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Playboy’s Paperwork

Patrick Collinson: Historiography and Elizabethan politics, 11 November 1999

The World of the Favourite 
edited by J.H. Elliott and L.W.B. Brockliss.
Yale, 320 pp., £35, June 1999, 0 300 07644 4
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The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: The Political Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1585-97 
by Paul Hammer.
Cambridge, 468 pp., £45, June 1999, 0 521 43485 8
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... minister for much of the reign, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, such a favourite? In this volume, Paul Hammer distinguishes his position from that of a courtier-favourite such as, above all, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, but for Brockliss, Burghley fits the category of ‘minister-favourite’, which, so far as he is concerned, is what this book is all ...

Four Funerals and a Wedding

Andrew O’Hagan: If something happens to me…, 5 May 2005

... She looked away and crumpled up the paper and put it on the fire. I was ten years old when John Paul II came to power. My granny instantly adored him, loving his feudal side without reservation and simply ignoring the freedom-upholding aspect. The only thing she was truly agnostic about was politics: she never mentioned that, and her only concern when it ...

Disappearing Acts

Terry Eagleton: Aquinas, 5 December 2013

Thomas Aquinas: A Portrait 
by Denys Turner.
Yale, 300 pp., £18.99, May 2013, 978 0 300 18855 4
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... personality we know very little, is ranked among the greatest of theologians, next only to St Paul and St Augustine. Of his publications, the centrepiece is the dauntingly hefty Summa Theologiae. In its dry, brisk, low-key manner, this formidable compendium of theology, metaphysics, ethics and psychology ranges from Thomas’s celebrated demonstrations of ...

In Praise of Power

Alexander Nagel: Bernini the Ruthless, 3 January 2013

Bernini: His Life and His Rome 
by Franco Mormando.
Chicago, 429 pp., £22.50, December 2011, 978 0 226 53852 5
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... patrons. Scipione Borghese, Bernini’s first great supporter and client, persuaded his uncle Pope Paul V to make his lover Stefano Pignatelli a cardinal; and Antonio Barberini, Pope Urban VIII’s notorious nephew, was made a cardinal at the age of twenty, to howls of protest, and proceeded to populate the family palace – now famous for its collection of ...

Why all the hoopla?

Hal Foster: Frank Gehry, 23 August 2001

Frank Gehry: The Art of Architecture 
edited by Jean-Louis Cohen et al.
Abrams, 500 pp., £55, May 2001, 0 8109 6929 7
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... his interiors are difficult to decipher from his exteriors and vice versa, whether they are read structurally as with the Modernist duck, or ornamentally as with the Post-Modern shed. This disconnection between inside and outside can be beguiling, as it is in his Vitra International Headquarters (1988-94, in Switzerland) or his EMR Communications and ...

Red Pill, Blue Pill

James Meek, 22 October 2020

... and the Second World War.’There​ was no sign of Icke when I arrived in Trafalgar Square. Piers Corbyn, whose brother, the former Labour leader, can’t be held responsible for him, was speaking. Piers Corbyn is a physicist and one-time commercial meteorologist who believes that man-made climate change is a ...

Perfectly Mobile, Perfectly Still

David Craig: Land Artists, 14 December 2000

by Andy Goldsworthy.
Thames and Hudson, 203 pp., £35, August 2000, 0 500 51026 1
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... as nearly as humans can to the processes of nature itself. If you look at the photographs by Paul van Vlissingen taken monthly from one August to the next at Rudha Cailleach, or Witches’ Point, on the north shore of Loch Maree, you find you’re watching a mobile image, pregnant in each of its 13 stages, the more so because it alters so much as the ...

Go, Modernity

Hal Foster: Norman Foster, 22 June 2006

Catalogue: Foster and Partners 
edited by David Jenkins.
Prestel, 316 pp., £22.99, July 2005, 3 7913 3298 8
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Norman Foster: Works 2 
edited by David Jenkins.
Prestel, 548 pp., £60, January 2006, 3 7913 3017 9
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... is proven: Renault uses its centre in Swindon (1980-82), with its yellow exoskeleton of piers, cables and canopies, as the backdrop for its UK adverts, and the Financial Times has adopted the Commerzbank Headquarters in Frankfurt (1991-97), a towering wedge in white and greys, as its emblem of the city. In this business of architecture as ...


Alan Bennett: A Round of Applause, 7 January 2021

... a change from brawling over toilet rolls.26 March. Around six Nick Hytner rings, highly excited. Piers Wenger (controller of BBC drama) has just rung him saying that though current restrictions make mounting any TV programmes difficult, he thinks it may be possible to do a new version of the Talking Heads monologues from 1988. Nick is ringing me ...

The BBC on the Rack

James Butler, 19 March 2020

... are watched by more than 12 million people every week, and three-quarters of UK adults listen to, read or watch its news in some form. It claims to reach 91 per cent of the population at least once a week – one of its chief defences as a public broadcaster with an income of £4.9 billion a year. The BBC World Service is responsible for projecting the ...

Here was a plague

Tom Crewe, 27 September 2018

How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed Aids 
by David France.
Picador, 624 pp., £12.99, September 2017, 978 1 5098 3940 7
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Patient Zero and the Making of the Aids Epidemic 
by Richard A. McKay.
Chicago, 432 pp., £26.50, November 2017, 978 0 226 06395 9
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Modern Nature: The Journals of Derek Jarman, 1989-90 
by Derek Jarman.
Vintage, 314 pp., £9.99, May 2018, 978 1 78487 387 5
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Smiling in Slow Motion: The Journals of Derek Jarman, 1991-94 
by Derek Jarman.
Vintage, 388 pp., £9.99, August 2018, 978 1 78487 516 9
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The Ward 
by Gideon Mendel.
Trolley, 88 pp., £25, December 2017, 978 1 907112 56 0
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... Jarman made a note in his diary in April 1989: ‘Since autumn: Terry, Robert, David, Ken, Paul, Howard. All the brightest and best trampled to death – surely even the Great War brought no more loss into one life in just 12 months, and all this as we made love not war.’ In March 1992: ‘We talked of the people who died of Aids this week.’ ‘To ...

What was it that drove him?

David Runciman: Gordon Brown, 4 January 2018

My Life, Our Times 
by Gordon Brown.
Bodley Head, 512 pp., £25, November 2017, 978 1 84792 497 1
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... down, never mind wind down. Brown harks back to the age when prime ministers had the leisure to read poetry (Disraeli and Gladstone), write love letters (Asquith) or take morning drinks and afternoon naps (Churchill). I imagine there are lawyers, doctors, accountants, even writers, who feel the same sense of nostalgia for a rhythm of life that’s never ...


Andrew O’Hagan: The Bournemouth Set, 21 May 2020

... accommodation. People built sanitariums and spa hotels, they planted palm trees and erected iron piers, as if one could promenade from restoration to decline, from cheerfulness to death, without it seeming so dark or sordid a journey. The hotels were white. ‘They come here to die,’ wrote the man who laid out the gardens by the pier at Bournemouth. ‘Let ...

Is it OK to have a child?

Meehan Crist, 5 March 2020

... of childbearing age.In 1968, The Population Bomb, a bestseller written by the Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich and his (uncredited) wife, Anne, predicted that there would soon not be enough food to support the human population and that famines in the 1970s would kill hundreds of millions. The only way to prevent this, they said, was strict birth control ...

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