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Incompetents

Stephen Bann, 16 June 1983

Worstward Ho 
by Samuel Beckett.
Calder, 48 pp., £5.50, April 1983, 0 7145 3979 1
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That Voice 
by Robert Pinget, translated by Barbara Wright.
Red Dust (New York), 114 pp., $10.95, May 1983, 0 87376 041 7
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King Solomon 
by Romain Gary, translated by Barbara Wright.
Harvill, 256 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 00 261416 2
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A Year in Hartlebury, or The Election 
by Benjamin Disraeli and Sarah Disraeli.
Murray, 222 pp., £8.50, May 1983, 0 7195 4020 8
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The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 180 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 224 02130 3
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... comparison with Beckett would be neither irrelevant nor absurd. The French novelist and playwright Robert Pinget was put forward in the 1960s as an exponent of the ‘nouveau roman’. But his affiliation with Beckett was always stronger than the temporary association with Robbe-Grillet’s travelling circus, and Beckett paid him the compliment of making an ...
From Bauhaus to Our House 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 143 pp., £6.95, March 1982, 0 224 02030 7
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... it comes at the weary end of a line that stretches through books by Peter Blake, Brent Brolin, Robert Venturi and others right back to Jane Jacobs’s epoch-breaking attack on Le Corbusier in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, over twenty years ago. Of course, all this has guaranteed Wolfe a readership whose anti-modern reflexes had been well ...

Diary

Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett, 7 November 1985

... a flat that was something of a miniature Versailles. Immediately above lived the widow of Richard Wright, author of Native Son. Above above, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, known to outsiders as Le Corbusier. At the end of the courtyard, the house – la maison – and this calls for historical extrapolation. At some moment in the latter half of the 17th ...

Molehunt

Christopher Andrew, 22 January 1987

Sword and Shield: Soviet Intelligence and Security Apparatus 
by Jeffrey Richelson.
Harper and Row, 279 pp., £11.95, February 1986, 0 88730 035 9
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The Red and the Blue: Intelligence, Treason and the University 
by Andrew Sinclair.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £12.95, June 1986, 0 297 78866 3
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Inside Stalin’s Secret Police: NKVD Politics 1936-39 
by Robert Conquest.
Macmillan, 222 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 333 39260 4
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Conspiracy of Silence: The Secret Life of Anthony Blunt 
by Barrie Penrose and Simon Freeman.
Grafton, 588 pp., £14.95, November 1986, 0 246 12200 5
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... both Philby and Burgess, was recalled to Moscow and shot. During the three-year period covered by Robert Conquest in Inside Stalin’s Secret Police the NKVD leadership was twice liquidated. Nikolai Yezhov, who succeeded G.G. Yagoda as head of the NKVD in September 1936, purged most of Yagoda’s men in the spring of 1937 (though Yagoda himself was not shot ...

One Stock and Nation

Christopher Kelly: Roman Britain, 11 February 2010

The Recovery of Roman Britain 1586-1906: A Colony so Fertile 
by Richard Hingley.
Oxford, 389 pp., £83, June 2008, 978 0 19 923702 9
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... wall and Scotland. Most striking are the claims made for a settled Roman presence in the Lowlands. Robert Sibbald, geographer royal for the kingdom of Scotland under Charles II, suggested that the barrier between civilisation and barbarity was not the Picts’ Wall but Graham’s Dyke (the later turf rampart, now known as the Antonine Wall, built 100 miles ...

The Last Witness

Colm Tóibín: The career of James Baldwin, 20 September 2001

... act – that the American boy evolve into the complexity of manhood.’ In an essay on Richard Wright, published in 1951, he wrote: And there is, I should think, no Negro living in America who has not felt briefly and for long periods, with anguish sharp or dull, in varying degrees or to varying effect, simple, naked and unanswerable hatred; who has not ...

The great times they could have had

Paul Foot, 15 September 1988

Wallis: Secret Lives of the Duchess of Windsor 
by Charles Higham.
Sidgwick, 419 pp., £17.95, June 1988, 0 283 99627 7
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The Secret File of the Duke of Windsor 
by Michael Bloch.
Bantam, 326 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 9780593016671
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... the Nazi leaders. As early as July 1933, with Hitler only just ensconced as German Chancellor, Robert Bruce-Lockhart records conversations between the Prince and the grandson of the former Kaiser, Prince Louis-Ferdinand: ‘The Prince of Wales was quite pro-Hitler and said it was no business of ours to interfere in Germany’s internal affairs either re ...

Stainless Steel Banana Slicer

David Trotter, 18 March 2021

Theory of the Gimmick: Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form 
by Sianne Ngai.
Harvard, 401 pp., £28.95, June 2020, 978 0 674 98454 7
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... walks a tightrope between remote media, genres and historical periods in a chapter that compares Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story ‘The Bottle Imp’ (1891) with David Robert Mitchell’s zombie film It Follows (2014). The former was published a year after the sovereign debt crisis brought about by the insolvency of ...

Big Daddy

Linda Nochlin, 30 October 1997

American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America 
by Robert Hughes.
Harvill, 635 pp., £35, October 1997, 9781860463723
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... of stylistic precedence and traditional modes of expression are common to both. In the case of Robert Hughes, author of the monumental American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America, the artist of choice would be John Singer Sargent, brilliant pictorial chronicler of the beau monde of the 19th century. Like Sargent, Hughes is a brilliant ...

Excellence

Patrick Wright, 21 May 1987

Creating excellence: Managing corporate culture, strategy and change in the New Age 
by Craig Hickman and Michael Silva.
Allen and Unwin, 305 pp., £12.50, April 1985, 0 04 658252 5
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Intrapreneuring: Why you don’t have to leave the corporation to become an entrepreneur 
by Gifford Pinchot.
Harper and Row, 368 pp., £15.95, August 1985, 0 06 015305 9
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The IBM Way: Insights into the World’s Most Successful Marketing Organisation 
by Buck Rodgers.
Harper and Row, 224 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 06 015522 1
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Innovation: The Attacker’s Advantage 
by Richard Foster.
Macmillan, 316 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 333 43511 7
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Ford 
by Robert Lacey.
Heinemann, 778 pp., £15, July 1986, 0 434 40192 7
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Company of Adventurers: The Story of the Hudson’s Bay Company 
by Peter Newman.
Viking, 413 pp., £14.95, March 1986, 0 670 80379 0
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Augustine’s Laws 
by Norman Augustine.
Viking, 380 pp., £12.95, July 1986, 9780670809424
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Peak Performers: The New Heroes in Business 
by Charles Garfield.
Hutchinson, 333 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 09 167391 7
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Going for it: How to Succeed as an Entrepreneur 
by Victor Kiam.
Collins, 223 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 00 217603 3
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Take a chance to be first: The Secrets of Entrepreneurial Success 
by Warren Avis.
Macmillan, 222 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 02 504410 9
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The Winning Streak 
by Walter Goldsmith and David Clutterbuck.
Weidenfeld/Penguin, 224 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 297 78469 2
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The Roots of Excellence 
by Ronnie Lessem.
Fontana, 318 pp., £3.95, December 1985, 0 00 636874 3
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The New Management of Local Government 
by John Stewart.
Allen and Unwin, 208 pp., £20, October 1986, 0 00 435232 7
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... books of the Eighties have been American, and ‘excellence’ is their creed. Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman Junior’s In Search of Excellence1 appeared in 1982 and it quickly established itself as the best-selling management book ever. Here was an unambiguous riposte to the Japanese economic miracle, that Pearl Harbour of the Carter era. Excellence ...

Doers of Mischief on Earth

Robert Fisk, 19 January 1989

The Shah’s Last Ride: The Story of the Exile, Misadventures and Death of the Emperor 
by William Shawcross.
Chatto, 463 pp., £15.95, January 1989, 9780701132545
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... Shah has a special cynicism all its own. The Foreign Office enlisted as their emissary Sir Denis Wright, who had been British Ambassador to Iran between 1963 and 1971, and – according to Shawcross – dispatched him off to the Shah’s latest refuge in the Bahamas under the false name of ‘Edward Wilson’; Sir Denis, writes Shawcross, was a director of ...

Little England

Patrick Wright: The view through a bus window, 7 September 2006

Great British Bus Journeys: Travels through Unfamous Places 
by David McKie.
Atlantic, 359 pp., £16.99, March 2006, 1 84354 132 7
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... Influenced by the very Englishly expressed Victorian socialism of William Morris, H.M. Hyndman and Robert Blatchford, the cause had been taken up and redirected by G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc in the first decade of the 20th century. It had been resumed in the 1920s by various other figures, including H.J. Massingham, a former guild socialist who ...

Subversions

R.W. Johnson, 4 June 1987

Traitors: The Labyrinths of Treason 
by Chapman Pincher.
Sidgwick, 346 pp., £13.95, May 1987, 0 283 99379 0
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The Secrets of the Service: British Intelligence and Communist Subversion 1939-51 
by Anthony Glees.
Cape, 447 pp., £18, May 1987, 0 224 02252 0
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Freedom of Information – Freedom of the Individual? 
by Clive Ponting, John Ranelagh, Michael Zander and Simon Lee, edited by Julia Neuberger.
Macmillan, 110 pp., £4.95, May 1987, 0 333 44771 9
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... even the most elementary facts about the intelligence services their taxes pay for. The Peter Wright trial in Australia has recently brought out the full absurdity of this, with Sir Robert Armstrong attempting at one point to suggest that the very existence of MI5 and MI6 (let alone the identity of their directors) was ...

Accessibility

Derek Mahon, 5 June 1980

Carminalenia 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 120 pp., £3.95, February 1980, 0 85635 284 5
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The Strange Museum 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 51 pp., £3.50, March 1980, 9780571115112
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The Psalms with their Spoils 
by Jon Silkin.
Routledge, 74 pp., £2.95, April 1980, 0 7100 0497 4
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The Equal Skies 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.75, March 1980, 0 7011 2491 1
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Sibyls and Others 
by Ruth Fainlight.
Hutchinson, 141 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 09 141030 4
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... that somewhere along the line he absorbed the influence, for example, of the Minnesota poets, Robert Bly and James Wright. He has the same candour and simplicity, and, like them, sometimes lays himself open to a charge of naivety – technical as much as emotional, if we can distinguish between the two. But his ...

Learned Insane

Simon Schaffer: The Lunar Men, 17 April 2003

The Lunar Men: The Friends who Made the Future 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 588 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 571 19647 0
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... was able to leave the vast sum of £25,000 to Susannah, who very soon married Erasmus’s son Robert. And when the son of this union, Charles, married his cousin Emma Wedgwood, another of Josiah’s grandchildren, she brought a lavish dowry of £5000 and an annual allowance of £400. Darwin later joked that his family were ‘the degenerate descendants of ...

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