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Frayed Edges

Tessa Hadley: Pat Barker, 19 November 2015

by Pat Barker.
Hamish Hamilton, 272 pp., £18.99, August 2015, 978 0 241 14606 4
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... clouds, I thought at first, but then I realised the river was coming to meet me. It had burst its banks and flooded the low ground. Or, Elinor and Neville are in Russell Square together, and although they aren’t touching, he seems to feel the sensations of her touch along his body. ‘Could you hallucinate ...

Get a Real Degree

Elif Batuman, 23 September 2010

The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing 
by Mark McGurl.
Harvard, 480 pp., £25.95, April 2009, 978 0 674 03319 1
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... history’ belie Mukherjee’s claim: it has been largely ‘white writers like William Styron and Russell Banks and Robert Olen Butler and Neal Stephenson who … assert the privilege of other-narration’, while ‘minority writers … have typically been asked to slot themselves into a single ethnos.’But McGurl doesn’t follow this thought to its ...

Manly Love

John Bayley, 28 January 1993

Walt Whitman: From Moon to Starry Night 
by Philip Callow.
Allison and Busby, 394 pp., £19.99, October 1992, 0 85031 908 0
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The Double Life of Stephen Crane 
by Christopher Benfey.
Deutsch, 294 pp., £17.99, February 1993, 0 233 98820 3
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... and New York rowdyism’. At the same time, he missed the point, gravely assuring James Russell Lowell that ‘one cannot leave the book about for chance readers, and would be sorry to know that a woman had looked into it past the title page.’ One woman who did was Lady Wilde, Oscar’s mother, an early enthusiast for Leaves of Grass. Another was ...

How did the slime mould cross the maze?

Adrian Woolfson: The Future of Emergence, 21 March 2002

Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software 
by Steven Johnson.
Allen Lane, 288 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 7139 9400 2
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The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture 
by Mark Taylor.
Chicago, 340 pp., £20.50, January 2002, 0 226 79117 3
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... up, groping about picking out pieces of coal, iron, wood and copper nails’ from the mud on the banks of the Thames. Unlike the street-sellers, whose lives were solitary, the mudlarks formed organised communities. But they were loosely connected. Indeed, Mayhew noted their lack of cohesiveness, observing that they ‘peered anxiously about’ and held ...


Blake Morrison, 30 June 2011

The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp 
by W.H. Davies.
Amberley, 192 pp., £14.99, September 2010, 978 1 84868 980 0
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... autobiography, Later Days, published in 1925, Davies lists a few of his deposits: a shirt on the banks of the Mississippi, a pair of boots in the Allegheny mountains, a coat under rocks on Long Island Sound. ‘When Posterity has confirmed this immortality which contemporary critics have conferred on me,’ he says, only half-jokingly, ‘I hope the British ...

Bring some Madeira

Thomas Keymer: Thomas Love Peacock, 8 February 2018

Nightmare Abbey 
by Thomas Love Peacock, edited by Nicholas A. Joukovsky.
Cambridge, 297 pp., £84.99, December 2016, 978 1 107 03186 9
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Crotchet Castle 
by Thomas Love Peacock, edited by Freya Johnston and Matthew Bevis.
Cambridge, 328 pp., £79.99, December 2016, 978 1 107 03072 5
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... with fun, even a degree of tenderness. His subtlest early readers were those who, like Mary Russell Mitford, recognised the broad critique (‘a very clever attack upon mystical metaphysics & misanthropical poetry’) and the takedown of Coleridge and Byron, yet also saw the dominant mood as a playful one: ‘Never was a more cheerful & amiable piece of ...

See you in hell, punk

Thomas Jones: Kai su, Brutus, 6 December 2018

Brutus: The Noble Conspirator 
by Kathryn Tempest.
Yale, 314 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 300 18009 1
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... may have intended by the words isn’t clear. Tempest cites ‘an important article’ by James Russell (1980) ‘that has often been overlooked’. Russell points out that the words kai su often appear on curse tablets, and suggests that Caesar’s putative last words were not ‘the emotional parting declaration of a ...

When the Floods Came

James Meek: England’s Water, 31 July 2008

... in Gloucestershire, at the confluence of the rivers Severn and Avon, into an island on the banks of a vast brown waterway resembling the Mississippi Delta. There are clues, though. In the first picture, you can see two jetties that were mangled by the torrent and haven’t been repaired. The wooden boards were sucked off and swallowed by the flood, and ...

Sold Out

Stefan Collini: The Costs of University Privatisation, 24 October 2013

Everything for Sale? The Marketisation of UK Higher Education 
by Roger Brown and Helen Carasso.
Routledge, 235 pp., £26.99, February 2013, 978 0 415 80980 1
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The Great University Gamble: Money, Markets and the Future of Higher Education 
by Andrew McGettigan.
Pluto, 215 pp., £16.99, April 2013, 978 0 7453 3293 2
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... of the for-profit sector in the US dates from the late 1990s and the involvement of investment banks and private equity. For example, in 1998 Ashford University had just three hundred students; it was taken over by Bridgepoint Education Inc, and by 2008 boasted 77,000 students, nearly all online. Bridgepoint was described by the Senate committee’s ...

Seeing in the Darkness

James Wood, 6 March 1997

D.H. Lawrence: Triumph To Exile 1912-22 
by Mark Kinkead-Weekes.
Cambridge, 943 pp., £25, August 1996, 0 521 25420 5
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... then the tussocks and tussocks of primroses are fully out, there is full morning everywhere on the banks and roadsides and stream-sides, and around the olive roots, a morning of primroses underfoot, with an invisible threading of many violets, and then the lovely blue clusters of hepatica, really like pieces of blue sky showing through a clarity of ...

Wild Hearts

Peter Wollen, 6 April 1995

Virginia Woolf 
by James King.
Hamish Hamilton, 699 pp., £25, September 1994, 0 241 13063 8
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... first came into contact with Brooke’s group in January 1911, when she met Ka Cox at Bertrand Russell’ house in Oxford. The previous month, Brooke had left Cambridge to support the Labour candidate in the General Election, fulminating against the Tories, who had commandeered all but 12 of the motor cars in his constituency, and writing to Ka Cox: ‘It ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2011, 5 January 2012

... monuments are in the Poulett chapel which is private (cf the Spencer monuments at Brington and the Russell tombs at Chenies); many of the villagers had never seen this monument until the necessity for restoration gave them the entrée. Now we go on to Crewkerne where there is a good bookshop, though not good enough to have what I always ask for, any old copies ...

So it must be for ever

Thomas Meaney: American Foreign Policy, 14 July 2016

American Foreign Policy and Its Thinkers 
by Perry Anderson.
Verso, 244 pp., £14.99, March 2014, 978 1 78168 667 6
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A Sense of Power: The Roots of America’s Global Role 
by John A. Thompson.
Cornell, 343 pp., £19.95, October 2015, 978 0 8014 4789 1
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A Superpower Transformed: The Remaking of American Foreign Relations in the 1970s 
by Daniel J. Sargent.
Oxford, 369 pp., £23.49, January 2015, 978 0 19 539547 1
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... supporting institutions, including the World Bank and the IMF. Over the cries of Wall Street banks, which demanded a much less constricting set of controls and were privately exploring the idea of lending Europeans reconstruction funds, the Truman administration embarked on a programme dedicated to economic stability. The reconstruction of Japan and ...

That was the year that was

Tariq Ali, 24 May 2018

... a political leader giving the audience a history lesson. In 1967 I went to North Vietnam for the Russell/Sartre war crimes tribunal. That experience seared me for life. Later I joined a team sent by Bertrand Russell to attend Régis Debray’s trial in Camiri as part of an effort to save his life. All this left a mark. But ...

On Complaining

Elif Batuman: How to Stay Sane, 20 November 2008

Philosophy in Turbulent Times: Canguilhem, Sartre, Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida 
by Elisabeth Roudinesco, translated by William McCuaig.
Columbia, 184 pp., £15.50, November 2008, 978 0 231 14300 4
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... And Wittgenstein wrote the 80-page Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, his revolutionary critique of Russell and Frege, from the trenches of the First World War. It does nothing to belittle the achievements of Cavaillès and Wittgenstein to observe that, if Sartre had been active during the Resistance, he wouldn’t have managed to publish an 850-page ...

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