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Fortress Mathematica

Brian Rotman: John Nash and Paul Erdos, 17 September 1998

The Man who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdös and the Search for Mathematical Truth 
by Paul Hoffman.
Fourth Estate, 320 pp., £12.99, July 1998, 1 85702 811 2
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Proofs from the Book 
by Martin Aigner and Günter Ziegler.
Springer, 210 pp., £19, August 1998, 3 540 63698 6
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A Beautiful Mind: Genius and Schizophrenia in the Life of John Nash 
by Sylvia Nasar.
Faber, 464 pp., £17.99, September 1998, 0 571 17794 8
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... results, I told him proudly, in the partition calculus he’d invented with his fellow Hungarian Richard Rado; I was also trying to settle a conjecture in infinite combinatorics – that there was no infinite descending sequence of countable order types. He ignored the first, questioned me about the second, thought for a few mom ents, then shrugged – which ...

Enter Hamilton

Eric Foner, 6 October 2016

American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804 
by Alan Taylor.
Norton, 704 pp., £30, November 2016, 978 0 393 08281 4
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... including Joe McCarthy and George Wallace. Not to mention more respectable types such as Richard Nixon, whose ‘Southern strategy’ offered a blueprint for mobilising white resentment over the gains of the Civil Rights movement. (That ‘respectable’ and ‘Nixon’ can be included in the same sentence illustrates how far our political standards ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bio Insecurity, 5 November 2009

... flew into the World Trade Center: if they wish ‘to carry out a bioweapons attack in the US’, Richard Ebright, a microbiologist at Rutgers has said, ‘their simplest means of acquiring access to the materials and the knowledge would be to send individuals to train within programmes involved in biodefence research.’ Background checks are carried out on ...

On Roy Fisher

August Kleinzahler, 29 June 2017

... on the South Side from James Farrell’s trilogy; the block of South Drexel where Bigger Thomas in Richard Wright’s Native Son killed and incinerated his rich employer’s daughter; Nelson Algren’s Division Street; the train station where Louis Armstrong was met by King Oliver’; and the Panther Room of the Sherman Hotel, which was a notable touring venue ...

Getting the Undulation

Benjamin Lytal: Willa Cather’s Letters, 20 February 2014

The Selected Letters of Willa Cather 
edited by Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout.
Knopf, 715 pp., £24, April 2013, 978 0 307 95930 0
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... her first story collection in 1905. ‘A Wagner Matinee’ is about a former teacher at the Boston Conservatory who, after making a foolish marriage, spends thirty years as a frontier wife in Nebraska. Returning to Boston, she hears a matinee concert and realises that she has wasted her life. Asked by a correspondent ...

Participation in America

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 6 November 1980

Authority 
by Richard Sennett.
Secker, 206 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 436 44675 8
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... merely of order, but of an expressive energy which makes order and freedom itself worth having? Richard Sennett believes that it is. As he has explained in what he has written about Chicago and about the bewildered self-contempt of blue-collar workers in Boston in the late 1960s, and as he has most elaborately argued in ...

Half a pirate

Patrick O’Brian, 22 January 1987

Captain Kidd and the War against the Pirates 
by Robert Ritchie.
Harvard, 306 pp., £16.95, November 1986, 0 674 09501 4
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Richard Knight’s Treasure! The True Story of his Extraordinary Quest for Captain Kidd’s Cache 
by Glenys Roberts.
Viking, 198 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 670 80761 3
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... as an ordinary hand. The agreement before he left London was that he should report to Bellomont at Boston on his return. One year’s piracy, with only two or three prizes and little in the way of bloodshed – nothing remotely to compare with Morgan’s – seems a strange basis for such a lasting reputation. But the reputation was founded on the enormous ...

Cracker Culture

Ian Jackman, 7 September 2000

Irish America 
by Reginald Byron.
Oxford, 317 pp., £40, November 1999, 0 19 823355 8
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Remembering Ahanagran: Storytelling in a Family’s Past 
by Richard White.
Cork, 282 pp., IR£14.99, October 1999, 1 85918 232 1
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From the Sin-é Café to the Black Hills: Notes on the New Irish 
by Eamon Wall.
Wisconsin, 139 pp., $16.95, February 2000, 0 299 16724 0
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The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America 
edited by Michael Glazier.
Notre Dame, 988 pp., £58.50, August 1999, 0 268 02755 2
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... scholars and popular writers for concentrating on the mainly Catholic ethnic enclaves of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago and ignoring everywhere else. In The Irish Diaspora in America (1976), Lawrence McCaffrey described the Irish as ‘pioneers of the American ghetto’ and Byron believes that this has become the stereotype for all Irish ...

Let him be Caesar!

Michael Dobson: The Astor Place Riot, 2 August 2007

The Shakespeare Riots: Revenge, Drama and Death in 19th-Century America 
by Nigel Cliff.
Random House, 312 pp., $26.95, April 2007, 978 0 345 48694 3
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... Shakespearean actor Edwin Forrest (1806-72), a man described by his admiring modern biographer Richard Moody as ‘the first actor who refused to subscribe to the nation’s cultural inferiority complex’. As The Shakespeare Riots makes clear, however, Forrest was sufficiently affected by this inferiority complex to have spent much of his life ...

No Law at All

Stephen Sedley: The Governor Eyre Affair, 2 November 2006

A Jurisprudence of Power: Victorian Empire and the Rule of Law 
by R.W. Kostal.
Oxford, 529 pp., £79.95, December 2005, 0 19 826076 8
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... were channelled. Where else does an argument about illegality and injustice go? When in 1869 the Boston lawyer Richard Dana added a postscript to his celebrated narrative Two Years before the Mast, reflecting on the brutality which he had witnessed a quarter of a century earlier as a boy at sea, he was quick to insist that ...

Out of the Closet

Richard Altick, 20 August 1981

The Private Case: An Annotated Bibliography of the Private Case Erotica Collection in the British Library 
by Patrick Kearney.
Jay Landesman, 354 pp., £45, July 1981, 0 905150 24 4
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... with Amsterdam and Paris, seems to have been one of the most fertile sources of erotica. A ‘Boston’ imprint might really mean Stuttgart, and a ‘Mexico City’ imprint might have been applied in Cleveland, Ohio. For sheer cheekiness, however, a prize might be claimed by several early editions of the Comte de Mirabeau’s Errotika Biblion ...

I’m an intelligence

Joanna Biggs: Sylvia Plath at 86, 20 December 2018

The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. I: 1940-56 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1388 pp., £35, September 2017, 978 0 571 32899 4
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The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. II: 1956-63 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1025 pp., £35, September 2018, 978 0 571 33920 4
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... May, ‘an eclectic blend of ulysses, kilroy, icarus, neptune, ishmael, noah, jonah, columbus, and richard halliburton! So you must, in all kindness, emphasise your mortal finitude when next we meet!’ He had leave in June, and it is through Gordon’s faithful eyes that we see Plath on the cover of the first volume of the letters: blonde hair, red lipstick ...

At the Royal Academy

Daniel Soar: Renzo Piano, 3 January 2019

... rue des Archives in the Marais – in the shadow of the Centre Pompidou, which he designed with Richard Rogers in the early 1970s. At RPBW Genoa, on the coast just to the west of the city, meetings happen at a round table, with no notes taken: bad ideas are encouraged, because they’ll immediately be replaced by better ones as the collective musters its ...

Other Selves

John Bayley, 29 October 1987

How I Grew 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 0 297 79170 2
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Myself and Michael Innes 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 575 04104 8
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... the favourites: Even more than the better-known The Forest Lovers I loved The Life and Death of Richard Yea-and-Nay, about King Richard the Lion-Hearted, published in 1900 ... the medieval romances I was writing at top speed on an empty stomach were meant to be in his manner. I cannot remember whether I showed any of them ...

Hating

Patrice Higonnet, 14 November 1996

Benjamin Franklin and his Enemies 
by Robert Middlekauf.
California, 276 pp., £19.95, March 1996, 0 520 20268 6
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... pot never boils’. No one can wholly avoid hating ‘Old Daddy Franklin’, from whose Poor Richard’s Almanac these sayings come, especially if brought up to revere him in Public School, USA. Abraham Lincoln is the father of his people; George Washington, of his nation; but Benjamin Franklin – as it happens, a basically very decent man – hovers ...

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