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Distraction v. Attraction

Barbara Everett: Ashbery, Larkin and Eliot

27 June 2002
... in echoes under Bellow’s powerful prose. The rhetoric of multiplicity is other than American (Robert Burton probably invented it for English prose) but both Bellow and McBain are probably hearing some rhythm from Whitman’s sometimes tedious but more often breathtaking echt American anaphoras, constructed to coast us as in a spaceship across an ...

Gutted

Steven Shapin

30 June 2011
A Modern History of the Stomach: Gastric Illness, Medicine and British Society, 1800-1950 
by Ian Miller.
Pickering and Chatto, 195 pp., £60, May 2011, 978 1 84893 181 7
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... understand, are the pure products of disordered digestion’. In The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Robert Burton wrote that the stomach is the ‘king of the belly, because if he be distempered, all the rest suffer with him.’ Early 19th-century physicians agreed: ‘It is a great mistake to regard dyspepsia as peculiarly or especially a disease of the ...

The Frisson

Will Self

20 January 2014
The View from the Train: Cities and Other Landscapes 
by Patrick Keiller.
Verso, 218 pp., £14.99, November 2013, 978 1 78168 140 4
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... touch such weathered stones of deep cultural time as Democritus and Lucretius, Thomas Browne and Robert Burton, conduces me, at least, to conviction: I can think of only a handful of films that have had the profound impact on me that Keiller’s London did when I first saw it in the cinema. With its acute intercuts of London’s raddled face – which ...

Dazed and Confused

Paul Laity: Are the English human?

28 November 2002
Patriots: National Identity in Britain 1940-2000 
by Richard Weight.
Macmillan, 866 pp., £25, May 2002, 0 333 73462 9
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Pariah: Misfortunes of the British Kingdom 
by Tom Nairn.
Verso, 176 pp., £13, September 2002, 1 85984 657 2
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Identity of England 
by Robert Colls.
Oxford, 422 pp., £25, October 2002, 0 19 924519 3
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Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Chatto, 518 pp., £25, October 2002, 1 85619 716 6
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... the rushed observations of Andrew Marr. An academic industry has flourished. Now both Weight and Robert Colls have written requiems for the old Britishness which are also ruminations on a new, more democratic England. Britannia, for so long a proud Amazon, armoured and helmeted, repulsing European foes and civilising barbarians is, these days, according to ...

At Tate Modern

Anne Wagner: Richard Tuttle

6 November 2014
... the fact that anti-monumentality was precisely what the New York minimalists – sculptors like Robert Morris, Richard Serra and Donald Judd – so polemically espoused. As Morris put it, they were bent on making neither objects nor monuments. Their art sought an in-between condition, a size, shape and presence intelligible only in the way a work ...

Seeing Stars

Alan Bennett: Film actors

3 January 2002
... manners. Except that now, telling the story, I can’t be sure that it was Ronald Colman and not Robert Donat, who was certainly more likely to be in Leeds and indeed in England and who was known to be shy (and, as Mam said, ‘a martyr to asthma’) and therefore more likely to bolt from the shop. Cherished and admired as a local boy was Eric Portman, who ...

Bad Medicine

Frank McLynn

23 July 1992
The Malaria Capers 
by Robert Desowitz.
Norton, 288 pp., £14.95, February 1992, 9780393030136
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... was content to return to Hippocrates’s theory of an aetiology from ‘miasmata’ in swamps. Robert Desowitz recounts in some detail the discovery of the malaria pathogen transmitted to humans by the bite of the anopheline mosquito, and provides much fascinating information en route. Polynesia was malaria-free until Europeans brought the scourge in the ...

Back to the futuh

Robert Irwin

1 August 1996
The Middle East: 2000 Years of History from the Birth of Christianity to the Present Day 
by Bernard Lewis.
Weidenfeld, 433 pp., £20, September 1995, 0 297 81345 5
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... as the distant heir of the historiography pioneered by Wellhausen and Goldziher. Wellhausen taught Robertson Smith, Robertson Smith taught Thomas Arnold, Thomas Arnold taught Hamilton Gibb and Gibb was Lewis’s teacher. As for Goldziher, there is a legend that he laid hands on the mystically inspired French scholar Louis ...

The Word on the Street

Elaine Showalter

7 March 1996
Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics 
by Anonymous.
Chatto, 366 pp., £15.99, February 1996, 0 7011 6584 7
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... years’. In Newsweek, Walter Shapiro found it ‘the best aide’s-eye view of politics since Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men’. In the New Republic, Matthew Cooper, after revealing (‘full disclosure’) that he himself is now dating Mandy Grunwald, who held the position in the Clinton campaign of the novel’s sexy heroine Daisy ...
30 March 2000
Groovy Bob: The Life and Times of Robert Fraser 
by Harriet Vyner.
Faber, 317 pp., £20, October 1999, 0 571 19627 6
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... of high culture. An authorised biography has now appeared of an English dealer of recent memory, Robert Fraser, 1937-86. His chequered career, terminated by Aids, lasted as long as it did only because of subsidies from his parents and getting away with not paying his debts, while the world at large remembers him for pictures showing him in a police van ...

Mrs Shakespeare

Barbara Everett

18 December 1986
William Shakespeare: The Sonnets and ‘A Lover’s Complaint’ 
edited by John Kerrigan.
Viking, 458 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 670 81466 0
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... will so govern contrasting predicates as to reflect the tragi-comedy of the human condition. Thus Robert Burton (‘Democritus Junior’), the sad creator of the great Anatomy of Melancholy, is commemorated (1639) in the Cathedral at Christ Church, Oxford:          PAUCIS NOTUS    PAUCIORIBUS IGNOTUS                 HIC JACET ...

As God Intended

Rosemary Hill: Capability Brown

5 January 2012
The Omnipotent Magician: Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown 1716-83 
by Jane Brown.
Chatto, 384 pp., £20, March 2011, 978 0 7011 8212 0
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... In the summer of 1771 William Constable had just returned to Burton Constable, his house in the East Riding of Yorkshire, after a lavish Grand Tour. He and his sister Winifred had spent £7000 and came home laden with pictures, sculptures, books and miscellaneous antiquities. Constable now regarded himself as a connoisseur or, as he put it, ‘a bit of a Vertu ...

Carnival Time

Peter Craven

18 February 1988
The Remake 
by Clive James.
Cape, 223 pp., £10.95, October 1987, 0 224 02515 5
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In the Land of Oz 
by Howard Jacobson.
Hamish Hamilton, 380 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 241 12110 8
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... The belief underlies his veneration for the great ‘talking heads’ like Lord Clark and Robert Hughes, as in a more general way it underlies his love affair with British TV ‘culture’ when it is not merely mausoleum-like. Clearly James’s feeling for British culture is that of the outsider who can dissimulate an insider’s manner, but who will ...

Purple Days

Mark Ford

12 May 1994
The Pugilist at Rest 
by Thom Jones.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 571 17134 6
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The Sorrow of War 
by Bao Ninh, translated by Frank Palmos.
Secker, 217 pp., £8.99, January 1994, 0 436 31042 2
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A Good Scent from Strange Mountain 
by Robert Olen Butler.
Minerva, 249 pp., £5.99, November 1993, 0 7493 9767 5
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Out of the Sixties: Storytelling and the Vietnam Generation 
by David Wyatt.
Cambridge, 230 pp., £35, February 1994, 9780521441513
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... Marooned in the ‘painful but glorious days’ of his past, he rather resembles the characters of Robert Olen Butler’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of short stories, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain: all of these concern South Vietnamese immigrants who have settled, for the most part happily, in Louisiana, yet who hark constantly back to their ...

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