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Down Dalston Lane

Neal Ascherson

27 June 1991
A Journey through Ruins: The Last Days of London 
by Patrick Wright.
Radius, 294 pp., £16.99, May 1991, 0 09 173190 9
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... to tower over the nation like a baron’s castle over feudal fields. It was in that period that Patrick Wright published On Living in an Old Country, a book of essays which established him as the most interesting of the young cultural critics. He drew ideas from sources as diverse as Agnes Heller and Tom Nairn; in turn, his thought was rapidly and ...

Downland Maniacs

Michael Mason

5 October 1995
The Village that Died for England 
by Patrick Wright.
Cape, 420 pp., £17.99, March 1995, 0 224 03886 9
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... and now we are blessedly enlightened, like South Sea cannibal islanders converted to Christianity. Patrick Wright’s new book is all about not being triumphalist, or taking any simple view on the history of attitudes to human use of the natural world. This sounds like an implausibly large endeavour for a book whose subject is just one bit of England ...

Short Cuts

Patrick Wright: The Moral of Brenley Corner

6 December 2018
... The​ Department of Transport is currently putting arrangements in place to transform a 13.5 mile stretch of the M20, passing through Kent on the way to Folkestone and the Channel Tunnel, into a ‘giant lorry park’ in time for 29 March next year. When I learned of this frantic exercise in ‘resilience planning’, my mind drifted back to a time still unblessed by the wisdom of Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, who shortly before the end of his tenure admitted how little he had appreciated the country’s reliance on transportation by the Dover-Calais route ...

Getting on

Paul Addison

9 October 1986
On Living in an Old Country 
by Patrick Wright.
Verso, 262 pp., £5.95, September 1985, 0 86091 833 5
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Religion and Public Doctrine in Modern England. Vol. II: Assaults 
by Maurice Cowling.
Cambridge, 375 pp., £30, November 1985, 0 521 25959 2
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... Here are two books about the relationship of the English to their past. According to Patrick Wright, England is a reactionary society burdened by a false mystique of national identity. To dissolve that mystique must be one of the first priorities of democratic socialists in establishing an alternative society with a renewed faith in its capacity for progress ...

Diary

Patrick Wright: The Deer Park or the Tank Park?

31 March 1988
... In 1979 Mr Wilfrid Weld commissioned an ecological and historical survey of his 12,500-acre estate in south Dorset. The survey was partly financed through the Manpower Services Commission, and its findings appeared in an impressive publication late last year.* Working as I have been recently on the cultural history of this area, I was interested to know more and went down to Lulworth to meet Mr Weld ...

Where’s the omelette?

Tom Nairn: Patrick Wright

23 October 2008
Iron Curtain: From Stage to Cold War 
by Patrick Wright.
Oxford, 488 pp., £18.99, October 2007, 978 0 19 923150 8
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... until everyone felt the presence of the devil on the doorstep each day, just waiting his chance. Patrick Wright evokes Cold War stereotypes very concretely, beginning in Fulton, Missouri, where in 1946 Churchill first claimed to discern the curtain that had ‘descended from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic’. His speech aimed at ...
18 September 1986
The Infant and the Pearl 
by Douglas Oliver.
Ferry Press, 28 pp., £2, December 1985
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... Douglas Oliver’s books have been appearing since 1969. Slim volumes published in tiny editions by marginal presses, they have escaped all but the slightest measure of attention. This may be the usual story for poets, but Oliver – a former journalist who is now teaching in Paris – is developing an unusual poetic which deserves wider interest. His most abiding themes have an autobiographical dimension ...

Diary

Patrick Wright: The Cult of Tyneham

24 November 1988
... Reading the Faber Book of English History in Verse in East London was like trying to hold Radio 3 on the FM band.* The wavelength was under fire from all sides, and its measured strains kept giving way to the outlandish rapping and toasting of the local pirate stations. Closing the minister’s volume in dismay, I noticed an image of Nelson dying at Trafalgar on the cover and set off in search of a place where I might try again ...

Omnipresent Eye

Patrick Wright: The Nixon/Mao Show

16 August 2007
Seize the Hour: When Nixon Met Mao 
by Margaret MacMillan.
Murray, 384 pp., £25, October 2006, 0 7195 6522 7
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... It is a cold, clear morning, and the soldiers gathered at the airfield are singing ‘The Three Main Rules of Discipline’ as an American jet labelled ‘The Spirit of 76’ lands and taxis over to its appointed resting place. A hatch opens to reveal President Nixon. The former Red-baiter blinks before launching himself down the ramp slightly ahead of his wife, who is wearing a scarlet coat ...

Just Like Cookham

Neal Ascherson: Stanley Spencer in China

19 May 2011
Passport to Peking: A Very British Mission to Mao’s China 
by Patrick Wright.
Oxford, 591 pp., £20, October 2010, 978 0 19 954193 5
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... the new Chinese regime and had played a leading part in securing the Geneva Accords. It was, as Patrick Wright puts it, ‘one of the last occasions, only two years before the Suez crisis, on which Britain exerted a decisive influence on international politics’. Zhou began to employ a ‘come and see’ strategy, inviting Western delegations to visit ...

At Tate Britain

Brian Dillon: Patrick Keiller

7 June 2012
... down another field, diagonally, this time accompanied by a blue tractor. This pairing of views in Patrick Keiller’s 2010 film Robinson in Ruins – glimpsed again as part of his current installation at Tate Britain (on display until 14 October) – is almost too typical to be true and must, among other things, be a joke at his own expense. Since the early ...

Rodinsky’s Place

Patrick Wright

29 October 1987
White Chappell: Scarlet Tracings 
by Iain Sinclair.
Goldmark, 210 pp., £12.50, October 1987, 1 870507 00 2
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... In 1975 Colin Ward described Spitalfields as a classic inner-city ‘zone of transition’. Bordering on the City of London, the place had traditionally been a densely-populated ‘service centre for the metropolis’ where wave after wave of immigrants struggled to gain a foothold on the urban economy: Huguenot silk weavers, the Irish who were set to work undercutting them, Jewish refugees from late 19th-century pogroms in East Europe, and the Bengalis who have settled in the area since the 1950s ...
2 June 1988
Home: A Short History of an Idea 
by Witold Rybczynski.
Heinemann, 256 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 434 14292 1
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... Witold Rybczynski introduces his book with a telling anecdote. During the six years of his architectural education, ‘the subject of comfort’ was only mentioned once. He finds this ‘a curious omission’, since comfort should surely be central to architecture – like justice to law or health to medicine. The point is a strong one, and Professor Rybczynski duly piles it on ...

Cubist Slugs

Patrick Wright: The Art of Camouflage

23 June 2005
DPM: Disruptive Pattern Material; An Encyclopedia of Camouflage: Nature – Military – Culture 
DPM, 2 vols, 944 pp., £100, September 2004, 9780954340407Show More
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... I well remember at the beginning of the war,’ Gertrude Stein wrote in 1938, ‘being with Picasso on the Boulevard Raspail when the first camouflaged truck passed. It was at night, we had heard of camouflage but we had not seen it and Picasso, amazed, looked at it and then cried out, yes it is we who made it, that is Cubism.’ Stein went on to suggest that the entire First World War had been an exercise in Cubism ...

Little England

Patrick Wright: The view through a bus window

7 September 2006
Great British Bus Journeys: Travels through Unfamous Places 
by David McKie.
Atlantic, 359 pp., £16.99, March 2006, 1 84354 132 7
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... In 2000 the Royal Institute of British Architects hosted a public meeting at which various contenders for the new office of London mayor were invited to argue their case for election. If the event remains memorable, it’s thanks largely to the Conservative candidate, Lord Archer, who betrayed no inkling of the perjury charges that would soon ditch his campaign and carry him off to jail ...

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