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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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... Alabama street where a group of Civil Rights demonstrators is standing. A girl in Professor Adorno’s classroom 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 ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine

3 December 1981
The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... some of the adjectives Stephen employed to describe his labours or his contributors. Eventually, in 1891, wifely protest combined with ill-health forced Stephen to relinquish the editorship to Sidney Lee, who had been his assistant since 1883, and it was under his equally indefatigable auspices that the original scheme was completed along with the first two supplements. Their combined labours ...

His Dark Example

Colin Burrow: ‘The Book of Dust’

4 January 2018
The Book of Dust, Vol. I: La Belle Sauvage 
by Philip​ Pullman.
David Fickling, 546 pp., £20, October 2017, 978 0 385 60441 3
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Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling 
by Philip​ Pullman.
David Fickling, 480 pp., £20, October 2017, 978 1 910200 96 4
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... a tedious recapitulation of the past? Some books, though, just read themselves – E. Nesbit with her wit and hidden political mischief, C.S. Lewis when his eye was on the story. And then there was Philip Pullman – whom I met first in his delightful retelling of Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp (1993), and then in the cosmically ambitious His Dark Materials trilogy (1995-2000). I am no doubt unusually ...
17 September 1998
Shadows on the Hudson 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated by Joseph Sherman.
Hamish Hamilton, 560 pp., £16.99, June 1998, 0 241 13940 6
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Isaac Bashevis Singer: A Life 
by Janice Hadda.
Oxford, 254 pp., £22.50, February 1998, 0 19 508420 9
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... vivid, intelligent characters’ and Singer’s ‘skill in weaving into a seamless tapestry various disorderly responses to the savagery of life’. But then another New York Times reviewer, Lee Siegel, called it a ‘chaotic, rambling, repetitive and parochial’ book in a ‘plodding translation’ – a ‘shapeless lump’ compared to Singer’s best stories, which are ‘hard diamonds ...

Uneasy Guest

Hermione Lee: Coetzee in London

11 July 2002
Youth 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Secker, 169 pp., £14.99, May 2002, 0 436 20582 3
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... appearances, and speaks about himself and his work evasively. My favourite example was his response to a five-page written question about Foe from the South African critic (and Sartre specialist) Philip Wood: ‘I have always resisted being nudged into the role of interpreter of my own books. In this case, moreover, you do it more fluently and convincingly than I can imagine myself doing.’ No ...
19 February 1987
The Beet Queen 
by Louise Erdrich.
Hamish Hamilton, 338 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 241 12044 6
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Marya: A Life 
by Joyce Carol Oates.
Cape, 310 pp., £10.95, January 1987, 0 224 02420 5
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The Lost Language of Cranes 
by David Leavitt.
Viking, 319 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 670 81290 0
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... violent life: her father is beaten to death by mining company goons; Marya’s mother drinks, whores, and abandons her children; Marya must submit to the sexual experimentation of her cousin Lee when she is eight, nine and ten years old, and is the victim of an attempted gang rape the night before she leaves home to go to the State University. But she does succeed, is a successful ...

Tall, Slender, Straight and Intelligent

Philip​ Kitcher: Cloning and reprogenetics

5 March 1998
Clone: The Road to Dolly and the Path Ahead 
by Gina Kolata.
Allen Lane, 218 pp., £15.99, November 1997, 0 7139 9221 2
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Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World 
by Lee​ Silver.
Weidenfeld, 315 pp., £20, January 1998, 0 297 84135 1
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... do raise serious moral and social questions, even if they are not the Grand Issues towards which Kolata gestures. Under what circumstances, if any, should the cloning of human beings be permitted? Lee Silver in his admirable book understands that the most important issue doesn’t centre on cloning but on the possibilities opened up by a field he calls ‘reprogenetics’. Reprogenetics draws on ...

Whistle-Blowers

Frank Honigsbaum

4 October 1984
Roche versus Adams 
by Stanley Adams.
Cape, 236 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 9780224021807
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Prescriptions for Death: The Drugging of the Third World 
by Milton Silverman, Philip Lee and Mia Lydecker.
California, 186 pp., £13.55, November 1982, 0 520 04721 4
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The Pharmaceutical Industry and Dependency in the Third World 
by Gary Gereffi.
Princeton, 291 pp., £21.60, November 1983, 0 691 07645 6
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Corporate Crime in the Pharmaceutical Industry 
by John Braithwaite.
Routledge, 440 pp., £25, March 1984, 0 7102 0049 8
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... The pharmaceutical industry arouses conflicting emotions. Anti-vivisectionists, fringe medical practitioners and food faddists all tend to hate it, while the rest of us are periodically alarmed by the drug disasters that occur and the extent of drug-induced disease. The commercial practices of the industry also provoke concern: complaints arise continuously about price-gouging, market-rigging, profiteering ...

Who, me?

Philip​ Purser

3 December 1992
The Sieve of Time: Memoirs 
by Leni Riefenstahl.
Quartet, 669 pp., £30, September 1992, 0 7043 7021 2
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... public appearance (p.16) brings applause so loud and insistent that she is obliged to furnish several encores and eventually (p.22) Papa gives in. On page 28 Leni comes second (to a film star called Lee Parry) in a beauty contest. By page 35 she is choreographing her own dances to music from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Schubert’s Unfinished. Then waiting for a train one day, she spies a ...
4 April 1991
Jackson Pollock: An American Saga 
by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.
Barrie and Jenkins, 934 pp., £19.95, March 1990, 0 7126 3866 0
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Abstract Expressionism 
by David Anfam.
Thames and Hudson, 216 pp., £5.95, August 1990, 0 500 20243 5
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Night Studio: A Memoir of Philip​ Guston 
by Musa Mayer.
Thames and Hudson, 256 pp., £8.95, February 1991, 0 500 27633 1
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... Clement Greenberg; and heroes and heroines: the sad, remote father, the brothers, particularly Sande, and his wife Arloie, Reuben Kadish, Roger Wilcox, Rita Benton. They write with respect about Lee Krasner and without parti pris. My impression is that the book is written with justice. Many of their witnesses are still very much alive. The book – which in certain passages could be mistaken for ...

Rose’s Rex

David Cannadine

15 September 1983
King George V 
by Kenneth Rose.
Weidenfeld, 514 pp., £12.95, July 1983, 0 297 78245 2
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... him the lachrymose sentimentality which, at the Queen’s behest and with her all-too-active co-operation, Theodore Martin lavished on the Prince Consort; still less the ‘feline skill’ of Sidney Lee who, disregarding the advice of Edward VII, ‘Stick to Shakespeare, Mr Lee, there’s money in Shakespeare,’ produced a double-decker biography of his late majesty; least of all the flippant ...

Principal Boy

Nigel Hamilton

21 March 1985
Mountbatten 
by Philip​ Ziegler.
Collins, 786 pp., £15, March 1985, 0 00 216543 0
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... crooked that if you swallowed a nail you’d shit a corkscrew!’ Thus the irascible Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer, in a ‘Templerism’ openly addressed to Lord Louis Mountbatten. It is one of Philip Ziegler’s virtues as an official biographer that he is willing to quote the unkind as well as the kind remarks about his hero. Another is his readability: a seven-hundred-page opus that crackles ...

Turncoats and Opportunists

Alexandra Walsham: Francis Walsingham

5 July 2012
The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I 
by John Cooper.
Faber, 400 pp., £9.99, July 2012, 978 0 571 21827 1
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... of Walsingham as spymaster established by James Anthony Froude’s History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada (1856-70), his early 20th-century biographers, Sidney Lee and Conyers Read, presented him as an astute and distinguished patriot who laid the foundations for the modern security services. But then Read’s three-volume study of 1925 reflected his own ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: The Party Conferences

18 October 2017
... fast becoming the central motif of Conservative politics. ‘There are a few countries around the world that have held out against the global trend to market economies and rising living standards,’ Philip Hammond, the chancellor of the Exchequer, noted during his speech in Manchester, ‘but it is only a few. Like Cuba, which I visited last year as foreign secretary, where, curiously, I found cows in ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen

11 October 2018
... But perhaps they keep a file on Toni Morrison, who – as a photo that recently went viral made clear – 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 ...

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