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Intimate Strangers

Thomas Jones: A.L. Kennedy’s new novel, 7 October 2004

Paradise 
by A.L. Kennedy.
Cape, 344 pp., £14.99, September 2004, 0 224 06258 1
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... what shape it has (drink has a tendency to make things lose their shape), is between Hannah and Robert, an alcoholic dentist. Alcoholism and dentistry have coincided, more grotesquely, in Kennedy’s fiction before: a desperate character in Everything You Need (1999), a publisher called Jack Grace, visits a sadist in Soho to be administered alcohol ...

Julian Assange in Limbo

Patrick Cockburn, 18 June 2020

... an Information Review Task Force headed by a senior counterintelligence officer, Brigadier General Robert Carr, which studied the impact of the revelations and sought to produce a list of people who might have been killed because of the information the cables contained. Carr later described the extent of his task force’s failure, in testimony given at ...

Lucky Moments

Robert Bernard Martin, 1 April 1983

Spirit of Wit: Reconsiderations of Rochester 
edited by Jeremy Treglown.
Blackwell, 208 pp., £14, September 1982, 0 631 12897 2
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... For three centuries Rochester has been in and out of the pantheon of English poetry, but today we can see more clearly that the romantic image of the lyrical libertine who underwent a spectacular deathbed conversion has obscured a major poetic talent. Not that the old picture was wrong, but it was partial. The trouble has been that it is hard to fit his philosophical and religious beliefs, poetic practice and dissolute life into a whole ...

Sheets

Robert Bernard Martin, 4 April 1985

The Collected Letters of William Morris. Vol. I: 1848-1880 
edited by Norman Kelvin.
Princeton, 626 pp., £50.30, April 1984, 0 691 06501 2
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... When he first heard of William Morris’s death, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt wrote in his diary, ‘He is the most wonderful man I have known,’ then added more equivocally: ‘unique in this, that he had no thought for anything or person, including himself, but only for the work he had in hand.’ This handsome new edition of Morris’s letters does not entirely answer our natural question of how a man so often apparently unmoved by other persons should have had the explosive creative energy to become famous as poet, artist, decorator, printer, manufacturer and socialist ...

Great Palladium

James Epstein: Treason, 7 September 2000

Imagining the King’s Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide, 1793-96 
by John Barrell.
Oxford, 7377 pp., £70, March 2000, 0 19 811292 0
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... the law officers perhaps doubted whether the more serious charge would hold up. The trials of Robert Watt and David Downie, which revealed parallel plots for insurrection in London, Edinburgh and Dublin, set a more direct precedent. They were the first trials for high treason to take place in Scotland since the 1351 statute had become law there. The ...

Give Pot a Chance

Roy Porter, 8 June 1995

Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine 
by Lester Grinspoon, edited by James Bakalar.
Yale, 184 pp., £7.95, April 1995, 0 300 05994 9
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... serving a six-month prison sentence, and virtually without medical support. Again, a Florida man, Robert Randall, who had contracted Aids following a blood transfusion, had, with great difficulty, obtained legal authorisation to use cannabis to reduce the nausea he suffered. He, too, was arrested at gunpoint, tried and convicted on a charge of growing ...

Beyond the Human

Jamie McKendrick: Dante’s Paradiso, 26 March 2009

Paradiso 
by Dante, translated by Robin Kirkpatrick.
Penguin, 480 pp., £12.99, October 2007, 978 0 14 044897 9
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Paradiso 
by Dante, translated by Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander.
Anchor, 915 pp., $19.95, September 2008, 978 1 4000 3115 3
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... two new English translations, one by Robin Kirkpatrick, the other by the husband and wife team of Robert and Jean Hollander, should be welcomed. Each edition is the final volume of a long labour, and each helps the reader see this last cantica in the context of the previous two. With Virgil as his guide, Dante has already spiralled down through hell, seen ...

To Kill All Day

Frank Kermode: Amis’s Terrible News, 17 October 2002

Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 306 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 0 224 06303 0
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... aposiopesis may be allowed as a structural feature, as when Yeats ends his ‘In Memory of Major Robert Gregory’ by claiming that he cannot continue his roll call of Gregory’s friends because ‘a thought/Of that late death took all my heart for speech.’ We may grant Yeats command of that trick and also say that to confront horror with irony calls for ...

Late Deceiver

Robert Blake, 17 September 1981

Anthony Eden 
by David Carlton.
Allen Lane, 528 pp., £20, August 1981, 0 7139 0829 7
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... biography is said, though I have never seen any public announcement, to have fallen on Robert Rhodes James. If so, it is an excellent decision. Meanwhile Mr David Carlton has produced a scholarly, well-written work of some five hundred pages. The author admits very fairly that it is in the nature of an interim verdict since the official records of ...

Plumping

J.I.M. Stewart, 19 March 1981

Abroad: British Literary Travelling Between the Wars 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 246 pp., £8.95, March 1981, 0 19 502767 1
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... Ulysses is to the novel between the wars and what The Waste Land is to poetry’, Robert Byron’s The Road to Oxiana ‘is to the travel book’. ‘To sketch the history of the British imaginative intercourse with the Mediterranean in modern times is virtually to present a survey of modern British literature.’ This last, at least, really ...

Bernie’s War

Philip Purser, 23 May 1991

A German Requiem 
by Philip Kerr.
Viking, 306 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 0 670 83516 1
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... a story there can elude images left by Graham Greene, Carol Reed and the gifted cinematographer Robert Krasker. At one point Kerr goes out of his way to invite comparisons, introducing the very racket which damned Harry Lime, the black market in penicillin. He is not too shy to bring in Vienna’s four-man, four-nationality jeep patrol, made famous in the ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Shot At Dawn, 30 November 2006

... of the ordeal determined by the weather and the tightness of the bindings. In Goodbye to All That, Robert Graves remembers seeing his faithful servant, Private Fahy, spreadeagled on a wheel. ‘Tottie’, as he was known, got ‘28 days of it’ for drunkenness. Downey had been clobbered with the full ‘84 days’ on 25 November, a few weeks before he was ...

Early Hillhead Man

Paul Addison, 6 May 1982

Churchill’s Political Philosophy 
by Martin Gilbert.
Oxford, 119 pp., £8, November 1981, 0 19 726005 5
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Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years 
by Martin Gilbert.
Macmillan, 279 pp., £8.95, September 1981, 0 333 32564 8
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Churchill and de Gaulle 
by François Kersaudy.
Collins, 476 pp., £12.95, September 1981, 0 00 216328 4
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The Diaries of Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart 
edited by Kenneth Young.
Macmillan, 800 pp., £30, October 1981, 0 333 18480 7
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Churchill’s Indian Summer 
by Anthony Seldon.
Hodder, 667 pp., £14.95, October 1981, 0 340 25456 4
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... between London and Paris? Churchill crops up again, and again and again, in the diaries of Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart. This is odd in a way, for there is only one occasion recorded here when he met him. Bruce Lockhart, however, was often in the company of people who had themselves just met the great man, and having earned part of his living through ...

That sh—te Creech

James Buchan: The Scottish Enlightenment, 5 April 2007

The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in 18th-Century Britain, Ireland and America 
by Richard Sher.
Chicago, 815 pp., £25.50, February 2007, 978 0 226 75252 5
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... propagated Scottish notions of liberty, improvement, politeness and sentimentality. Rather as Robert Darnton a generation ago diverted scholarly attention from the philosophes to the printers, engravers and booksellers of Paris in The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the ‘Encyclopédie’, so Sher looks through all that Scottish mind ...

Leader-Bashing

Robert Service, 24 January 1991

The Russian Revolution 1899-1919 
by Richard Pipes.
Harvill, 946 pp., £20, December 1990, 0 00 272086 8
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... The coalface of Soviet politics is collapsing; among the long-term miners, the professional Sovietologists, this has had a salutary effect. Two separate work-gangs had emerged over previous decades. One drove its picks into history; the other into politics, economics or sociology. This division of labour was caused both by pressure on researchers to choose a single discipline in the humanities and social sciences, and by the global increase in researchers – although the British Government in the Eighties shamefully diminished the national commitment to Soviet studies ...

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