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Oh God, can we face it?

Daniel Finn: ‘The BBC’s Irish Troubles’, 18 May 2016

The BBC’s ‘Irish Troubles’: Television, Conflict and Northern Ireland 
by Robert Savage.
Manchester, 298 pp., £70, May 2015, 978 0 7190 8733 2
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... that the British state, of which it was a part, was one of the main protagonists in the conflict? Robert Savage believes that the corporation passed this test with honour: ‘the BBC was attacked, threatened and bullied by a variety of actors, but did its best to stand its ground and maintain editorial independence and journalistic integrity.’ But the ...

Nobel Savage

Steven Shapin: Kary Mullis, 1 July 1999

Dancing Naked in the Mind Field 
by Kary Mullis.
Bloomsbury, 209 pp., £12.99, March 1999, 0 7475 4376 3
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... back-lit, his dishevelled white hair glowing like a saintly halo. Or the gaunt stick-figure of Robert Oppenheimer in his last years, hair close-cropped – a starving Buddha, worn down by political persecution and the atomic scientist’s ‘knowledge of sin’. Even now, the cover of A Brief History of Time sets a tiny, and almost literally ...

Beast and Frog

John Bayley, 4 November 1993

Dr Johnson & Mr Savage 
by Richard Holmes.
Hodder, 260 pp., £19.99, October 1993, 0 340 52974 1
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Samuel Johnson 
by Pat Rogers.
Oxford, 116 pp., £4.99, April 1993, 0 19 287593 0
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... but it is pursued with remarkable force and fascination in Richard Holmes’s study. Richard Savage, the young Johnson’s alter ego, was a poor and talented writer whom Johnson had met in Grub Street. Each took a fancy to the other, and they became companions in want in London’s lower depths, where they often walked all night, deploring the hypocrisy ...

If Only Analogues...

Ange Mlinko: Ginsberg Goes to India, 20 November 2008

A Blue Hand: The Beats in India 
by Deborah Baker.
Penguin US, 256 pp., £25.95, April 2008, 978 1 59420 158 5
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... Robert Oppenheimer knew Sanskrit. Quotations from the Bhagavad Gita flashed through his mind when he witnessed the first atomic explosion in New Mexico in 1945: ‘Suppose a thousand suns should rise together into the sky: such is the glory of the Shape of the Infinite God.’ Reading that same chapter of the Bhagavad Gita in Darjeeling in 1962, Allen Ginsberg thought of something else: the coloured wheels of psilocybin-induced visions ...

Blush, grandeur, blush

Norma Clarke: One of the first bluestockings, 16 December 2004

Hannah More: The First Victorian 
by Anne Stott.
Oxford, 384 pp., £20, September 2004, 0 19 927488 6
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... Cobbett called her ‘the Old Bishop in petticoats’), was already a celebrity. William Roberts, the family friend entrusted with the task of producing the book, made her into a saint. He presented her as a vessel chosen by God, who had carried her ‘through great temptations and trials’ to her ‘exemplary eminence’. Among Hannah More’s ...

Agamemnon, Smith and Thomson

Claude Rawson, 9 April 1992

Homer: The ‘Iliad’ 
translated by Robert Fagles.
Viking, 683 pp., £17.95, September 1990, 0 670 83510 2
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Kings 
by Christopher Logue.
Faber, 86 pp., £4.99, March 1991, 0 571 16141 3
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... imperial hegemonies). ‘Barbarian’ and ‘barbarous’ are now typically used to suggest the savage or uncivilised without any strong consciousness of a linguistic factor, but the history of modern encounters with ‘primitive’ peoples, from 16th-century Amerindians to the various subject races of more recent colonial perspectives, shows that the ...

Pulp

Scott Bradfield, 14 December 1995

Jim Thompson Omnibus: The Getaway, The Killer inside Me, The Grifters, Pop. 1280 
Picador, 570 pp., £7.99, November 1995, 3 303 34288 1Show More
Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson 
by Robert Polito.
Knopf, 543 pp., $30, October 1995, 0 394 58407 4
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... guests with more than just the keys to their rooms. According to Thompson’s latest biographer, Robert Polito, even as a teenager Thompson ‘moonlighted as a bootlegger, a drug peddler, a grifter, a pimp and a male escort’. His extra-curricular activities often added as much as three hundred dollars to his weekly wage but, at the same time, demanded the ...

Quite a Gentleman

Robert Irwin: The invariably savage Tamerlane, 19 May 2005

Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World 
by Justin Marozzi.
HarperCollins, 449 pp., £25, August 2004, 9780007116119
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... revolts in places he had already conquered. Those who rebelled were treated with spectacular savagery: Tamerlane was a leading patron of the architecture of cruelty. After a rebellion at Isfizar had been put down, two thousand captives were cemented alive in the walls – their screams echoed across the desert for days. Pyramids of skulls by the roadside ...

Brocaded

Robert Macfarlane: The Mulberry Empire by Philip Hensher, 4 April 2002

The Mulberry Empire 
by Philip Hensher.
Flamingo, 560 pp., £17.99, April 2002, 0 00 711226 2
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... pleasure: narcotic, sexual, fiscal – it has not been a particularly auspicious one either. For Robert Louis Stevenson, literary impersonation wasn’t only an essential tutelary tool but also a way for mature authors to widen their range. Out of imitation, Stevenson felt, could spring originality: pastiche was an indispensable way to harness what he called ...

Bastards

James Wood: St Aubyn’s Savage Sentences, 2 November 2006

Mother’s Milk 
by Edward St Aubyn.
Picador, 279 pp., £12.99, January 2006, 0 330 43589 2
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... effect is sculptural, a solid but always shapely block of exquisite prose, in which the author’s savage, clean-limbed sentences are usually indistinguishable from his characters’. In particular, in St Aubyn’s trilogy of short novels, published under the title Some Hope, and in Mother’s Milk, which now makes a quartet, there is a clear alignment of the ...

Angry ’Un

Terry Eagleton, 8 July 1993

The Hand of the Arch-Sinner: Two Angrian Chronicles of Branwell Brontë 
edited by Robert Collins.
Oxford, 300 pp., £30, April 1993, 0 19 812258 6
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... child’ who speaks a kind of ‘gibberish’, and who will later be variously labelled beast, savage, demon and lunatic. It’s clear that this little Caliban has a nature on which nurture will never stick; and that’s merely an English way of saying that he’s quite possibly Irish. Later in the novel, Heathcliff will stage a mysterious disappearance ...

Countess Bitch

Robert Tombs, 16 November 1995

The Notorious Life of Gyp: Right-Wing Anarchist in Fin-de-Siècle France 
by Willa Silverman.
Oxford, 325 pp., £24, June 1995, 0 19 508754 2
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... political cartoons at the time of the Dreyfus Affair, reproduced in many books as samples of the savage and hysterical polemics of the time. It is regrettable that more of them are not reproduced here, especially those that are analysed in the text. Gyp’s skill and influence lay in the creation of unsubtle, memorable stereotypes, especially of ...

Church of Garbage

Robert Irwin, 3 February 2000

The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives 
by Carole Hillenbrand.
Edinburgh, 648 pp., £80, July 1999, 0 7486 0905 9
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... that has yet appeared in any age or nation’. Gibbon considered them to be an expression of ‘savage fanaticism’. In a History of the Crusades (1820), one of the earliest studies devoted specifically to the topic, Charles Mills deplored the medieval fanaticism and popery. In The Mameluke or Slave Dynasty of Egypt (1896), William Muir, while suggesting ...

Travelling in circles

Robert Taubman, 3 December 1981

The Mosquito Coast 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 392 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 0 241 10688 5
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... persuading one that he sees the truth – as on meeting the migrant workers his father calls ‘savages’: ‘They did not look savage up close. They looked poor and obedient.’ Or on going ashore: ‘That was Honduras, so far. Dead dogs and vultures, a dirty beach and chicken-huts and roads leading nowhere. The view ...

Gap-osis

E.S. Turner, 6 April 1995

Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty 
by Robert Friedel.
Norton, 288 pp., £16.95, February 1995, 0 393 03599 9
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... poppers, hooks, studs, laces, toggles, drawstrings, safety-pins and even old-time fibulae? But, as Robert Friedel shows, the passion for novelty has become the real mother of invention; necessity rarely enters into it. Today the greatness of a nation is measured by the aggregated lengths of zipper to be found in its people’s wardrobes. The zipper has ceased ...

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