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Cuba Down at Heel

Laurence Whitehead, 8 June 1995

The Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Documents 
Brassey (US), 376 pp., £15.95, March 1994, 9780028810836Show More
The Cuban Revolution: Origin, Course and Legacy 
by Marifeli Pérez-Stable.
Oxford, 252 pp., £16.95, April 1994, 0 19 508406 3
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Cuba on the Brink: Castro, the Missile Crisis and the Soviet Collapse 
by James Blight, Bruce Allyn and David Welch.
Pantheon, 509 pp., $27.50, November 1993, 0 679 42149 1
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Castro’s Final Hour: The Secret Story Behind the Coming Downfall of Communist Cuba 
by Andrés Oppenheimer.
Simon and Schuster, 474 pp., $25, July 1992, 0 671 72873 3
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Revolution in the Balance: Law and Society in Contemporary Cuba 
by Debra Evenson.
Westview, 235 pp., £48.50, June 1994, 0 8133 8466 4
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The Problem of Democracy in Cuba: Between Vision and Reality 
by Carollee Bengelsdorf.
Oxford, 238 pp., £32.50, July 1994, 0 19 505826 7
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Back from the Future: Cuba under Castro 
by Susan Eva Eckstein.
Princeton, 286 pp., £25, October 1994, 0 691 03445 1
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Fidel Castro 
by Robert Quirk.
Norton, 898 pp., £25, March 1994, 0 393 03485 2
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Healing the Masses: Cuban Health Politics at Home and Abroad 
by Julie Feinsilver.
California, 307 pp., £35, November 1993, 0 520 08218 4
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Contesting Castro: The United States and the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution 
by Thomas Paterson.
Oxford, 364 pp., £22.50, July 1994, 0 19 508630 9
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... reform. It remains an open question whether Castro will be that ‘pragmatic’ even now. Robert Quirk’s new biography devotes only 34 pages to the Eighties and Nineties. Otherwise, the topics covered by earlier biographies are exhaustively recapitulated, at the expense of the subsequent developments that invite reappraisal of Castro’s whole ...

Defeated Armies

Scott Sherman: Castro in the New York Times, 5 July 2007

The Man Who Invented Fidel: Castro, Cuba, and Herbert L. Matthews of the ‘New York Times’ 
by Anthony DePalma.
PublicAffairs, 308 pp., £15.99, September 2006, 1 58648 332 3
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... dramatic events of the conflict: the battle of Teruel, when he, Hemingway and the photographer Robert Capa accompanied Republican forces during their heady initial victories; the siege of Barcelona, where ‘I and a million others saw things which Dante could not have imagined’; the Ebro fighting, when Hemingway saved Matthews’s life by preventing his ...

Internal Combustion

David Trotter, 6 June 1996

The Letters of Rudyard Kipling. Vol. III: 1900-1910 
edited by Thomas Pinney.
Macmillan, 482 pp., £50, December 1995, 9780333637333
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... away the preconceptions which separate us from that world was not the pictures themselves, but a quirk of scheduling: ‘the Salon no longer exists; in a few days it will be replaced by an exhibition of automobiles which will stand there, long and dumb, each one with its own idée fixe of velocity.’ The public wanted its preconceptions back in a ...

Dictionaries

Randolph Quirk, 25 October 1979

Collins Dictionary of the English Language 
by P. Hanks, T.H. Long and L. Urdang.
Collins, 1690 pp., £7.95
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... the market was for ‘bilingual’ dictionaries (especially Latin-English). We had to wait upon Robert Cawdrey in 1604 for a ‘monolingual’ model – aimed at ‘Ladies … or other unskilfull persons’. But the principles and goals are essentially the same. We don’t look up door to find that it means the chunk of material that seals off rooms and ...

Only God speaks Kamassian

Walter Nash, 7 January 1988

The World’s Major Languages 
edited by Bernard Comrie.
Croom Helm, 1025 pp., £50, March 1988, 9780709932437
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Studies in Lexicography 
edited by Robert Burchfield.
Oxford, 200 pp., £27.50, April 1988, 0 19 811945 3
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Van Winkle’s Return: Change in American English 1966-1986 
by Kenneth Wilson.
University Press of New England, 193 pp., £7.95, August 1988, 0 87451 394 4
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Words at Work: Lectures on Textual Structure 
by Randolph Quirk.
Longman, 137 pp., £5.75, March 1988, 9780582001206
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The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language 
by David Crystal.
Cambridge, 472 pp., £25, November 1988, 0 521 26438 3
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... of an essay in communication, being a version of eight public lectures given by Sir Randolph Quirk in Singapore in 1985-86. The lectures rehearse in detail the conditions under which texts are constructed, the creative rules which all successful writers acknowledge, though they perhaps could not enumerate them. Sir Randolph demonstrates how communication ...

The West dishes it out

Patrick Wormald, 24 February 1994

The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonisation and Cultural Change 950-1350 
by Robert Bartlett.
Allen Lane, 432 pp., £22.50, May 1993, 0 7139 9074 0
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... same way for most of Europe’s existence. Europe’s Middle Ages, the label long attached by a quirk of historiographical circumstance to the era of its youth, are acquiring a ‘relevance’ that architects of the National Curriculum should find it increasingly hard to deny. Ordered governments with at least elements of state consciousness had been formed ...

Scots wha hae gone to England

Donald Davie, 9 July 1992

Devolving English Literature 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 320 pp., £35, June 1992, 9780198112983
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Scottish Poetry 
edited by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 424 pp., £17.50, July 1992, 9780571154319
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... in London and Oxbridge mostly, is supposed to be deeply satisfying to the English themselves. Robert Crawford, who pursues the argument on behalf of the Scots, avoids this mistake, detecting in a provincial Englishman like Tony Harrison a fury and resentment not surpassed by any Scot. But this is hardly a novel perception, for Harrison has achieved fame ...

Who whom?

Christopher Ricks, 6 June 1985

The English Language Today 
edited by Sidney Greenbaum.
Pergamon, 345 pp., £12.50, December 1984, 0 08 031078 8
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The English Language 
by Robert Burchfield.
Oxford, 194 pp., £9.50, January 1985, 9780192191731
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A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language 
by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik.
Longman, 1779 pp., £39.50, May 1985, 0 582 51734 6
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Words 
by John Silverlight.
Macmillan, 107 pp., £17.50, May 1985, 9780333380109
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Faux Amis and Key Words: A Dictionary-Guide to French Language, Culture and Society through Lookalikes and Confusables 
by Philip Thody, Howard Evans and Gwilym Rees.
Athlone, 224 pp., £16, February 1985, 0 485 11243 4
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Puns 
by Walter Redfern.
Blackwell, 234 pp., £14.95, October 1984, 0 631 13793 9
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Fair of Speech: The Uses of Euphemism 
edited by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 222 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 19 212236 3
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... of panoptic logocrats? ‘Who whom?’ is famously a political as well as a linguistic question. Robert Burchfield in his deft and delightful book still hopes that it is possible to be a true liberal (that is, only wishy and not washy), so he says that ‘the formal distinction ... is breaking up but should be maintained where possible.’ (Would it really ...

Showers of Hats

Robert Baird: ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’, 29 March 2017

Lincoln in the Bardo 
by George Saunders.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £18.99, March 2017, 978 1 4088 7174 4
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... gives the plot the kick it needs, as Willie’s determination runs up against a gruesome quirk of his new existence: children who tarry risk being trapped in the bardo for ever. To escape this fate, Willie must choose to yield to the matterlightblooming phenomenon, but that means accepting his separation from his father, and thus the reality of his ...

He could afford it

Jenny Diski, 7 April 1994

Howard Hughes: The Secret Life 
by Charles Higham.
Sidgwick, 368 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 9780283061578
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... Claudette Colbert, Bette Davis, Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power, Robert Ryan and Cary Grant must have had some kind of good time, but no one gets to have much fun in Higham’s book. Higham explains with nice elaboration that, with women, Hughes ‘preferred intermammary intercourse – making love between a woman’s breasts ...

Sweetie Pies

Jenny Diski, 23 May 1996

Below the Parapet: The Biography of Denis Thatcher 
by Carol Thatcher.
HarperCollins, 303 pp., £16.99, April 1996, 0 00 255605 7
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... nastiness while we weren’t looking. It is by no coincidence called ‘Thatcherism’ and not ‘Robertsism’, for Denis is fully representative of the culture which allowed it to flourish. He married her, the rest of them voted for her, and some of us, foolishly, with our noses in the wrong books and not paying attention to reality didn’t even dream that ...

Sheep don’t read barcodes

Glen Newey: ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’, 22 March 2012

Thinking, Fast and Slow 
by Daniel Kahneman.
Allen Lane, 499 pp., £25, November 2011, 978 1 84614 055 6
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... scheme is the best way to shift the books. After all, you’d need to be a fairly besotted fan of Robert Ludlum to see any point in buying two indistinguishable copies of The Bourne Ultimatum. The idea may be that, unlike cans of beans, books are unique and personal purchases; readers’ personal bond with an author may be shaken, even with ...

Stepchildren

Elspeth Barker, 9 April 1992

Stepsons 
by Robert Liddell.
Peter Owen, 228 pp., £14.95, February 1992, 0 7206 0853 8
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Farewell Sidonia 
by Erich Hackl.
Cape, 135 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 224 02901 0
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... instead. Elsa believed that she was being offered a new life. ‘Yes,’ she replied. And so by a quirk of punctuation a tragedy was unleashed. The marriage took place despite the potent opposition of Oswald’s sisters-in-law, who were caring for Andrew and Stephen. Elsa insisted on being called ‘mummy’. ‘Never call that German woman what you called ...

Stinker

Jenny Diski, 28 April 1994

Roald Dahl: A Biography 
by Jeremy Treglown.
Faber, 307 pp., £17.50, March 1994, 0 571 16573 7
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... you feel at having found some quality to admire in his subject. Even so, this potentially benign quirk is tempered by the adult lives of his daughters, which according to their own stories have been blighted with addiction to drugs, drink and self-destructive neurosis. They speak of him still as god-like and powerful and cast around, apparently, for men who ...

Flirting

P.N. Furbank, 18 November 1982

The English World: History, Character and People 
edited by Robert Blake.
Thames and Hudson, 268 pp., £14.95, September 1982, 0 500 25083 9
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The English Gentleman: The Rise and Fall of an Ideal 
by Philip Mason.
Deutsch, 240 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 9780233974897
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... I am being unfair, for many of the essays in the volume – on the development of Parliament (Robert Blake), ‘War and Peace with Wales, Scotland and Ireland’ (Hugh Trevor-Roper), art and popular taste (Quentin Bell), the evolution of the English landscape (Richard Muir) – are excellent and briskly-written popularising surveys. But the whole ...

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