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Nohow, Worstward, Withersoever

Patrick Parrinder, 9 November 1989

Stirrings Still 
by Samuel Beckett.
Calder, 25 pp., £1,000, March 1989, 0 7145 4142 7
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Nohow On: Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, Worstward Ho 
by Samuel Beckett.
Calder, 128 pp., £10.95, February 1989, 0 7145 4111 7
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‘Make sense who may’: Essays on Samuel Beckett’s Later Works 
edited by Robin Davis and Lance Butler.
Smythe, 175 pp., £16, March 1989, 0 86140 286 3
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... wrote in Texts for Nothing that ‘it’s the end gives the meaning to words.’ The title of the Davis and Butler symposium comes from the ending of Beckett’s play What Where (1983) –Time passes.That is all.Make sense who may.I switch off.– and Beckett continues to throw the switch on and off, in an ever-prolonged vigil or wake at which he is both ...

Mr Straight and Mr Good

Paul Foot: Gordon Brown, 19 February 1998

Gordon Brown: The Biography 
by Paul Routledge.
Simon and Schuster, 358 pp., £17.99, February 1998, 0 684 81954 6
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... Labour candidate for the safe seat of desperately impoverished Dunfermline East, he co-edited with Robin Cook another series of socialist essays, The Great Divide. In his Introduction, he grappled with the familiar argument that the shocking conditions of the poor could only be improved in times of economic growth. ‘The era of economic growth,’ he ...

‘Wisely I decided to say nothing’

Ross McKibbin: Jack Straw, 22 November 2012

Last Man Standing: Memoirs of a Political Survivor 
by Jack Straw.
Macmillan, 582 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 4472 2275 0
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... Nowhere does he acknowledge this. He even writes with some pride of the resolution he and David Davis proposed, and which the House of Commons carried, criticising the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights which held that depriving prisoners of the vote was a denial of their human rights. Straw stood to gain nothing politically from this ...

Even If You Have to Starve

Ian Penman: Mod v. Trad, 29 August 2013

Mod: A Very British Style 
by Richard Weight.
Bodley Head, 478 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 224 07391 2
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... In a lovely 1963 piece on Miles Davis, Kenneth Tynan quoted Cocteau to illuminate the art of his ‘discreet, elliptical’ subject: Davis was one of those 20th-century artists who had found ‘a simple way of saying very complicated things’. Jump to 1966 and the meatier, beatier sound of a UK Top 20 hit, the Who’s ‘Substitute’, a vexed, stuttering anti-manifesto, with its self-accusatory boast: ‘The simple things you see are all complicated!’ You couldn’t find two more different musical cries: Davis’s liquid tone is hurt, steely, recessive, where Townshend’s is upfront, impatient, hectoring ...

Green Thoughts

Colin Ward, 19 January 1989

Seasons of the Seal 
by Fred Bruemmer and Brian Davies.
Bloomsbury, 160 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 7475 0214 5
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Whale Nation 
by Heathcote Williams.
Cape, 191 pp., £15, August 1988, 0 224 02555 4
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Falling for a dolphin 
by Heathcote Williams.
Cape, 47 pp., £4.95, November 1988, 0 224 02659 3
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Prisoners of the Seas 
by K.A. Gourlay.
Zed, 256 pp., £25.95, November 1988, 0 86232 686 9
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Progress for a Small Planet 
by Barbara Ward.
Earthscan, 298 pp., £5.95, September 1988, 1 85383 028 3
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Future Earth: Exploring the Frontiers of Space 
edited by Nigel Calder and John Newell.
Christopher Helm, 255 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 9780747004202
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Sizewell B: An Anatomy of the Enquiry 
by Timothy O’Riordan, Ray Kemp and Michael Purdue.
Macmillan, 474 pp., £45, September 1988, 0 333 38944 1
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Early Green Politics 
by Peter Gould.
Harvester, 225 pp., £29.95, June 1988, 0 7108 1192 6
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Dreamers of the Absolute 
by Hans Magnus Enzensberger.
Radius, 312 pp., £7.95, October 1988, 0 09 173240 9
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The Coming of the Greens 
by Jonathon Porritt and David Winner.
Fontana, 287 pp., £4.95, September 1988, 0 00 637244 9
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Ecology and Socialism 
by Martin Ryle.
Radius, 122 pp., £5.95, October 1988, 0 09 182247 5
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... in one’s attention and ends by sending one to sleep.’ And in his introduction Stanley Clinton Davis comments: ‘the pollution of the seas is not principally a scientific or an economic problem. It is a political problem.’ The late Barbara Ward tackled global green issues on the plane of international politics: the rate at which the rich nations ...

Rolodex Man

Mark Kishlansky, 31 October 1996

Liberty against the Law: Some 17th-Century Controversies 
by Christopher Hill.
Allen Lane, 354 pp., £25, April 1996, 0 7139 9119 4
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The Rise and Fall of Revolutionary England: An Essay on the Fabrication of 17th-Century History 
by Alastair MacLaclan.
Macmillan, 431 pp., £13.99, April 1996, 0 333 62009 7
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... at war with property, and property emerged victorious. There are pieces that celebrate images of Robin Hood, empathise with vagabonds and extol gypsies. Hill’s spotlight shines on radical sectaries who defied both the laws of England and the laws of Moses. Villainous lords, greedy merchants and corrupt lawyers lurk in the shadows. The perspective is one of ...

What Blair Threw Away

Ross McKibbin: Feckless, Irresponsible and Back in Power, 19 May 2005

... might be a recognition of that fact. If, however, his resignation is simply to make way for David Davis, then nothing has been learned. The Conservatives would do well to think harder next time: the old xenophobic parochialism which once did so well for them has weakened as the Conservative working class has disappeared. This culture’s disarray can be ...

The Angry Men

Jean McNicol: Harriet Harman, 14 December 2017

A Woman’s Work 
by Harriet Harman.
Allen Lane, 405 pp., £20, February 2017, 978 0 241 27494 1
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The Women Who Shaped Politics 
by Sophy Ridge.
Coronet, 295 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 1 4736 3876 1
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... jocular, know-your-place remarks of the sort made by Michael Fallon to Andrea Leadsom, or by David Davis of Diane Abbott. In the 1979 general election, which brought the Conservatives to power under Margaret Thatcher – something Harman describes as an ‘excruciating blow’ – 19 women were elected, the lowest postwar figure aside from the 17 elected in ...

Martin and Martina

Ian Hamilton, 20 September 1984

Money: A Suicide Note 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 352 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 224 02276 8
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... won’t be seen doing any housework – not even wiping fingerprints off doorknobs; Spunk Davis, health-freak and charity worker, has demanded a no-decadence clause in his contract; Caduta Massi has a thing about fertility and wants the script to supply her with some extra offspring. In Doris Arthur’s finished screenplay, Lorne is senile, a sexual ...

Brutish Babies

David Wootton: Witchcraft, 11 November 1999

Shaman of Oberstdorf: Chonrad Stoeckhlin and the Phantoms of the Night 
by Wolfgang Behringer, translated by H.C.Erik Midelfort.
Virginia, 203 pp., £14.50, September 1998, 0 8139 1853 7
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Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe 
by Stuart Clark.
Oxford, 845 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 19 820001 3
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Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Routledge, 368 pp., £55, April 1999, 0 415 19611 6
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The Bewitching of Anne Gunter: A Horrible and True Story of Football, Witchcraft, Murder and the King of England 
by James Sharpe.
Profile, 256 pp., £16.99, November 1999, 9781861970480
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... This, pioneered in French by Le Roi Ladurie (Montaillou, 1975), and in English by Natalie Zemon Davis (The Return of Martin Guerre, 1983) and Robert Darnton (The Great Cat Massacre, 1984), involves giving a detailed description of events in the lives of ordinary people and is almost always based on court records – A Trial of Witches is a good, The ...

Only More So

Rosemary Hill: 1950s Women, 19 December 2013

Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties 
by Rachel Cooke.
Virago, 368 pp., £18.99, October 2013, 978 1 84408 740 2
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... only major public commission the Smithsons had to wait until the late 1960s, when they built the Robin Hood Gardens estate in Poplar, East London. An attempt to create Corbusian ‘streets in the sky’ and put their social theories into practice by force majeure, it had a certain conceptual dignity but was never a practical success. Soon after it was ...
... in 2009 to mark the fortieth anniversary of Cottam power station in Nottinghamshire, Robert Davis quotes one of the employees: There was so much wastage during the CEGB days. It was like they had money to burn. The stores were always full and we had spares for everything. Bureaucracy was part of the problem. If you signed stuff out of the stores, even ...

What is Labour for?

John Lanchester: Five More Years of This?, 31 March 2005

David Blunkett 
by Stephen Pollard.
Hodder, 359 pp., £20, December 2004, 0 340 82534 0
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... the bill [hanging all sorts of unrelated measures onto a central spine], as Robin Cook used to call it.’ He could hardly be more candid than that. The last time the securocrats got so far with their assault on liberty was the introduction of internment in Northern Ireland in 1971. This was a disaster, for two reasons: a. it radicalised ...

That Wild Mercury Sound

Charles Nicholl: Dylan’s Decade, 1 December 2016

The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-66 
by Bob Dylan.
Columbia, £60, November 2015
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... Dave van Ronk (the folk singer lightly fictionalised in the Coen Brothers’ film Inside Llewyn Davis). It’s a haunting song, and it came back to haunt him in the summer of 1964 when he heard it on his car radio in the moody R&B reworking by the Animals. ‘I nearly jumped out of my seat,’ he later said. By convention this was the Damascene moment that ...

Where are all the people?

Owen Hatherley: Jane Jacobs, 26 July 2017

Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs 
by Robert Kanigel.
Knopf, 512 pp., £34, September 2016, 978 0 307 96190 7
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Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs 
edited by Samuel Zipp and Nathan Storring.
Random House, 544 pp., £16.99, October 2016, 978 0 399 58960 7
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... which looked messy but functioned well, in favour of pointless greensward where ‘Christopher Robin might go hippety-hoppety.’ It destroyed human networks and replaced them with emptiness and formality. Jacobs’s alternative wasn’t a new proposal but something, she claimed, that already existed, and needed only to be helped along: the ‘ballet of ...

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