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The Lives to Come: The Genetic Revolution and Human Possibilities 
by Philip Kitcher.
Allen Lane, 381 pp., £20, April 1996, 0 7139 9129 1
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... not to have an exaggerated view of the importance of genes to life. This has been exacerbated by Richard Dawkins’s eloquent and widely-read attempts to persuade us that we are nothing more than a gene’s way of making another gene. But the truth is that neither the chicken nor the egg comes first. Bodies, artefacts such as nests and burrows, proteins and ...

‘My dear, dear friend and Führer!’

Jeremy Adler: Winifred Wagner, 6 July 2006

Winifred Wagner: A Life at the Heart of Hitler’s Bayreuth 
by Brigitte Hamann, translated by Alan Bance.
Granta, 582 pp., £12.99, June 2006, 1 86207 851 3
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... and the Bayreuth ideal of culture . . . the renewal of the German people in the spirit of Richard Wagner’. For the night after the putsch, Siegfried and Winifred had planned a concert in Munich, which was to include the premiere of Siegfried’s symphonic poem Glück (‘Luck’ or ‘Happiness’). Winifred wrote to a friend that the ...

Child of Evangelism

James Wood, 3 October 1996

The Quest for God: A Personal Pilgrimage 
by Paul Johnson.
Weidenfeld, 216 pp., £14.99, March 1996, 0 297 81764 7
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Is There a God? 
by Richard Swinburne.
Oxford, 144 pp., £20, February 1996, 0 19 823544 5
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God in Us: A Case for Christian Humanism 
by Anthony Freeman.
SCM, 87 pp., £5.95, September 1993, 0 344 02538 1
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Robert Runcie: The Reluctant Archbishop 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Hodder, 401 pp., £20, October 1996, 0 340 57107 1
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... for God is part of a noble tradition in which laymen have written devotional treatises. The layman explains his love of God, and his fondness for his ecclesiastical tradition. The high point was reached more than three hundred years ago when Sir Thomas Browne published his Religio Medici, and Johnson’s indebtedness to this tradition is seen best in ...

Is that you, James?

Thomas Nagel, 1 October 1987

Philosophy and the Brain 
by J.Z. Young.
Oxford, 241 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 0 19 219215 9
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Freedom and Belief 
by Galen Strawson.
Oxford, 353 pp., £27.50, January 1987, 0 19 824938 1
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The Oxford Companion to the Mind 
edited by Richard Gregory.
Oxford, 874 pp., £25, September 1987, 9780198661245
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... cells, but we know remarkably little beyond that. Young’s book is a clear, concise guide for the layman to what we do know, and he is scrupulous in pointing out the speculative character of any contemporary theory of the physical basis of central mental processes. The factual material is often fascinating, though I was disturbed by the statement, in a ...


Peter Campbell, 4 August 1988

Who got Einstein’s office? Eccentricity and Genius at the Institute for Advanced Study 
by Ed Regis.
Simon and Schuster, 316 pp., £12.95, April 1988, 0 671 69923 7
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by James Gleick.
Heinemann, 354 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 9780434295548
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The School of Genius 
by Anthony Storr.
Deutsch, 216 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 233 98010 5
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... I was in Los Angeles this spring on the day Richard Feynman died. The next morning I saw a banner lowered from the top of the tower block which stands in the middle of the Caltech campus. It read: ‘WE LOVE YOU DICK.’ The obituary of Feynman in the LA Times was awed and affectionate. It listed his achievements – his work in physics, the Nobel Prize it earned him and his work on the nuclear bomb ...


James Paradis, 18 June 1981

Sir Joseph Banks 
by Charles Lyte.
David and Charles, 248 pp., £10.50, October 1980, 0 7153 7884 8
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The Heyday of Natural History: 1820-1870 
by Lynn Barber.
Cape, 320 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 9780224014489
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A Vision of Eden 
by Marianne North.
Webb and Bower, 240 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 906671 18 3
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... of popularisation developed in the form of textbooks and manuals, often written to introduce the layman to a new technical field. Field manuals on birds, rocks and plants became familiar companions to many an amateur. ‘To a person uninstructed in natural history,’ Thomas Huxley observed, ‘his country or sea-side stroll is a walk through a gallery ...

Deeper Shallows

Stefan Collini: C.S. Lewis, 20 June 2013

C.S. Lewis: A Life 
by Alister McGrath.
Hodder, 431 pp., £20, April 2013, 978 1 4447 4552 8
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... famous episode of Lewis’s life, especially as represented, and perhaps somewhat travestied, in Richard Attenborough’s 1993 film Shadowlands. In 1952 Lewis met and developed some form of relationship with (was single-mindedly pursued by?) a noisy, unhappily married, not very successful, American freelance writer 16 years younger than he was. In 1955 Joy ...

Regrets, Vexations, Lassitudes

Seamus Perry: Wordsworth’s Trouble, 18 December 2008

William Wordsworth’s ‘The Prelude’: A Casebook 
edited by Stephen Gill.
Oxford, 406 pp., £19.99, September 2006, 0 19 518092 5
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... Revolutionary books is the honesty with which Wordsworth admits his dalliance with inhumaneness: Richard Gravil writes very well in his essay here about the curious tenacity of this ‘Robespierrean alter ego’ in Wordsworth’s self-portrait – a lingering sense of the terrible excitement that might attend what Auden called ‘the necessary ...

What I heard about Iraq in 2005

Eliot Weinberger: Iraq, 5 January 2006

... that they’re growing. I think that they’re desperate.’ I heard about hope. I heard General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, say: ‘I came away more positive than I’ve ever been. I think we’re getting some momentum built up.’ I heard about happiness. I heard Lieutenant General James Mattis say that ‘it’s a lot of fun to ...

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