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Flirting

P.N. Furbank, 18 November 1982

The English World: History, Character and People 
edited by Robert Blake.
Thames and Hudson, 268 pp., £14.95, September 1982, 0 500 25083 9
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The English Gentleman: The Rise and Fall of an Ideal 
by Philip Mason.
Deutsch, 240 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 9780233974897
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... a further implication: that the ‘nuances of English life’ are, at bottom, always the same. Philip Mason, in his The English Gentleman, jumps in more boldly: ‘There, in the second half of the 14th century, are Chaucer’s men and women, far more like people in Britain in the second half of the 20th century than one has any right to expect ... the ...

Philip Roth’s House of Fiction

Michael Mason, 6 December 1979

The Ghost Writer 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 180 pp., £4.95
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... The Ghost Writer is Philip Roth’s best novel yet. Certainly it is his most ingenious. But this familiar way of putting things may contain a mistake, a mistake which is part of the subject-matter of Roth’s book. ‘Best novel yet’ implies a future of prosperous activity which may be barmecidal. The novelist-hero of Henry James’s story ‘The Middle Years’ is amused by the view that his latest novel is ‘the best thing he has done yet’: it ‘made such a grand avenue of the future ...

Shoot them to be sure

Richard Gott: The Oxford History of the British Empire, 25 April 2002

The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. I: The Origins of Empire 
edited by William Roger Louis and Nicholas Canny.
Oxford, 533 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924676 9
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The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. II: The 18th Century 
edited by William Roger Louis and P.J. Marshall.
Oxford, 639 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924677 7
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The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. III: The 19th Century 
edited by William Roger Louis and Andrew Porter.
Oxford, 774 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924678 5
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The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. IV: The 20th Century 
edited by William Roger Louis and Judith Brown.
Oxford, 773 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924679 3
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The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. V: Historiography 
edited by William Roger Louis and Robin Winks.
Oxford, 731 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924680 7
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... on Native Americans by Daniel Richter, and another on the ‘black experience’ of Empire by Philip Morgan. But broadly speaking, the radical historians of Empire – David Killingray, Peter Sluglett, Nicholas Tarling – have been confined to the final, historiographical volume, while the more conservative have been given the meaty chapters in the bulk ...
Mason & Dixon 
by Thomas Pynchon.
Cape, 773 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 9780224050012
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... of my local bookshop. It’s been painted on the glass by hand. It’s from the first sentence of Mason – Dixon. Thomas Pynchon was born on Long Island, New York in 1937. He studied engineering, physics and, later, English literature, at Cornell University, then worked as a technical writer for Boeing until 1962. Not long after that, he more or less ...

One Click at a Time

Owen Hatherley, 29 June 2016

PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future 
by Paul Mason.
Allen Lane, 368 pp., £8.99, June 2016, 978 0 14 197529 0
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Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World without Work 
by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams.
Verso, 256 pp., £12.99, October 2015, 978 1 78478 096 8
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... Both​ Paul Mason’s PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future and Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’s Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World without Work advocate things that seemed to have disappeared from thinking on the left sometime in the late 1960s: technological optimism, futurism, the making of programmes and the issuing of demands as opposed to bearing witness through protest ...
... that’s been exploited, in America, at one level by comedians like Lenny Bruce and Jackie Mason, and at quite another level, by Jewish novelists. American fiction’s most single-minded portrait of the goy is in The Assistant by Bernard Malamud. The goy is Frank Alpine, the down-and-out thief who robs the failing grocery store of the Jew, Bober, later ...

Men in Aprons

Colin Kidd: Freemasonry, 7 May 1998

Who’s Afraid of Freemasons? The Phenomenon of Freemasonry 
by Alexander Piatigorsky.
Harvill, 398 pp., £25, August 1997, 1 86046 029 1
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... oaths, handshakes and symbolic imagery pique the curiosity of the uninitiated, or ‘cowans’ in Mason-speak. Yet, despite its exotic paraphernalia, the Craft’s wider influence on British society is perceived to be mundane and narrow in compass. The list of allegations on the dust-jacket of Short’s book runs to corruption in local government, perversions ...

Last in the Funhouse

Patrick Parrinder, 17 April 1986

Gerald’s Party 
by Robert Coover.
Heinemann, 316 pp., £10.95, April 1986, 0 434 14290 5
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Caracole 
by Edmund White.
Picador, 342 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 330 29291 9
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Lake Wobegon Days 
by Garrison Keillor.
Faber, 337 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 571 13846 2
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In Country 
by Bobbie Ann Mason.
Chatto, 245 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 7011 3034 2
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... happening at once, nobody has time to take much notice – this was all said in the 36 lines of Philip Larkin’s ‘Vers de Société’. While nobody would deny that Coover and his contemporaries opened our horizons twenty years ago, I would see Gerald’s Party as the work of a writer imprisoned in his own success. If this were to be the last of the ...

Two Ediths and a Hermit

Raleigh Trevelyan, 5 September 1985

... eventually, but for a while I was in hot water. It began with my discovery of the diary of Jimmy Mason, known as the Hermit of Great Canfield, in the loft of my parents’ house. I was 16 at the time, and any schoolboy would have been thrilled to read these opening words: ‘If I should be poisoned at last, and this book is found, it will explain ...

Divinely Ordained

Jackson Lears: God loves America, 19 May 2011

A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided 
by Amanda Foreman.
Penguin, 988 pp., £12.99, June 2011, 978 0 14 104058 5
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... from London society, managing to seem both unformed and overly formal; the Confederate envoy James Mason says ‘chaw’ for ‘chew’, calls himself ‘Jeems’ and offends British officials with his crude racist remarks; the Southern spy Belle Boyd charms influential men with her deft flirtations. Meanwhile a motley British crowd jostles for involvement in ...

Hateful Sunsets

David Craig: Highlands and Headlands, 5 March 2015

Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place 
by Philip Marsden.
Granta, 348 pp., £20, October 2014, 978 1 84708 628 0
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... Philip Marsden​ ’s new book explores an idea as much as it explores a country. It journeys westward through Cornwall from Bodmin Moor to Scilly, alighting on the rocky eminences where granite has boiled up through the Earth’s crust and crystallised into highlands and headlands. It’s rugged country, raked by south-westerlies ‘bred of the Atlantic’ and eaten at by seas surging into the throat of the Channel ...

Larkin was right, more or less

Michael Mason, 5 June 1997

Fertility, Class and Gender in Britain 1860-1940 
by Simon Szreter.
Cambridge, 704 pp., £50, January 1996, 0 521 34343 7
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... of his book. It was, according to Szreter, a ‘culture of abstinence’, influential right up to Philip Larkin’s 1963 (when ‘sexual intercourse began’), which mainly drove down the fertility of England and Wales – but probably not that of other Western countries experiencing a comparable decline. On this account, diffusionism is out of the window. No ...

The Knock at the Door

Philip Clark: The Complete Mozart, 8 February 2018

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The New Complete Edition 
Universal Classics, £275, October 2016Show More
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... masonic lodge, displeased that The Magic Flute played fast and loose with masonic symbolism: any mason would apparently hear the three fortissimo chords that open the overture as a subliminal reference to their ceremony of initiation, which is heralded by three knocks on the temple door. The one slice of mythology about which everyone is sure – that Mozart ...

Moderns and Masons

Peter Burke, 2 April 1981

The First Moderns: The Architects of the Eighteenth Century 
by Joseph Rykwert.
M.I.T., 585 pp., £27.50, September 1980, 0 262 18090 1
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... Jesuits,’ does not take us very far towards understanding either the Escorial or the court of Philip II. An alternative model of the relationship between the history of architecture and the rest of cultural history was offered by the late Rudolf Wittkower in his Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism (1949). Wittkower had two aims. The first was ...

Hairy

E.S. Turner, 1 October 1987

The war the Infantry knew 1914-1919: A Chronicle of Service in France and Belgium 
by Captain J.C. Dunn, introduced by Keith Simpson.
Jane’s, 613 pp., £18, April 1987, 0 7106 0485 8
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Passchendaele: The Story behind the Tragic Victory of 1917 
by Philip Warner.
Sidgwick, 269 pp., £13.95, June 1987, 0 283 99364 2
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Poor Bloody Infantry: A Subaltern on the Western Front 1916-17 
by Bernard Martin.
Murray, 174 pp., £11.95, April 1987, 0 7195 4374 6
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... in one day by a cemetery squad trying, under fire, to keep the dead underground); ‘Fortnum and Mason’ (crates seen on the back of a Staff Rolls-Royce); and ‘Phonetics’ (the battalion had in the ranks an Oxford lecturer who maintained that an officer was swearing in a Silesian dialect and must therefore be a spy). The battalion’s record, as Dunn ...

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