as a cowboy, and to the end of his days he was famous for that. But he was a very ...

How to Survive Your Own Stupidity

Andrew O’Hagan: Homage to Laurel and Hardy, 22 August 2002

Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy 
by Simon Louvish.
Faber, 518 pp., £8.99, September 2002, 0 571 21590 4
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... movie actors are much like ourselves, only better-looking, with faster cars; people like Tom Hanks or Helen Hunt derive the major part of their appeal from what we might call their apparent ordinariness, and only occasionally, as with Jim Carrey or Robin Williams, does an actor come along who seems to have the superhuman plasticity of a cartoon. These ...

An Address to the Nation

Clive James, 17 December 1981

... the Liberal ranks In Labour’s there is total consternation. If Michael Foot tore out his hair in hanks He could not look more prone to perturbation. The right wing loudly calls the left wing cranks And no one stays calm in the altercation Except for Tony Benn, who sucks contentedly On his prop pipe and stares ahead dementedtly. What does he see there in the ...

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