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Sean Wilsey: Rats!

17 March 2005
Rats: A Year with New York’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants 
by Robert Sullivan.
Granta, 242 pp., £12.99, January 2005, 1 86207 761 4
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... like pedestrian traffic. Rats poking their noses through holes in the walls. Old rats. Young rats. Baby rats. Thrashy rats. Ugly, dirty scratchy rats. Funny, jumpy cute rats.’ And then there is RobertSullivan’s delightful and revolting Rats, the most exhaustive, nauseating and pleasurable compendium of rat facts ever set down. Facts such as: wherever there are human beings, there are rats ...

A Kind of Integrity

Jonathan Barnes

6 November 1986
Philosophical Apprenticeships 
by Hans-Georg Gadamer, translated by Robert Sullivan.
MIT, 198 pp., £13.95, October 1985, 0 262 07092 8
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The Idea of the Good in Platonic-Aristotelian Philosophy 
by Hans-Georg Gadamer, translated by Christopher Smith.
Yale, 182 pp., £18, June 1986, 0 300 03463 6
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... Hans-Georg Gadamer ranks as one of Germany’s foremost philosophers. He occupied a chair at Heidelberg for quarter of a century, during which time his lecturing skills and a steady flow of publications brought him a reputation and a following second to none. Since his retirement he has divided his time between Germany and North America. Many of his writings have been translated, and the English version ...

Snarly Glitters

August Kleinzahler: Roy Fisher

20 April 2006
The Long and the Short of It: Poems 1955-2005 
by Roy Fisher.
Bloodaxe, 400 pp., £12, June 2005, 1 85224 701 0
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... In a 1979 review of Roy Fisher’s collection of poems The Thing about Joe Sullivan, probably the most likeable collection by a not always likeable poet, John Ash wrote: ‘In a better world, he would be as widely known and highly praised as Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.’ This ...

What a Woman!

J.L. Nelson: Joan of Arc

19 October 2000
Joan of Arc 
by Mary Gordon.
Weidenfeld, 168 pp., £12.99, April 2000, 0 297 64568 4
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Joan of Arc: A Military Leader 
by Kelly DeVries.
Sutton, 242 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 7509 1805 5
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The Interrogation of Joan of Arc 
by Karen Sullivan.
Minnesota, 208 pp., £30, November 1999, 0 8166 3267 7
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... first heard ‘a voice from God’, late 1428 the time when ‘a voice from God told her that it was necessary for her to come into France . . . to raise the siege of Orléans . . . and to go to Robert de Beaudricourt in the town of Vaucouleurs, the captain of that place, that he would give her people to go with her.’ DeVries assigns priority to Joan’s experience of the ‘voice’, and ...

Upstaging

Paul Driver

19 August 1993
Shining Brow 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 86 pp., £5.99, February 1993, 0 571 16789 6
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... couplets, and The Death of Klinghoffer. She has also finished fresh dialogue for a Glyndebourne production of The Magic Flute (all of this under the auspices of the American director Peter Sellars). Robert Lowell meant to write a libretto and duly boned up with intensive attendance at the New York Met, but never delivered. John Ashbery has not, so far as I know, produced a libretto – only the poem ...

The Hell out of Dodge

Jeremy Harding: Woodstock 1969

15 August 2019
Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music 
by Michael Lang.
Reel Art Press, 289 pp., £44.95, July 2019, 978 1 909526 62 4
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... the line-up for a fiftieth birthday event at the Glen, a racetrack 150 miles from the original site. Performers included Miley Cyrus and Jay-Z. A few wrinkly legends, including the Zombies and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin famously turned down the offer to play fifty years ago) were also billed, alongside veterans from the founding festival: Santana, David Crosby, Country Joe McDonald, the remains ...
7 February 1991
Spanner and Pen: Post-War Memoirs 
by Roy Fuller.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 190 pp., £16.95, February 1991, 1 85619 040 4
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... the catch-phrases of uncles and schoolfriends. Here he confesses his affection for Sid Field; it would not be easy to name more recent comedians likely to win his approval. He quotes a letter from Robert Graves which, although it is about the poetry, gives an accurate representation of the way Fuller often sees his personality: ‘oppressed, stoical, humorous’, and not given to ‘chancing his arm ...
10 November 1994
Hanson: A Biography 
by Alex Brummer and Roger Cowe.
Fourth Estate, 336 pp., £20, September 1994, 1 85702 189 4
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... and other goods across the Pennines to Manchester on packhorses – pulsed through the veins of her great-grandsons,’ Alex Brummer and Roger Cowe write without a trace of irony. One of these was Robert Hanson, the great James’s father, through whose veins the entrepreneurial spirit pulsed so fiercely that he stored other people’s furniture in a warehouse next to a garage packed with petrol. One ...

Summer Simmer

Tom Vanderbilt: Chicago heatwaves

22 August 2002
Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago 
by Eric Klinenberg.
Chicago, 305 pp., £19.50, August 2002, 0 226 44321 3
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... moment they are raw, as meaningless as g-force measurements to the average non-astronaut. Now, for the summer, we have the heat index, first proposed in 1979 by the Australian environmental scientist Robert Steadman in an article in the Journal of Applied Meteorology entitled ‘The Assessment of Sultriness Part I: A Temperature-Humidity Index Based on Human Physiology and Clothing Science’. Steadman ...

Identity Parade

Linda Colley

25 February 1993
People and Places: Country House Donors and the National Trust 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 232 pp., £19.99, October 1992, 0 7195 5145 5
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The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Authorship, 1660-1769 
by Michael Dobson.
Oxford, 266 pp., £30, October 1992, 0 19 811233 5
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Myths of the English 
edited by Roy Porter.
Polity, 280 pp., £39.50, October 1992, 0 7456 0844 2
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Fields of Vision: Landscape Imagery and National Identity in England and the United States 
by Stephen Daniels.
Polity, 257 pp., £39.50, November 1992, 0 7456 0450 1
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... on its part. Despite unvaryingly patriotic rhetoric, Conservative hegemony since 1979 has undoubtedly contributed to the undermining of Britishness. One reason for this, as the Party’s historian Robert Blake comments, is that Tories have always tended towards English nationalism, enjoying electoral paramountcy in the Southern counties, but possessed of far less secure roots in the North or in Wales ...

Diary

W.G. Runciman: Like a Prep School

10 January 1991
... not allowed to offer us the customary plonk and snacklets then and there. Instead, after Asa Briggs had introduced Cannadine and Cannadine had given us an encouragingly comical puff for his book, Robert Rhodes James reminded us that Lloyd George, despite doing so much to reduce the Upper House to impotence and discredit, had ended his days as Earl Lloyd George of Dwyfor, and then led us off down ...

The Man Who Never Glared

John Pemble: Disraeli

5 December 2013
Disraeli: or, The Two Lives 
by Douglas Hurd and Edward Young.
Orion, 320 pp., £20, July 2013, 978 0 297 86097 6
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The Great Rivalry: Gladstone and Disraeli 
by Dick Leonard.
I.B. Tauris, 226 pp., £22.50, June 2013, 978 1 84885 925 8
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Disraeli: The Romance of Politics 
by Robert​ O’Kell.
Toronto, 595 pp., £66.99, February 2013, 978 1 4426 4459 5
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... The territorial and financial magnates of the Whig party don’t want to know. Undaunted, Byron reinvents himself as a Tory: the Tories are now led by his contemporary and old school friend, Robert Peel. At Harrow, Peel was a model pupil; Byron was a madcap, and he still thinks a lot more of Peel than Peel thinks of him. Peel is committed to transforming the Tory Party. He’s out of sympathy ...
20 November 1986
Bend’Or, Duke of Westminster: A Personal Memoir 
by George Ridley.
Robin Clark, 213 pp., £9.95, November 1985, 0 86072 096 9
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Getty: The Richest Man in the World 
by Robert​ Lenzner.
Hutchinson, 283 pp., £9.95, November 1985, 0 09 162840 7
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... The plutocracy in a democratic state,’ wrote Mencken in a passage Robert Lenzner has chosen as epigraph for his book, ‘tends to take the place of the missing aristocracy ... It is, of course, something quite different. It lacks all the essential character of a true ...
15 April 1982
From Bauhaus to Our House 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 143 pp., £6.95, March 1982, 0 224 02030 7
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... ago as the introduction to The Kandy-Kolored Etcetera in 1965, but even among diatribes of this sort 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 ...

And They Prayed

Chauncey Loomis

27 November 1997
The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Man Against Nature 
by Sebastian Junger.
Fourth Estate, 227 pp., £14.99, August 1997, 1 85702 720 5
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... to a crew that resorts to increasingly desperate measures to keep their vessel afloat. Eventually the last wire has shorted out, the last bit of decking has settled under the water. Tyne, Pierre, Sullivan, Moran, Murphy and Shatford are dead. The Perfect Storm is reminiscent of Stephen Crane’s ‘The Open Boat’. Crane’s masterful short story, based on his own experience, describes the ordeal of ...

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