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Welfare in America

William Plowden, 11 July 1991

American Social Welfare Policy: A Structural Approach 
by Howard Karger and David Stoesz.
Longman, 371 pp., £18.95, November 1990, 0 8013 0193 9
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America’s Misunderstood Welfare State 
by Theodore Marmor, Jerry Mashaw and Philip Harvey.
Basic Books, 268 pp., $22.95, October 1990, 9780465001224
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The American Prospect 
edited by Paul Starr and Robert Kuttner.
New Prospect, 168 pp., $31
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... the same facts, reflect and may reinforce the change of mood described above. Marmor, Mashaw and Harvey’s excellent book begins with the statement: ‘This book has a simple message: America’s social welfare efforts are taking a bum rap.’ They continue: ‘The vision of social welfare policy generated during these two decades has often been misleading ...

Being splendid

Stephen Wall, 3 March 1988

Civil to Strangers 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 388 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 333 39128 4
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The Pleasure of Miss Pym 
by Charles Burkhart.
Texas, 120 pp., $17.95, July 1987, 0 292 76496 0
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The World of Barbara Pym 
by Janice Rossen.
Macmillan, 193 pp., £27.50, November 1987, 0 333 42372 0
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The Life and Work of Barbara Pym 
edited by Dale Salwak.
Macmillan, 210 pp., £27.50, April 1987, 0 333 40831 4
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... the diaries and letters already available. The early novels reflect Barbara Pym’s love for Henry Harvey, whom she met at Oxford; her alternately anguished and wry but unrewarded pursuit of him is affectingly revealed in the pre-war section of A Very Private Life, and it is touching to find that he visited her in hospital in Oxford three days before she ...

Firm Lines

Hermione Lee, 17 November 1983

Bartleby in Manhattan, and Other Essays 
by Elizabeth Hardwick.
Weidenfeld, 292 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 297 78357 2
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... in Frankfurt takes off all her clothes as he discourses on the dangers of spontaneity. Lee Harvey Oswald is photographed holding up two guns, together with the Daily Worker and the Trotskyite Militant: ‘There he stands in the midst of his iconography.’ It is the job of the ‘defining imagination’ to explain such moments. (Of course there are ...

Dry-Cleaned

Tom Vanderbilt: ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, 21 August 2003

The Manchurian Candidate: BFI Film Classics 
by Greil Marcus.
BFI, 75 pp., £8.99, July 2002, 0 85170 931 1
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... There is no evidence that Lee Harvey Oswald saw The Manchurian Candidate, which was released in 1962, a year before Kennedy’s assassination. A more plausible cinematic influence on him is Suddenly (1954), in which Frank Sinatra plays a President’s assassin who acquired his taste for killing in the Second World War ...

Unusual Endowments

Patrick Collinson, 30 March 2000

Philip Sidney: A Double Life 
by Alan Stewart.
Chatto, 400 pp., £20, February 2000, 0 7011 6859 5
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... the Polish crown: absurd, but can there be smoke without any fire whatsoever? In May 1575, Philip Sidney returned to Little England. If England was small beer, so was he, no baron but plain Mr Sidney. He was 20 years of age. Sidney’s career makes a bizarre episode in that endless saga which is Britain-in-Europe. To understand why so much was ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Irishman’, 5 December 2019

... Niro gets to play the 40-year-old Sheeran, as well as the same man at 55 and 83. For the record, Harvey Keitel (b. 1939), Al Pacino (b. 1940) and Joe Pesci (b. 1943) also get to inhabit different times, though Pacino, as Jimmy Hoffa, doesn’t live so long. All of these performances are amazing, but I would single out Pesci for special mention. The angry guy ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... hung out with Angela Davis in the early 1970s, and surely Don DeLillo’s speculations on Lee Harvey Oswald in Libra merited attention. There is at least one known case. In 2013 William Vollmann wrote about getting hold of his own FBI file and discovering that during the 1990s, following an anonymous tip, he was suspected of being the ...

We’ve done awfully well

Karl Miller: The Late 1950s, 18 July 2013

Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, June 2013, 978 0 7475 8893 1
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... is missing from the book. So are Muriel Spark, V.S. Naipaul, and the explosive William Golding. Philip Larkin is present. Not really for his poems as for the tirelessly sardonic and sarcastic bulletins on national life sent in letters to his friend Monica Jones. Larkin’s offendedness was soothed twenty years on when Margaret Thatcher wrested the crown ...

Post-Paranoid

Michael Wood: Underworld by Don Delillo, 5 February 1998

Underworld 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 832 pp., £10, February 1998, 0 330 36995 4
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... There is a world inside the world,’ Lee Harvey Oswald repeats in Don DeLillo’s novel Libra (1988). The phrase suggests wheels within wheels, partly because Oswald is obsessively riding the New York subway when we first hear it. ‘There’s more to it,’ David Ferrie says in the same novel. ‘There’s always more to it ...

Fourth from the top

Martin Kemp, 1 December 1983

Collected Essays: Vols I and II 
by Frances Yates.
Routledge, 279 pp., £12.50, May 1982, 0 7100 0952 6
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... to find him composing a verbal emblem book, Gli Eroici Furori. This was dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney in 1585 and exercised a profound influence upon Elizabethan poetry. In devising and explaining his visual conceits, Bruno aimed to transform the increasingly stale conventions of Petrarchan love poetry into philosophically significant devices. His ...

Anything but Staffordshire

Rosemary Hill, 18 September 1997

Rare Spirit: A Life of William De Morgan 1839-1917 
by Mark Hamilton.
Constable, 236 pp., £22.50, September 1997, 0 09 474670 2
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... a Gothic spandrel. De Morgan’s strong unassertive style adapted well. It was cool enough for Philip Webb, but it could be robust. Norman Shaw used the tiles in the ‘Old English’ interior of the Tabard Inn at Bedford Park, the artistic suburb, built from the late 1870s, where the inhabitants ‘read Rossetti by Japanesey lamps’. De Morgan still ...

The Positions He Takes

John Barrell: Hitchens on Paine, 30 November 2006

Thomas Paine’s ‘Rights of Man’: A Biography 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Atlantic, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2006, 1 84354 513 6
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... we shall require an age of reason,’ wrote Christopher Hitchens last year on the dust jacket of Harvey Kaye’s recent book on Paine.* And as if to reinforce that message, he has now himself published a little book on Paine, a ‘biography’ of Rights of Man. It begins with a dedication, ‘by permission’, to President Jalal Talabani: ‘first elected ...

Bang, Bang, Smash, Smash

Rosemary Hill: Beatrix Potter, 22 February 2007

Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature 
by Linda Lear.
Allen Lane, 584 pp., £25, January 2007, 978 0 7139 9560 2
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... and, despite Darwin, the natural world could be studied safely by the pious with the aid of Philip Gosse’s Evenings at the Microscope. Potter, with her brother’s microscope and the encouragement of her father, developed into an accomplished naturalist and botanical artist. It was the ideal childhood for a writer, intense, isolated and untrammelled ...

I have written as I rode

Adam Smyth: ‘Brief Lives’, 8 October 2015

‘Brief Lives’ with ‘An Apparatus for the Lives of Our English Mathematical Writers’ 
by John Aubrey, edited by Kate Bennett.
Oxford, 1968 pp., £250, March 2015, 978 0 19 968953 8
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John Aubrey: My Own Life 
by Ruth Scurr.
Chatto, 518 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 0 7011 7907 6
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... Aubrey’s 17th-century writing. ‘My great Uncle … remembred him,’ Aubrey wrote of Philip Sidney, dead for three generations, ‘and sayd that he was wont, as he was hunting on our pleasant plaines, to take his Table booke out … and write downe his notions as they came into his head when he was writing his Arcadia.’ Searching for memories ...

A bout de Bogart

Jenny Diski, 19 May 2011

Tough without a Gun: The Extraordinary Life of Humphrey Bogart 
by Stefan Kanfer.
Faber, 288 pp., £14.99, February 2011, 978 0 571 26072 0
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... we willingly confused with the actors who played them. The new retro cool I wallowed in had Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade as its source: the hard men with soft, democratic centres, American Romantics tinged with the Founding Fathers and Melville’s melancholic sense of humanity, the people’s Lancelots, who were dragged, flinching with distaste, into ...

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