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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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... territory? How would it reconcile a reputation for independence of government control with the fact that the British state, of which it was a part, was one of the main protagonists in the conflict? RobertSavage 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 ...

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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... minds’ eyes will probably still see the creased, gentle and infinitely sad face of Albert Einstein – 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 ...

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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... in a sense we are writing, and to whom we thus come as close as we can. The idea may sound fanciful, 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 ...
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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... approved dominant language (first Greek, then Latin, followed by the various world-languages of later 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 ...

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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... school to support his family as a bellboy at the Hotel Texas, and quickly learnt how to supply his 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 ...

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 ...

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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... James, from such consciously worked dialogue, though the hazard of archness is never far away. The 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 ...

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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... on the despot’s actual career. But there is something depressing about that, too. His armies are always vast, his victories inevitable and his treatment of the conquered almost invariably savage. The history of Central Asia in the late 14th century reads like a piece of plotless Grand Guignol. So it’s curious that Tamerlane, though somewhat neglected by the academics, has long been a ...

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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... by old Earnshaw. Earnshaw unwraps his greatcoat to reveal to his family a ‘dirty, ragged, black-haired 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 ...

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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... Britain (1754-62), denounced the Crusades as ‘the most signal and durable monument of human folly 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 ...

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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... palaces to mix with them. More and her sister Patty began by setting up Sunday schools in a number of villages near their cottage at Cowslip Green in Somerset, following the well-known examples of Robert Raikes in Gloucestershire and Sarah Trimmer in Brentford. Patty kept a journal of the years 1789-99, published as Mendip Annals in 1859 and clearly intended for general edification. According to ...

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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... mechanical contrivance to replace manual operations. What was (and is) so wrong with buttons, snaps, 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 ...

All Together Now

John Lloyd: The British Trade Union

19 October 2000
British Trade Unions and Industrial Politics. Vol. I: The Postwar Compromise, 1945-64 
edited by John McIlroy and Nina Fishman et al.
Ashgate, 335 pp., £35, January 2000, 0 7546 0018 1
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British Trade Unions and Industrial Politics. Vol. II: The High Tide of Trade Unionism, 1964-79 
edited by John McIlroy and Nina Fishman et al.
Ashgate, 389 pp., £35, January 2000, 0 7546 0018 1
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The TUC: From the General Strike to New Unionism 
by Robert​ Taylor.
Palgrave, 299 pp., £45, September 2000, 0 333 93066 5
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... 1974-76 Governments and James Callaghan’s 1976-79 Administration spent more time cajoling, ‘standing up to’, browbeating, placating and schmoozing with union leaders than with any other group. Robert Taylor’s close account of the TUC has in it some wonderfully revealing passages on these (and other) periods: none so rich as the gathering of 1 June 1969 at Chequers which brought together Wilson ...
26 July 1990
The Making of ‘The Golden Bough’: The Origin and Growth of an Argument 
by Robert​ Fraser.
Macmillan, 240 pp., £35, July 1990, 0 333 49631 0
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... he has never seen one,’ declared (approvingly, it seems) the headlines of several articles; and they went on to reassure their readers that Sir James ‘is fond of saying that he has never seen a savage in his life; his books are the outcome of research into original scientific work.’ This was, in fact, exactly what Frazer did say to the gossip columnist of the Sunday Chronicle in conversation at ...
28 May 1992
Outerbridge Reach 
by Robert​ Stone.
Deutsch, 409 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 223 98774 3
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... When Robert Stone’s best-known novel, Dog Soldiers, was published in 1974, there was a small but significant overlap of material with The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe’s souped-up, superheated ...

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