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Porter for Leader

Jenny Diski, 8 December 1994

London: A Social History 
by Roy Porter.
Hamish Hamilton, 429 pp., £20, October 1994, 0 241 12944 3
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A City Full of People: Men and Women of London, 1650-1750 
by Peter Earle.
Methuen, 321 pp., £25, April 1994, 9780413681706
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... it liked to boost its profits. The speculators and get-rich-quick merchants date from long before Peter Rachman’s Sixties and the Yuppie Eighties. In the history of London, Porter suggests, greed had carte blanche. The free-for-all continued, with neither local nor Parliamentary government overseeing London’s growth, until the setting up of ...

David Nokes on the duality of Defoe

David Nokes, 19 April 1990

Daniel Defoe: His Life 
by Paula Backscheider.
Johns Hopkins, 671 pp., £20.50, November 1989, 0 8018 3785 5
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... and his extensive espionage work on behalf of Robert Harley, Defoe was an indefatigable writer. Peter Earle, in the introduction to The World of Defoe (1976), confesses the alarm he experienced when ‘with the contract signed, I began to realise just what I had let myself in for ... To my horror I discovered that Defoe was probably the most prolific ...

The Ultimate Magical Synaesthesia Machine

Rob Young: Painting Music, 22 September 2011

The Music of Painting 
by Peter Vergo.
Phaidon, 367 pp., £39.95, November 2010, 978 0 7148 5762 6
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... going to happen at all, it was most likely during the futurist frenzy of the early 20th century. Peter Vergo, in The Music of Painting, examines a neglected aspect of the modernist era, when a variety of painters, poets, composers and inventors became preoccupied with the convergence of visual and aural stimuli – a utopian race towards a future of ...

I have nothing to say and I am saying it

Philip Clark: John Cage’s Diary, 15 December 2016

The Selected Letters of John Cage 
edited by Laura Kuhn.
Wesleyan, 618 pp., £30, January 2016, 978 0 8195 7591 3
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Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse) 
by John Cage, edited by Richard Kraft and Joe Biel.
Siglio, 176 pp., £26, October 2015, 978 1 938221 10 1
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... with him. The story goes that Schoenberg dismissed him, telling him he lacked an ear for harmony. Peter Yates’s book Twentieth-Century Music: Its Evolution from the End of the Harmonic Era into the Present Era of Sound (1968), reported Schoenberg as saying that Cage was ‘not a composer – but an inventor of genius’, a back-handed compliment that stuck ...

What does a chicken know of bombs?

David Thomson: A Key to Brando, 5 December 2019

The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando 
by William J. Mann.
HarperCollins, 718 pp., £22, November 2019, 978 0 06 242764 9
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... a dozen biographies of Brando, or memoirs that depend on his presence. The weightiest of these is Peter Manso’s, published in 1994, when Brando still had ten years to live. (Mann hurries through those last years out of kindness as much as weariness. The killing of Drollet, the imprisonment of Christian and Cheyenne’s subsequent suicide left Brando a ...

Horror like Thunder

Germaine Greer: Lucy Hutchinson, 21 June 2001

Order and Disorder 
by Lucy Hutchinson, edited by David Norbrook.
Blackwell, 272 pp., £55, January 2001, 0 631 22061 5
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... On 2 September 1676 the Earl of Anglesey recorded in his diary that he had been visited by ‘the Earle & 2 Countesses of Rochester … and all their company with Mrs Hutchinson’. In 1679 Anne Rochester was involved in tricky negotiations connected with the winding up of the trust of two of her grand-daughters, one of whom was married to Thomas Wharton, son ...

Liberation Music

Richard Gott: In Memory of Cornelius Cardew, 12 March 2009

Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished 
by John Tilbury.
Copula, 1069 pp., £45, October 2008, 978 0 9525492 3 9
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... and pupil, was an important new influence, as were other American composers like Morton Feldman, Earle Brown and La Monte Young. He even contemplated emigrating to the United States. Cardew returned to London to digest these discoveries and to propagate the music of his new friends. He became involved, as the music editor, with New Departures, an arts ...

The Vulgarity of Success

Murray Sayle: Everest and Empire, 7 May 1998

Eric Shipton: Everest and Beyond 
by Peter Steele.
Constable, 290 pp., £18.99, March 1998, 0 09 478300 4
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... a human link between the two adventurers, and rather more to the story. Another old Himalaya hand, Peter Steele, now tells it well, and puts right a longstanding injustice. Toiling up mountains for sport is, beyond any doubt, a British invention. People who live among mountains – the Sherpas of Nepal, for instance – can see no sense in it. Mountain ...

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