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Preacher on a Tank

David Runciman: Blair Drills Down, 7 October 2010

A Journey 
by Tony Blair.
Hutchinson, 718 pp., £25, September 2010, 978 0 09 192555 0
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... even Neville Chamberlain might have blushed. We learn this not from Blair’s memoirs, but from Peter Mandelson’s, which provide a much more complete account of the Blair/Brown relationship (they are also much easier to read, since Mandelson has no problem telling his story in chronological order).* Mandelson reveals that Blair frequently pledged to ‘do ...

Hawkesbiz

Frank Kermode, 11 February 1993

Meaning by Shakespeare 
by Terence Hawkes.
Routledge, 173 pp., £30, October 1992, 0 415 07450 9
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Shakespeare’s Professional Career 
by Peter Thomson.
Cambridge, 217 pp., £24.95, September 1992, 0 521 35128 6
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Shakespeare’s Mouldy Tales 
by Leah Scragg.
Longman, 201 pp., £24, October 1992, 0 582 07071 6
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Reading Shakespeare’s Characters 
by Christy Desmet.
Massachusetts, 215 pp., £22.50, December 1992, 0 87023 807 8
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Bit Parts in Shakespeare’s Plays 
by Molly Mahood.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £35, January 1993, 0 521 41612 4
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... kinds continues at an unflagging pace, often getting by without puns and politics. For example, Peter Thomson’s Shakespeare’s Professional Career is an exceptionally lively and up-to-the-minute introduction to ‘Shakespeare’s job’. It leans slightly towards the view that his family, and he himself residually, was Catholic, and argues ...

Under the Sphinx

Alasdair Gray, 11 March 1993

Places of the Mind: The Life and Work of James Thomson (‘B.V.’) 
by Tom Leonard.
Cape, 407 pp., £25, February 1993, 9780224031189
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... This is the first full-length study of James Thomson’s life and work since Henry Salt’s in 1889. Thomson’s poem The City of Dreadful Night is known by name to many but has seldom been reprinted or discussed. Histories of literature say more about an earlier James Thomson (1700-48) who wrote The Seasons and ‘Rule Britannia’ and got into Johnson’s Lives of the Poets, though Johnson says his diction was ‘florid and luxuriant ...

Snap Me

Peter Howarth: ‘A Theory of 20th-Century Poetry’, 6 October 2016

Poetic Artifice: A Theory of 20th-Century Poetry 
by Veronica Forrest-Thomson, edited by Gareth Farmer.
Shearsman, 238 pp., £16.95, April 2016, 978 1 84861 445 1
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... artificers “I” remains enigmatical, presenting only the words on the page.’ Veronica Forrest-Thomson has been trying to rescue Sylvia Plath’s ‘Purdah’ from the critics who think the poem is a straightforward confession of her desire to avenge herself on Ted Hughes. ‘Why she should have bothered to write poems if this was what she wanted to say is ...

Mad Monk

Jenny Diski: Not going to the movies, 6 February 2003

The New Biographical Dictionary of Film 
by David Thomson.
Little, Brown, 963 pp., £25, November 2002, 0 316 85905 2
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Nobody’s Perfect: Writings from the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Anthony Lane.
Picador, 752 pp., £15.99, November 2002, 0 330 49182 2
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Paris Hollywood: Writings on Film 
by Peter Wollen.
Verso, 314 pp., £13, December 2002, 1 85984 391 3
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... pleasure that remains to me: I indulge in reading about movies with undiminished enthusiasm. David Thomson has written about his disappointment with contemporary cinema, about how the franchise movie and the blockbuster are killing Hollywood and his hopes, and because I am one of the legion of Thomson’s devoted fans, it ...

The screams were silver

Adam Mars-Jones: Rupert Thomson, 25 April 2013

Secrecy 
by Rupert Thomson.
Granta, 312 pp., £14.99, March 2013, 978 1 84708 163 6
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... Where Jim Crace’s Harvest refused all the conventions of the historical novel, Rupert Thomson’s Secrecy seems to run eagerly towards them, and yet the effect once again is of a genre being unpicked and rewoven.* A superabundance of signposts, it turns out, can be as disorienting as their absolute absence ...

Modern Brecht

Margot Heinemann, 5 August 1982

Bertolt Brecht in America 
by James Lyon.
Princeton, 408 pp., £11, January 1981, 0 691 06443 1
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Bertolt Brecht: Political Theory and Literary Practice 
edited by Betty Webber and Hubert Heinen.
Manchester, 208 pp., £15, February 1981, 0 7190 0806 9
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Brecht 
by Jan Needle and Peter Thomson.
Blackwell, 235 pp., £9, February 1981, 0 631 19610 2
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... direct ‘sensuous’ enjoyment and the central means to political understanding and intervention. Peter Brook once said he himself had no sense of history as a reality: ‘History to me is a way of looking at things, and-not one that interests me very much’; the artist’s vision is concerned with the present. This view, whatever may be said for it, is very ...

Hangover

Peter Pulzer, 9 January 1992

The Singing Revolution: A Political Journey through the Baltic States 
by Clare Thomson.
Joseph, 273 pp., £14.99, October 1991, 0 7181 3459 1
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Berlin Journal 1989-90 
by Robert Darnton.
Norton, 352 pp., £15.95, October 1991, 0 393 02970 0
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AnEstonian Childhood: A Memoir 
by Tania Alexander.
Heinemann, 168 pp., £6.95, October 1991, 0 434 01824 4
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... revived folk-song festivals, a weapon already used against Tsarism – hence the title of Clare Thomson’s book. It was the rumour that the Prague police had clubbed a student to death that spelt the end of the Husak regime: Civic Forum’s twin in Slovakia is called Public Against Violence. It was the threat of the East German regime to crush the Leipzig ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘3.10 to Yuma’, 1957 & 2007 , 18 October 2007

3.10 to Yuma 
directed by James Mangold.
September 2007
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3.10 to Yuma 
directed by Delmer Daves.
August 1957
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... and a lot more people die. There’s plenty of blood to look at, and a longer glimpse of Peter Fonda’s entrails than most people will be eager to have (he’s a bounty hunter who’s been shot during the robbery of a coach). In the fantasy style required of current cinema, his body, open entrails notwithstanding, shows no sign of human ...

Wharton the Wise

D.A.N. Jones, 4 April 1985

The Missing Will 
by Michael Wharton.
Hogarth, 216 pp., £10.95, November 1984, 0 7011 2666 3
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... For 27 years Michael Wharton has written the ‘Peter Simple’ column in the Daily Telegraph. He was only 43 when he secured this good, steady job and now he has published an autobiographical account of his 43 apprentice years – dissident, drifting, bohemian years, marked by a lack of will-power, what the Greeks called aboulia ...

Agamemnon, Smith and Thomson

Claude Rawson, 9 April 1992

Homer: The ‘Iliad’ 
translated by Robert Fagles.
Viking, 683 pp., £17.95, September 1990, 0 670 83510 2
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Kings 
by Christopher Logue.
Faber, 86 pp., £4.99, March 1991, 0 571 16141 3
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... of twelve consonants apiece’ and ‘several Englishmen of pith, / Sixteen call’d Thomson and nineteen named Smith’, whose deaths go unrecorded by the epic muse and who are so numerous that Byron has to leave most of them to be listed in the official necrologies. Byron’s Don Juan is full of Homeric allusions, both loyal and ...

Hoarder of Malt

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare, 7 January 1999

Shakespeare: A Life 
by Park Honan.
Oxford, 479 pp., £25, October 1998, 0 19 811792 2
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Shakespeare: The ‘Lost Years’ 
by E.A.J. Honigmann.
Manchester, 172 pp., £11.99, December 1998, 0 7190 5425 7
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... Robert Bearman’s Shakespeare in the Stratford Records, 1994) but by the work of Peter Thomson and Andrew Gurr on the fortunes of Elizabethan acting companies, or of Douglas Bruster on Troilus and Cressida and the language of Jacobean economics, or of R.A. Foakes and Stephen Greenblatt on the contexts of King Lear. This is one biography ...

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 ...

Entranced by the Factory

Simon Schaffer: Maxwell’s Demon, 29 April 1999

The Natural Philosophy of James Clerk Maxwell 
by P.M. Harman.
Cambridge, 232 pp., £35, April 1998, 0 521 56102 7
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... was, deliberately insulated from the highly-charged milieux of the Age of Steam, Soap and Steel. Peter Harman’s new book tries to demonstrate how much metaphysics mattered in the everyday labours of Victorian Britain’s greatest mathematical physicist. Comparisons are odious, but league-tables are another feature of the public life of contemporary ...

A Different Sort of Tory

Ronald Stevens: Max Hastings, 12 December 2002

Editor: An Inside Story of Newspapers 
by Max Hastings.
Macmillan, 398 pp., £20, October 2002, 0 333 90837 6
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... them into successful popular papers and became Lord Beaverbrook in the process. In the 1950s Roy Thomson bought Kemsley Newspapers, added the Times to his empire in 1966, and was similarly rewarded with a seat in the House of Lords. Conrad Black came on the scene in the spring of 1985, paid £10 million for a minority stake in the Telegraph Group, and later ...

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