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My Granny

Patrick Wall, 20 May 1982

The Monkey Puzzle 
by John Gribbin and Jeremy Cherfas.
Bodley Head, 279 pp., £8.50, April 1982, 0 370 30469 1
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Darwinism Defended: A Guide to the Evolution Controversies 
by Michael Ruse.
Addison-Wesley, 356 pp., £6.95, April 1982, 0 201 06273 9
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The Aquatic Ape: A Theory of Human Evolution 
by Elaine Morgan.
Souvenir, 168 pp., £7.95, March 1982, 0 285 62509 8
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The Neck of the Giraffe, or Where Darwin went wrong 
by Francis Hitching.
Pan, 288 pp., £2.50, April 1982, 0 330 26643 8
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... When Darwin died a hundred years ago; he could reasonably have said, ‘Après moi, le déluge,’ because we are still awash with books and ideas for, against and about him. The issue is intellectually enthralling, moves rapidly, and is of practical importance. The Monkey Puzzle is about the origin of man, and, in particular, about the date when the line which led to us separated from that which led to chimpanzees and gorillas ...

The New Phrenology

Patrick Wall, 17 December 1981

Mind in Science 
by Richard Gregory.
Weidenfeld, 641 pp., £18.50, September 1981, 0 297 77825 0
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... This book is about its subtitle: ‘A History of Explanations in Psychology and Physics’. To bring that history up to date, one should point out that this year’s Nobel Prizes in Medicine went to three men honoured for their contribution to our knowledge of the brain: Roger Sperry from Cal Tech and David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel from Harvard. Their discoveries are stunning, counter-intuitive and of no immediate practical consequence ...

Feel the burn

Jenny Diski: Pain, 30 September 1999

Pain: The Science of Suffering 
by Patrick Wall.
Weidenfeld, 186 pp., £12.99, July 1999, 0 297 84255 2
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... work otherwise. No pain, no gain. Feel the burn. Actually, I’d rather not, and the blessed Patrick Wall, neuroscientist and pain doctor, wishes it to be known that pain is almost entirely useless and good for nothing but getting rid of. He cites cancer pain, with the impatience of one who is suffering it himself, as the apogee of ...

State-Sponsored Counter-Terror

Karl Miller, 8 May 1986

Parliamentary Debates: Hansard, Vol. 95, No 94 
HMSO, £2.50Show More
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... attack on Libya. St John-Stevas did not accuse of cowardice those who objected to the attack. Sir Patrick Wall attended to that, referring to Europe’s ‘pussyfootedness’ in combating terrorism, and claiming that ‘if we had refused the United States request, the call for Fortress America would have grown, with very dangerous consequences for ...

Toad in the Hole

Geoffrey Wall: Tristan Corbière, 16 July 1998

These Jaundiced Loves: A Translation of Tristan Corbière’s ‘Les Amours Jaunes’ 
by Christopher Pilling.
Peterloo, 395 pp., £14.95, April 1997, 1 871471 55 9
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... Corbière kept the flattened, desiccated, leathery little corpse of a toad nailed to the wall just above the mantelpiece of the family home in Roscoff. The toad lacked the agreeable narcissism of the emblems chosen by most of his contemporaries – swans, albatrosses, skylarks and nightingales – and it had none of the charm of Nerval’s ...

The man whose portrait they painted

Patrick Procktor, 12 July 1990

A Life with Food 
by Peter Langan and Brian Sewell.
Bloomsbury, 128 pp., £16.99, May 1990, 9780747502203
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... and artists warmed to him, as did taxi-drivers, policemen and women. He once said to me: ‘Patrick, you’ve got a high gloss.’ I was flattered, like some polished banister. His own story begins with particularly vivid descriptions of boyhood in Clarecastle. The sex is hilarious and the recipes are inspiring and clear. On preparing mussels: ‘If ...

Outside in the Bar

Patrick McGuinness: Ten Years in Sheerness, 21 October 2021

The Sea View Has Me Again: Uwe Johnson in Sheerness 
by Patrick Wright.
Repeater, 751 pp., £20, June, 978 1 913462 58 1
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... In 1978 there were two floods, the second of which, Johnson notes, overran the then unfinished sea wall. There’s a sardonic, defiant fatalism in the way he and the other islanders consider their plight, as well as a certain pride in ‘our wreck’. ‘I wish the damn thing would blow up and we’d be rid of it,’ one of them told Johnson, who speculates ...


Patrick Wormald, 19 November 1981

Roman Britain 
by Peter Salway.
Oxford, 824 pp., £19.50, August 1981, 9780198217176
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Roman Britain 
by Malcolm Tood.
Fontana, 285 pp., £2.95, May 1981, 0 00 633756 2
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... The legions have left indelible evidence of their mighty presence, ranging from Hadrian’s Wall to the three-quarters of a million nails unearthed in a Perthshire fort which was abandoned after a few years. Yet no Imperial edicts addressed to Britain survive (probably, it is true, because British archives were out of reach when the most important ...

Who kicked them out?

Diarmaid MacCulloch: St Patrick’s Purgatory, 1 August 2019

St Patrick Retold: The Legend and History of Ireland’s Patron Saint 
by Roy Flechner.
Princeton, 320 pp., £22, March 2019, 978 0 691 18464 7
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... What​ do we know about St Patrick? Most people could probably place him in Ireland, amid every short cut to Irishness – shamrocks, Guinness, lots of green things – while a little more knowledge may attach to him the legend that he is responsible for Ireland’s lack of snakes, having ordered them all to leave ...

Giving Hysteria a Bad Name

Jenny Diski: At home with the Mellys, 17 November 2005

Take a Girl like Me: Life with George 
by Diana Melly.
Chatto, 280 pp., £14.99, July 2005, 0 7011 7906 6
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Slowing Down 
by George Melly.
Viking, 221 pp., £17.99, October 2005, 0 670 91409 6
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... to deserve the contempt of others. Explaining the way of the disciple taking the Path of Blame, Patrick Laude (a professor at Georgetown University and writer on Sufism) suggests that a typical malamati would eagerly confess along with Hamlet: ‘I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not ...

Oh, My Aching Back

Roy Porter, 2 November 1995

The History of Pain 
by Roselyne Rey, translated by Elliott Wallace and J.A. Cadden , and S.W. Cadden.
Harvard, 394 pp., £25.50, October 1995, 0 674 39967 6
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... recent years has been the ‘gate’ theory of pain developed in the Sixties by Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall. Discarding the old mechanical ‘fire-alarm’ theory as simplistic, they argued that controls operate all the way from the nerve endings to the brain. When messages from the nerve ends reach the spinal cord, a fine-tuning takes place ...

WAT-R Diamante Dreams

Sarah Resnick: ‘Something New under the Sun’, 16 December 2021

Something New under the Sun 
by Alexandra Kleeman.
Fourth Estate, 351 pp., £15, August 2021, 978 0 00 833911 1
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... Something New under the Sun, begins as a classic writer-goes-to-Hollywood story. The writer is Patrick Hamlin, a forty-something with two novels and an ‘epic novella’ to his name. He’s not as successful as he thinks he should be (but his books sound turgid and dreary). His wife, Alison, has become so preoccupied with the climate crisis that she has ...


James Wood: St Aubyn’s Savage Sentences, 2 November 2006

Mother’s Milk 
by Edward St Aubyn.
Picador, 279 pp., £12.99, January 2006, 0 330 43589 2
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... variations on one another’s words. In his new novel, Mother’s Milk, the central character, Patrick Melrose, tries to explain to his old friend Johnny Hall, a psychoanalyst, about his rage and depression, and about their ancient familial sources. ‘I think you can afford to lose control,’ Johnny counsels ...

He or She

Robert Taubman, 8 November 1979

The Twyborn Affair 
by Patrick White.
Cape, 432 pp., £5.95
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... ambiguity of the material provokes such a response – a doubt about this novel. In other novels, Patrick White has offered the reader something more obvious to fix the attention, such as Voss’s intense and dominating will. In the absence of an obvious meaning nothing so fixes the attention in The Twyborn Affair. There is a good deal of absence in this ...


Patrick Hughes: What do artists do?, 24 July 1986

... of shoes. I don’t have any breakfast. When I am ready I go downstairs and through the gap in the wall I made, the Caledonian Gap, into my studio. It took me many years to be able to call the room I worked in a studio: the word seemed so pretentious for what was designed as the first-floor front bedroom. I do my post – about four letters a day – and phone ...

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