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On the Salieri Express

John Sutherland, 24 September 1992

Doctor Criminale 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 343 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 436 20115 1
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The Promise of Light 
by Paul Watkins.
Faber, 217 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 571 16715 2
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The Absolution Game 
by Paul Sayer.
Constable, 204 pp., £13.99, June 1992, 0 09 471460 6
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The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman 
by Louis de Bernières.
Secker, 388 pp., £14.99, August 1992, 0 436 20114 3
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Written on the Body 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Cape, 190 pp., £13.99, September 1992, 0 224 03587 8
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... and ‘travels a good deal.’ In form, Doctor Criminale is an old-fashioned quest novel. Francis Jay, a young British journalist – trained in deconstruction and cultural politics at Sussex – is left high and dry when his paper (evidently the ill-fated Sunday Correspondent) folds. Following a disastrous Booker ceremony at which he comports himself on ...

Pull the Other One

Ian Hacking, 26 January 1995

The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life 
by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray.
Free Press, 845 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 02 914673 9
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... The New Republic of 31 October ran a piece by Murray followed by 18 criticisms. Stephen Jay Gould spoke out in the New Yorker of 28 November. I especially recommend Alan Ryan’s analysis in the New York Review of Books of 17 November, followed in the 1 December issue by Charles Lane’s examination of some of the sources of statistical information ...

At Somerset House

Peter Campbell: Zaha Hadid, 16 December 2004

... This year Zaha Hadid won the Pritzker Prize. The award was founded by Jay Pritzker who owned the Hyatt hotel chain – not that the winners of the prize have produced much that looks at all like the buildings which underwrite it. It is given annually to an architect who has, among other things, ‘produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment ...

Neutered Valentines

David Bromwich: James Agee, 7 September 2006

‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’, ‘A Death in the Family’, Shorter Fiction 
by James Agee.
Library of America, 818 pp., $35, October 2005, 1 931082 81 2
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Film Writing and Selected Journalism 
by James Agee.
Library of America, 748 pp., $40, October 2005, 1 931082 82 0
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Brooklyn Is 
by James Agee.
Fordham, 64 pp., $16.95, October 2005, 0 8232 2492 9
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... question underlies the instructions and acknowledgments that pass between members of the family of Jay Follet on the day after his death. Rufus, the son, wants to believe that his father was good, and he comes to believe it, over the murmur of voices with hints and rumours that he was a drinker and a fast driver and a poor breadwinner, and over the priest’s ...

Realty Meltdown

Geoff Dyer, 24 August 1995

Independence Day 
by Richard Ford.
Harvill, 451 pp., £14.99, July 1995, 1 86046 020 8
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... Richard Ford’s narrator, Frank Bascombe, quit serious writing to become a sports-writer. This was the making of Ford. It wasn’t until he became Bascombe, the sportswriter, that Ford turned himself into a major novelist. At odd moments in The Sportswriter, Frank looks back on his abandoned literary career. He had published a ‘promising’ collection of stories, Blue Autumn, and had then started on a novel which he never finished ...

Laid Down by Ranke

Peter Ghosh: Defending history, 15 October 1998

In Defence of History 
by Richard J. Evans.
Granta, 320 pp., £8.99, October 1998, 1 86207 068 7
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... Richard Evans hopes that this book will take the place of E.H. Carr’s What is History? and G.R. Elton’s The Practice of History as the ‘basic introduction’ to history as taught in the universities. Evans is a self-declared ‘Rankean’ empiricist, committed to Ranke’s view that facts and documents ‘speak for themselves ...

Fear and Loathing in Limehouse

Richard Holme, 3 September 1987

Campaign! The Selling of the Prime Minister 
by Rodney Tyler.
Grafton, 251 pp., £6.95, July 1987, 0 246 13277 9
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Battle for Power 
by Des Wilson.
Sphere, 326 pp., £4.99, July 1987, 0 7221 9074 3
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David Owen: Personally Speaking 
by Kenneth Harris.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 297 79206 7
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... is absurd. Foreign Secretary at 39, former Party Leader and Cenotaph mourner, friend of Peter Jay – who could be a loftier and grander pillar of the Establishment? He is certainly always readier to respond to raison d’état than liberals might be. Yet he undoubtedly sees himself as a radical, pulling down the pillars and turning out the insiders from ...
Goldenballs 
by Richard Ingrams.
Private Eye/Deutsch, 144 pp., £4.25
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... Sir James’s elevation and his year-long battle to punish Private Eye and jail its editor, Richard Ingrams – an effort which was supported by Wilson and Lady Falkender, both victims of Ingrams’s harassment, and which petered out in a relatively painless settlement in 1976? Ingrams’s theory is that there was such a connection. Goldsmith is no ...

Chemical Common Sense

Miroslav Holub, 4 July 1996

The Same and Not the Same 
by Roald Hoffmann.
Columbia, 294 pp., $34.95, September 1995, 0 231 10138 4
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... because of its ‘human’ dimension, as in the immense, neo-Darwinian undertaking of Stephen Jay Gould, the books of Lewis Wolpert, Peter Medawar’s essays, the psychiatric narratives of Oliver Sacks or the clinical deliberations of Sherwin Nuland; and finally the heroic attempts to describe a single discipline, including its technical details and ...

The Magic Trousers

Matt Foot: Police Racism, 7 February 2019

Behind the Blue Line: My Fight against Racism and Discrimination in the Police 
by Gurpal Virdi.
Biteback, 299 pp., £20, March 2018, 978 1 78590 321 2
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... to trial (and one of those to appeal). Example two. Following publication in August 2014 of the Jay Report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, racists and fascists headed to the town seeking to take advantage of the situation. Among them were members of National Action, an extreme right-wing group soon to be proscribed as a terrorist ...

Digging up the Ancestors

R.W. Johnson, 14 November 1996

Hugh Gaitskell 
by Brian Brivati.
Cohen, 492 pp., £25, September 1996, 1 86066 073 8
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... party who was born to privilege, who sought the company, within the Party, of fellow Wykehamists (Richard Crossman, Douglas Jay), other public school boys (Benn, Crosland) or public school wannabes like Roy Jenkins, and who, to top it all, was having an affair with an aristocratic Tory woman and loved nothing better than to ...

Ways of Being Dead

John Durant, 21 January 1988

The Blind Watchmaker 
by Richard Dawkins.
Longman, 332 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 582 44694 5
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... far beyond the circle of their professional colleagues. One such is the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Significantly, Dawkins’s books defy classification in terms of our specialist categories: professional monograph, student text, popular book, etc. The Selfish Gene (1976) was at once a key document of the so-called ‘sociobiological ...

We’ll Never Know

Gabriel Dover, 3 August 1995

Signs of Life: The Language and Meanings of DNA 
by Robert Pollack.
Viking, 212 pp., £16, May 1994, 0 670 85121 3
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... and limitations of the new biology. The book has its scientific antecedents, most specifically Richard Lewontin’s The Doctrine of DNA and Stephen Jay Gould’s Wonderful Life; yet it stands alone in trying to reach to the very essence of biology, with its ‘knowable pasts and unknowable futures’, in the best ...

Life in the Colonies

Steven Rose, 20 July 1995

Naturalist 
by Edward O.Wilson.
Allen Lane, 380 pp., £20, August 1995, 0 7139 9141 0
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Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration 
by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O.Wilson.
Harvard, 228 pp., £19.95, November 1994, 0 674 48525 4
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... time I was working, one floor below his, in collaboration with his formidable ideological critic Richard Lewontin – the second of the remarkable triumvirate who inhabit the Museum (the third, in the basement, is Stephen Jay Gould). Lewontin claims that when the conflict between them was at its most intense, Wilson ...

The Thing

Alan Ryan, 9 October 1986

Whitehall: Tragedy and Farce 
by Clive Ponting.
Hamish Hamilton, 256 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 241 11835 2
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On the Record. Surveillance, Computers and Privacy: The Inside Story 
by Duncan Campbell and Steve Connor.
Joseph, 347 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 7181 2575 4
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... civil servants with, say, the absolute confidence of the generation of Hugh Gaitskell and Douglas Jay that ministers would feel no temptation to cheat and that if they had done so their civil servants would have stopped them. Behind the old confidence lay a peculiar history. The idea of a civil service is an English idea, but its origins do not lie in ...

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