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21 July 1983
Evolution and Theory of Games 
by John Maynard Smith.
Cambridge, 224 pp., £18, October 1982, 0 521 24673 3
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... there is an advantage in winning, then animals should fight to win, regardless of rules and the health of their opponents. Apparently, however, they do not. Which brings us, at last, to John Maynard Smith. It was in an attempt, ten years ago, to show how the theory of individual selfishness could explain the restrained nature of animal contests that he introduced game theory to evolutionary biology ...

Infidels

Malise Ruthven

2 June 1983
The Helen Smith​ Story 
by Paul Foot and Ron Smith.
Fontana, 418 pp., £1.95, February 1983, 0 00 636536 1
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... the Arnots held for Tim Hayter, a New Zealand diver and Penny Arnot’s lover, at their flat on the sixth floor of a Jeddah apartment block in May 1979. There were no other women, except for Helen Smith, a 23-year-old nurse from Yorkshire who worked in the same private hospital as Richard Arnot, a surgeon. What actually occurred at the party is still the subject of dispute, and is related to a ...

The Absolute End

Theo Tait: Ali Smith

26 January 2012
There but for the 
by Ali Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 356 pp., £16.99, June 2011, 978 0 241 14340 7
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... books they ‘must’ include on the shortlist, and had reacted with fury when they were ignored. I felt especially sympathetic because one of the books whose absence was most complained of was Ali Smith’s There but for the. Jeanette Winterson said that Smith’s novel, about a dinner-party guest who hides in his hosts’ spare bedroom and refuses to come out, was a ‘wonderful, word-playful ...

Guess what? It’s raining

Deborah Friedell: Murder in Florida

5 July 2012
Injustice: Life and Death in the Courtrooms of America 
by Clive Stafford Smith.
Harvill Secker, 376 pp., £18.99, July 2012, 978 1 84655 625 8
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... and the men had argued. Maharaj’s fingerprints were found throughout the hotel room. The murder weapon was never discovered, but a ballistics expert testified that it had most likely been a 9mm Smith & Wesson. Maharaj’s gun collection had included a 9mm Smith & Wesson though he claimed it had been stolen from him shortly before the murders. The star witness for the prosecution was Neville ...

Into the Mental Basement

Thomas Nagel: Science and Religion

19 August 2010
Natural Reflections: Human Cognition at the Nexus of Science and Religion 
by Barbara Herrnstein Smith.
Yale, 201 pp., £25, March 2010, 978 0 300 14034 7
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... to the truth of religious beliefs. They are essentially explanations of religion from the outside, and are thought to override explanations from inside a religious point of view. Barbara Herrnstein Smith’s book defends a contrasting, pluralistic conception, according to which multiple different forms of understanding of religion – as of other human phenomena – are all legitimate, and compatible ...

Suffocating Suspense

Richard​ Davenport-Hines

16 March 2000
Cult Criminals: The Newgate Novels 1830-47 
by Juliet John.
Routledge, 2750 pp., £399, December 1998, 0 415 14383 7
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... The Disowned (1829), has been repudiated by his noble father, who disbelieves the legal doctrine of pater estquem nuptiæ demonstrant; his consequent misfortunes involve him with a villain called Richard Craufurd, whom Bulwer-Lytton based on the banker Henry Fauntleroy, who had been hanged for forgery before a crowd of 100,000 people at Newgate in 1824. The central male figure in Lucretia is an ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Blair on Blincoe?

21 March 2002
... no doubt that the Prime Minister is interested in fashion. On his recent royal tour of Australia, King Tony’s clothes aroused considerable excitement, impeccably turned out as he was in That Paul Smith Shirt with the naked woman on the cuffs. According to the Guardian, the PM’s soft-porn chemise was a gift from Cherie Booth QC; but who knows? A year or two ago Smith was given a knighthood, and he ...
8 October 1992
Handel’s ‘Messiah’: A Celebration 
by Richard​ Luckett.
Gollancz, 258 pp., £18.99, April 1992, 0 575 05286 4
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The Rise of Musical Classics in 18th-Century England: A Study in Canon, Ritual and Ideology 
by William Weber.
Oxford, 274 pp., £35, July 1992, 0 19 816287 1
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... opera’ – which was regarded as the apotheosis of everything effeminate and un-English. The experiment ‘secured the virtual extinction of original English music for more than a hundred years’. Richard Luckett will have no truck with cultural snobbery of this sort, even if he fastidiously forgets ‘Hallelujah’ when he writes that in ‘For now is Christ risen’ Christ is ‘named for the first ...

His Only Friend

Elaine Showalter

8 September 1994
Hardy 
by Martin Seymour-Smith.
Bloomsbury, 886 pp., £25, February 1994, 0 7475 1037 7
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... speaking to Larkin in the Beyond; later Larkin sent a posthumous word of approval for the book. Could the cosmic wires have been crossed and could the spiritualist have been talking to Martin Seymour-Smith? For this massive biography of Hardy – or ‘Tom’, as Seymour-Smith chummily calls him – has the vehemence of divine revelation and the fervour of personal mission. ‘I wrote Hardy,’ the ...

Glittering Fiend

Ian Hamilton: John Berryman

9 December 1999
Berryman's Shakespeare 
edited by John Haffenden.
Farrar, Straus, 396 pp., $35, February 1999, 0 374 11205 3
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John Berryman’s Personal Library: A Catalogue 
by Richard​ Kelly.
Lang, 433 pp., £39, March 1999, 0 8204 3998 3
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... period in which Berryman began to spend most of his off-campus time in the company of mad or near-mad poets like Delmore Schwartz and Robert Lowell. Even the professors he saw most of – Van Doren, Richard Blackmur – published poems and were reckoned to be mildly cranky. Van Doren, for instance, would later advise Berryman that ‘scholarship’ was fit only ‘for those with shovels, whereas you ...

What’s Left?

Sheila Fitzpatrick: The Russian Revolution

29 March 2017
October: The Story of the Russian Revolution 
by China Miéville.
Verso, 358 pp., £18.99, May 2017, 978 1 78478 280 1
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The Russian Revolution 1905-1921 
by Mark D. Steinberg.
Oxford, 388 pp., £19.99, February 2017, 978 0 19 922762 4
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Russia in Revolution: An Empire in Crisis, 1890 to 1928 
by S.A. Smith.
Oxford, 455 pp., £25, January 2017, 978 0 19 873482 6
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The Russian Revolution: A New History 
by Sean McMeekin.
Basic, 496 pp., $30, May 2017, 978 0 465 03990 6
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Historically Inevitable? Turning Points of the Russian Revolution 
by Tony Brenton.
Profile, 364 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 1 78125 021 1
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... were never set in stone and things might always have gone differently. ‘There was nothing preordained about the collapse of the tsarist autocracy nor even of the Provisional Government,’ Stephen Smith writes, in his sober, well-researched and comprehensive history. Sean McMeekin seconds this, affirming that ‘the events of 1917 were filled with might-have-beens and missed chances’ while at the ...
24 August 1995
John Buchan: The Presbyterian Cavalier 
by Andrew Lownie.
Constable, 365 pp., £20, July 1995, 0 09 472500 4
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... he so devotedly describes and justifies. The division of labour, whose language is money, helps us to prosperity and liberty but at the price of atomising our picture of the world. The labourer, Smith writes, is ‘not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment ...

The day starts now

Eleanor Birne: On holiday with Ali Smith

23 June 2005
The Accidental 
by Ali Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 306 pp., £14.99, May 2005, 0 241 14190 7
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... All three of Ali Smith’s novels are set in holiday places. In Like (1997), Amy Shone and her daughter Kate live on a caravan site in Scotland; the characters of Hotel World (2001) are guests and workers at the Global ...

Double Tongued

Blair Worden: Worshipping Marvell

18 November 2010
Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon 
by Nigel Smith.
Yale, 400 pp., £25, September 2010, 978 0 300 11221 4
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... his lyric verse, now relegated or even despised his political career, which they viewed as a departure from, if not a betrayal of, his poetic calling. Now his reputation is changing again. Nigel Smith’s biography belongs to a series of early 21st-century publications which, aided by other recent scholarship, have brought the verse-writer and the prose-writer together. In 2003 there appeared ...

Collectivism

Richard​ Jenkyns

3 April 1997
Art and the Victorian Middle Class: Money and the Making of Cultural Identity 
by Dianne Sachko Macleod.
Cambridge, 375 pp., £65, October 1996, 0 521 55090 4
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... Leyland, patron of Whistler and the Aesthetic Movement, who rose from nowhere to great wealth, only to succumb to the maladie du siècle, deciding that everything in life was dull and hopeless; T.E. Smith, whose wife and daughter both had affairs with the maverick statesman Charles Dilke. As in a painting by Frith, here is a canvas crowded with figures, representing the rich diversity of Victorian ...

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