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His Generation

Keith Gessen: A Sad Old Literary Man

19 June 2008
Alfred Kazin: A Biography 
by Richard Cook.
Yale, 452 pp., £25, March 2008, 978 0 300 11505 5
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... Jewish-American life, as the children of refugees from the turn-of-the-century Eastern European pogroms began to produce books. In the library Kazin sometimes sat across from his friend the historian Richard Hofstadter, who was also writing his first book, and their simultaneous composition was also a form of becoming. The battle Kazin had all his writers fight in On Native Grounds was a battle against ...

Benetton Ethics

Nick Cohen: Treachery at the FO

2 July 1998
First Annual Report on Human Rights 
by Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
56 pp., April 1998
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The Great Deception 
by Mark Curtis.
Pluto, 272 pp., £14.99, June 1998, 0 7453 1234 9
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... inequality and Conservative taxation and spending programmes. Yet for all the compromises, there were still cheering contrasts between the old and new regimes. The leftish Australian writer, Richard Neville, was quoted with approval: ‘There is perhaps an inch of difference between an Australia governed by Labour and an Australia governed by the right, but, believe me, it is an inch worth ...

A Serious Table

Christopher Driver

2 September 1982
Simple French Food 
by Richard​ Olney.
Jill Norman and Hobhouse, 339 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 0 906908 22 1
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Living off nature 
by Judy Urquhart.
Penguin, 396 pp., £5.95, May 1982, 0 14 005107 4
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The Food and Cooking of Russia 
by Lesley Chamberlain.
Allen Lane, 330 pp., £9.95, June 1982, 0 7139 1468 8
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Food, Wine and Friends 
by Robert Carrier.
Sphere, 197 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 7221 2295 0
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The Colour Book of Fast Food 
edited by Alison Kerr.
Octopus, 77 pp., £1.99, June 1981, 0 7064 1510 8
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... better caught than in Kipling’s boys’ story ‘His Gift’, where the useless youth whose middle name is Glasse discovers his métier by the camp fire and is assured by his mentor that ‘a good cook, even on Board of Trade allowance, has brought many a ship to port that ‘ud otherwise ’ave mut’nied on the’igh seas.’ For a hundred and fifty years, ever since the best jobs in London ...


Janette Turner Hospital

1 August 1996
Talking to the Dead 
by Helen Dunmore.
Viking, 224 pp., £16, July 1996, 0 670 87002 1
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... one of the constants in her fiction is that she writes far more sexily about food than she does about sex. Consider these passages from Talking to the Dead, her fourth novel. Here is Nina cooking for Richard, her lover (he also happens to be her sister’s husband), her thoughts full of sexual innuendo: We’ll eat together, in the dark, cool dining-room. I’m going to bake the salmon, very slowly ...

Britain’s Thermonuclear Bluff

Norman Dombey and Eric Grove

22 October 1992
... made it possible for us to attempt a reconstruction of events between 1954 and 1958: an unusually forthcoming obituary, in the Biographical Memoirs of the Fellows of the Royal Society, of Sir William Cook, scientific director of the Grapple test series; some recent disclosures on the part of John Ward, who was employed at the British nuclear weapons laboratory at Aldermaston for six months during 1955 ...

Made for TV

Jenny Diski

14 December 1995
Fight & Kick & Bite: The Life and Work of Dennis Potter 
by W. Stephen Gilbert.
Hodder, 382 pp., £18.99, November 1995, 0 340 64047 2
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Dennis Potter: A Life on Screen 
by John Cook.
Manchester, 368 pp., £45, October 1995, 0 7190 4601 7
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... the writer, the writing and the world ... simply by taking them for granted’ may be waiting for the author to provide something more than a lesson in how to suck eggs. Stephen Gilbert and John Cook (along with just about everyone else) would agree that Potter reached his reflexive nadir with Blackeyes, in which the story of the eponymous model based on the central character, Jessica, is related ...


Thomas Jones: Death in Florence

21 June 2012
... mother’s father’s father, a year before the First World War began, was registered at the British Consulate in Florence on 29 September 1913, a Monday. According to his death certificate, Richard Roberts, a 67-year-old Justice of the Peace and builder, staying at the Hotel Londres & Métropole in Florence, died at the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova on Saturday, 27 September 1913. The consul ...
16 October 1997
Peter Cook: A Biography 
by Harry Thompson.
Hodder, 516 pp., £18.99, September 1997, 0 340 64968 2
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... I was a friend and devoted admirer of Peter Cook for thirty years but I never realised until I read this book how much our early lives had overlapped. We were born in the same week into the same sort of family. His father, like mine, was a colonial ...

Matters of Taste

Peter Graham

4 December 1986
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen 
by Harold McGee.
Allen and Unwin, 684 pp., £20, September 1986, 9780043060032
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The French Menu Cookbook 
by Richard​ Olney.
Dorling Kindersley, 294 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 86318 181 3
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Out to Lunch 
by Paul Levy.
Chatto, 240 pp., £10.95, November 1986, 0 7011 3091 1
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The Good Food Guide 1987 
edited by Drew Smith.
Consumers’ Association/Hodder, 725 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 340 39600 8
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... an alkaline substance, such as ashes or lime: if consumed untreated, as it was when first introduced to Europe, it causes pellagra. Most of the time, though, it is science which has much to teach the cook. McGee explains exactly why, for example, vegetables put in large quantities of already boiling water and cooked uncovered for a few minutes will keep their greenness. We learn how to make iced tea ...


Richard​ Fortey

2 October 1997
Volcanoes: Crucibles of Change 
by Richard​ Fisher, Grant Heiken and Jeffrey Hulen.
Princeton, 344 pp., £25, July 1997, 9780691012131
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... cinders and sulphur. For every disaster there is an enumeration of the dead. Something about the amazing instability of the volcanic environment demands such numbers of superlatives. In 1779, Captain Cook made landfall on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima – nowadays the beach on which he drew up his dory is 40 metres above sea level. Imagine if South-East England were such a geological rocket: it would ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2013

9 January 2014
... implied a criticism of his performance. 4 February. I don’t imagine that my old Oxford supervisor, the medieval historian Bruce McFarlane, would be much exercised by the discovery of the body of Richard III, though there would be some mild satisfaction in finding the king exactly where the sources said he was. McFarlane wouldn’t have thought the body particularly informative as compared with the ...

How to Perfume a Glove

Adam Smyth: Early Modern Cookbooks

5 January 2017
Recipes for Thought: Knowledge and Taste in the Early Modern English Kitchen 
by Wendy Wall.
Pennsylvania, 328 pp., £53, November 2015, 978 0 8122 4758 9
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... of family history, financial accounts, aphorisms and prayers. The culinary and the medical were particularly entangled (Partridge’s text is addressed not only to ‘Good Huswives’ but also to Richard Wistow, assistant to the Company of Barbers and Surgeons). According to Galenic humoural theory, health was a matter of balancing the black bile, yellow bile, blood and phlegm that swam through the ...


John Bossy: Simon Forman

22 February 2001
The Notorious Astrological Physician of London: Works and Days of Simon Forman 
by Barbara Howard Traister.
Chicago, 260 pp., £19, February 2001, 0 226 81140 9
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Dr Simon Forman: A Most Notorious Physician 
by Judith Cook.
Chatto, 228 pp., £18.99, January 2001, 0 7011 6899 4
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... Mary, Queen of Scots, encouraged gunpowder and the dagger. But unthinkable, no. As used here, ‘patriarchal society’, like ‘institutional racism’, is an idea too metaphysical by half. Judith Cook’s Dr Simon Forman: A Most Notorious Physician has a similar title to Barbara Traister’s, reports much the same events, and comes to much the same conclusions if we leave out patriarchal society ...

Evil Man

Simon Schaffer: Joseph Priestley

21 May 1998
The Enlightenment of Joseph Priestley: A Study of His Life and Work from 1733 to 1773 
by Robert Schofield.
Pennsylvania State, 328 pp., £35.95, January 1998, 0 271 01662 0
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... destruction of Priestley’s home. Retirement and illness have as yet prevented Schofield completing the work. This halt in the narrative of Priestley’s remarkable career invites comparison with Richard Holmes’s biography of Coleridge, which stopped just as his protagonist set sail in spring 1804 for Mediterranean exile, or with Janet Browne’s recent first volume of a large-scale life of Charles ...

A Bed out of Leaves

Richard​ Wollheim: A dance at Belsen

4 December 2003
... spring day in the early 1990s, I was having lunch at the Getty Research Center in Los Angeles, where I had spent profitable time in the library, and, on this occasion, I found myself sitting next to Richard Meier, the uncompromising Modernist architect. Meier, who had just won the commission to build the new complex on top of the Santa Monica mountains, was expanding on the content of his brief, and ...

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