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Foxy-Faced

John Bayley, 29 September 1988

Something to hold onto: Autobiographical Sketches 
by Richard Cobb.
Murray, 168 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4587 0
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... fast) win the former’s professional admiration, while Cobb is as much a connoisseur of Tunbridge Wells interiors, customs and habits – ‘a distinctive week and a distinctive Sunday’ – as he is of the rituals of the railroad in a small American town, or of French speech, French drinks, metro stations, revolutions. The first of the photographs here is a ...

Grey Eminence

Edward Said, 5 March 1981

Walter Lippmann and the American Century 
by Ronald Steel.
Bodley Head, 669 pp., £8.95, February 1981, 0 370 30376 8
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... most powerful and famous American journalist of this century, a fact confirmed many times over in Ronald Steel’s extraordinarily fine biography. The only son of very well-off German-Jewish parents, Lippmann had a sheltered and privileged childhood in New York, ‘learning Latin and Greek by gaslight and riding a goat cart in Central Park’ before going off ...

America Deserta

Richard Poirier, 16 February 1989

America 
by Jean Baudrillard, translated by Chris Turner.
Verso, 129 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 86091 220 5
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America Observed: The Newspaper Years of Alistair Cooke 
by Ronald Wells.
Reinhardt, 233 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 1 871061 09 1
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American Journals 
by Albert Camus, translated by Hugh Levick.
Hamish Hamilton, 155 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 241 12621 5
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... I think, therefore I am’ was not supposed by Descartes to apply only to those for whom thinking is a line of work. That would appear to be the operating assumption, however, of the celebrated French sociologist-philosopher Jean Baudrillard in America, the latest of his works translated into English. At first the reader might wonder why a prose as dense as his should be made more so by having it stretched across pages of a width and gloss more appropriate to an otherwise agreeably produced and illustrated coffee-table book ...

Poor Boys

Karl Miller, 18 September 1986

In Search of a Past: The Manor House, Amnersfield 1933-1945 
by Ronald Fraser.
Verso, 187 pp., £15, September 1984, 9780860910923
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Growing up in the Gorbals 
by Ralph Glasser.
Chatto, 207 pp., £10.95, August 1986, 0 7011 3148 9
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... arranged to dramatic effect in interesting ways. Ralph Glasser’s is fresh from the oven, while Ronald Fraser’s appeared in 1984, gained a second impression last year, and is still being discussed. Juliet Mitchell has called it ‘a miniature masterpiece’, and it is a work which should have been discussed in this journal long before now, and would have ...

Shaw tests the ice

Ronald Bryden, 18 December 1986

Bernard Shaw: The Diaries 1885-1897 
edited by Stanley Weintraub.
Pennsylvania State, 1241 pp., £65, September 1986, 0 571 13901 9
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... socialism had an emotional, almost religious basis lacking in that of the Webbs or, later, H.G. Wells. In his Fabian essay on property, Wallas describes the ‘dreary squalor’ of the English industrial working class, then the new and nobler life socialism could bring them. ‘Socialism hangs above them as the crown hung in Bunyan’s story above the man ...

Short Cuts

James Meek: Anglospheroids, 21 March 2013

... permission but local staff would occasionally try to interfere as he went at the oil wells with fire, dynamite and his personal sledgehammer. If the force of his personality failed to get them to back off, Daniel Yergin writes in The Prize, ‘he would deliver a powerful kick or pull out his revolver and shout: “I don’t speak your blasted ...

Liberated by His Bite

Andrew Delbanco, 19 September 1996

Our Vampires, Ourselves 
by Nina Auerbach.
Chicago, 238 pp., £17.50, November 1995, 0 226 03201 9
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... of Pennsylvania, is interested in fear. In the Eighties she found herself living in a nation – Ronald Reagan’s America – that had ‘turned ... its fear on itself’. Franklin Roosevelt had said that ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,’ but Reagan was a master manipulator of public anxiety about enemies abroad and menacing aliens at ...

Sabotage

Gavin Millar, 13 September 1990

Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles 
by Frank Brady.
Hodder, 655 pp., £18.95, January 1990, 0 340 51389 6
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If this was happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth 
by Barbara Leaming.
Weidenfeld, 312 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 297 79630 5
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Norma Shearer 
by Gavin Lambert.
Hodder, 381 pp., £17.95, August 1990, 0 340 52947 4
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Ava’s Men: The Private Life of Ava Gardner 
by Jane Ellen Wayne.
Robson, 268 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 86051 636 9
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Goldwyn: A Biography 
by Scott Berg.
Hamish Hamilton, 579 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 241 12832 3
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The Genius of the System: Hollywood Film-Making in the Studio Era 
by Thomas Schatz.
Simon and Schuster, 514 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 671 69708 0
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... producers, CBS, who had to apologise to listeners, the Federal Communications Commission and H.G. Wells, all of whom appeared shocked. CBS made Welles apologise too and settled out-of-court claims for injuries received by panicking listeners falling downstairs and jumping out of windows in an effort to escape the little green men. The newspapers jumped on the ...

Matrioshki

Craig Raine, 13 June 1991

Constance Garnett: A Heroic Life 
by Richard Garnett.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 402 pp., £20, March 1991, 1 85619 033 1
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... and her other translations: ‘The books have changed our lives, no less.’ On the other hand, Ronald Hingley, translator of the nine-volume Oxford Chekhov, strikes a note of peevish judiciousness: ‘Though Garnett is far from the least competent of Chekhov translators, her English is marred by an element of quaintness.’ a comparison of Garnett’s ...

Hit by Donald Duck

Oliver Hill-Andrews: The Red Scientist, 24 May 2018

Popularising Science: The Life and Work of J.B.S. Haldane 
by Krishna Dronamraju.
Oxford, 367 pp., £26.99, February 2017, 978 0 19 933392 9
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... remarks; whole sections from one chapter are reproduced verbatim in another; and it follows Ronald Clark’s biography of Haldane from 1968 a little too closely, and without attribution. Dronamraju, a geneticist, is good on Haldane’s scientific achievements, but his use of unexplained technicalities will leave most readers behind. Born in ...

Baby Face

John Bayley, 24 May 1990

William Gerhardie: A Biography 
by Dido Davies.
Oxford, 411 pp., £25, April 1990, 0 19 211794 7
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Memoirs of a Polyglot 
by William Gerhardie.
Robin Clark, 381 pp., £5.95, April 1990, 0 86072 111 6
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Futility 
by William Gerhardie.
Robin Clark, 198 pp., £4.95, April 1990, 0 86072 112 4
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God’s Fifth Column: A Biography of the Age 1890-1940 
by William Gerhardie, edited by Michael Holroyd and Robert Skidelsky.
Hogarth, 360 pp., £8.95, April 1990, 0 7012 0887 2
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... in Gerhardie. That was partly the trouble: he was, but he made his reputation as an exotic. Unlike Ronald Firbank, who had his own niche as a homosexual and a rare stylistic innovator, Gerhardie could not in the end claim to be anything specially, not even an eccentric. Although he had a close and life-long relationship with his mother Clara, his own tastes ...

Unmuscular Legs

E.S. Turner, 22 August 1996

The Dictionary of National Biography 1986-1990 
edited by C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 607 pp., £50, June 1996, 0 19 865212 7
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... Reginald Teague-Jones, who received two obituaries in the Times, the first under his later name of Ronald Sinclair. The reason for the change of name was that he was falsely accused of a war crime in Transcaspia in 1918 when a clutch of Leninist commissars were taken from custody by counter-revolutionaries and massacred. He appeared in the honours list under ...

So Amused

Sarah Rigby: Fay Weldon, 11 July 2002

Auto da Fay 
by Fay Weldon.
Flamingo, 366 pp., £15.99, May 2002, 9780007109920
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... Ford, Ezra Pound (who apparently had a habit of playing her piano with his nose when drunk), H.G. Wells and E. Nesbit, who, Weldon’s grandmother tells her, ‘was very excitable and . . . ran round the corridors at night screaming’. Meanwhile, Weldon attends a Scottish-influenced girls’ high school, reads Tolkien and Raymond Chandler and, on being told ...

Noddy is on page 248

Jay Griffiths: On the streets, 10 June 1999

The Penguin Book of 20th-Century Protest 
edited by Brian MacArthur.
Penguin, 440 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 670 87052 8
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DIY Culture: Party and Protest in Nineties Britain 
edited by George McKay.
Verso, 310 pp., £11, July 1998, 1 85984 260 7
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... thorough on race equality, poverty and war, and the selection provides a sober roll-call: Ida B. Wells, Aneurin Bevan, Rachel Carson, Martin Luther King, Václav Havel, Ken Saro-Wiwa. Its portrayal of the first half of the century has solidity; you are in safe, if stubby hands. There are also some poignant contributions: the broken dreams of Communism ...

Her Guns

Jeremy Harding, 8 March 1990

The View from the Ground 
by Martha Gellhorn.
Granta, 459 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 14 014200 2
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Towards Asmara 
by Thomas Keneally.
Hodder, 320 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 340 41517 7
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... of novellas, The trouble I’ve seen (1936), received generous praise from Graham Greene and H.G. Wells. For years, her literary standing was compromised by her ties to Ernest Hemingway in the Thirties and Forties. This has long since ceased to be the case. The Face of War, her collected war reporting, is one of the most readable accounts of conflict in the ...

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