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Close Relations

T.H. Barrett: Tibet and the Dalai Lama, 2 April 1998

The Buddha of Brewer Street 
by Michael Dobbs.
HarperCollins, 288 pp., £16.99, January 1998, 0 00 225412 3
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The Book of Tibetan Elders: Life Stories and Wisdom from the Great Spiritual Masters of Tibet 
by Sandy Johnson.
Constable, 282 pp., £17.95, February 1997, 0 09 476950 8
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The Art of Tibet 
by Robert Fisher.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £7.95, November 1997, 0 500 20308 3
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Tibetan Nation: A History of Tibetan Nationalism and Sino-Tibetan Relations 
by Warren Smith Jr..
Westview, 732 pp., £59.50, December 1996, 0 8133 3155 2
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The Way to Freedom 
by His Holiness The Dalai Lama.
Thorsons, 181 pp., £7.99, February 1997, 0 00 220043 0
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Awakening the Mind, Lightening the Heart 
by His Holiness The Dalai Lama.
Thorsons, 238 pp., £8.99, February 1997, 0 00 220045 7
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Kundun: A Biography of the Family of the Dalai Lama 
by Mary Craig.
HarperCollins, 392 pp., £17.99, May 1997, 0 00 627838 8
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... ever likely to fall on the matter of Tibet, for reasons which become clear from a reading of Sandy Johnson’s work. She presents a remarkable picture of a diaspora driven from its homeland whom one might expect to become the Parsees of the next millennium, using the close-knit ties of religious distinctiveness to concentrate on economic ...

Memories of the Sausage Fly

William Boyd, 7 July 1983

... The ant-lion builds its traps in sandy soil. It fashions – somehow – a geometrically perfect inverted cone. At the tip of the cone the ant-lion lurks, buried and invisible, waiting for any small insect to tumble in. When this occurs, the ant-lion at first makes no move. The walls of the cone are so smooth, the sand-grains they are composed of so fine, that only the largest insects can gain any purchase ...

Boswell’s Bowels

Neal Ascherson, 20 December 1984

James Boswell: The Later Years 1769-1795 
by Frank Brady.
Heinemann, 609 pp., £20, November 1984, 0 434 08530 8
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... James Boswell created the ‘Age of Johnson’, rescuing the late 18th century, above all, for the Victorians. The Boswell industry at Yale University has given an ‘Age of Boswell’ to the 20th century. This second volume of the grand Frederick Pottle-Frank Brady biography marks the climax of that long achievement ...

In America’s Blood

Deborah Friedell, 24 September 2020

The NRA: The Unauthorised History 
by Frank Smyth.
Flatiron, 295 pp., $28.99, March 2020, 978 1 250 21028 9
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... with a gun.’ In 2012, after 26 people (twenty of them six and seven-year-olds) were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, he suggested that every school in America should have ‘an extraordinary corps’ of armed citizens patrolling the halls. After all, Obama’s daughters were protected with guns: ‘Are the president’s kids more important than ...

Fine Women

Neil Rennie, 6 July 1989

The Pacific since Magellan. Vol. III: Paradise Found and Lost 
by O.H.K. Spate.
Routledge, 410 pp., £40, January 1989, 0 415 02565 6
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Captain Bligh: The Man and his Mutinies 
by Gavin Kennedy.
Duckworth, 321 pp., £14.95, April 1989, 0 7156 2231 5
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The Sublime Savage: James Macpherson and the Poems of Ossian 
by Fiona Stafford.
Edinburgh, 208 pp., £22.50, November 1988, 0 85224 569 6
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... are the coconuts that floated or were carried across the ocean (studies are in print) to grow on sandy, salty atolls and feed the edible dogs, thatch the vegetable houses, bend in the inevitable cyclones, and grow, above all, into the symbol of ‘paradise’ sold. Here, too, are the islanders – classified, rather roughly, into three main ...

Saying yes

Rupert Wilkinson, 19 July 1984

... a winning campaign in every region of this country – from the snowy banks of Minnesota to the sandy plains of Georgia. We concede not a single state. We concede not a single vote.’ An important principle governing the acceptance speech as a whole is that it should identify the speaker with dynamic action and change yet offer reassurance and ...

The HPtFtU

Christopher Tayler: Francis Spufford, 6 October 2016

Golden Hill 
by Francis Spufford.
Faber, 344 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 0 571 22519 4
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... artificiality. After a 17-line opening sentence beginning ‘The brig Henrietta having made Sandy Hook a little before the dinner hour’, the novel establishes less mind-bending terms for the appropriate level of language. Eighteenth-century capitalisation practices – ‘It is a melancholy Reflection, that … I am imprison’d today, in gross ...

Abolish the CIA!

Chalmers Johnson: ‘A classic study of blowback’, 21 October 2004

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to 10 September 2001 
by Steve Coll.
Penguin, 695 pp., $29.95, June 2004, 1 59420 007 6
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... deeply uninterested in bin Laden and terrorism even though the outgoing national security adviser, Sandy Berger, warned Condoleezza Rice that it would be George W. Bush’s most serious foreign policy problem. On 6 August 2001, the CIA delivered its daily briefing to Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, with the headline ‘Bin Laden determined to strike in ...

The Frowniest Spot on Earth

Will Self: Life in the Aerotropolis, 28 April 2011

Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next 
by John Kasarda and Greg Lindsay.
Allen Lane, 480 pp., £14.99, March 2011, 978 1 84614 100 3
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... a professor at the University of North Carolina’s business school, may be a peculiar sort of Johnson, but Lindsay, a business journalist, is nonetheless his committed Boswell. A Boswell who, in search of his subject’s zeitgeist wisdom, once mounted a three-week exploration of ‘Airworld’ – as Kasarda calls it – by jetting from terminal to ...


Gillian Darley: James Stirling, 7 September 2000

Big Jim: The Life and Work of James Stirling 
by Mark Girouard.
Pimlico, 323 pp., £14, March 2000, 9780712664226
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... practice. The creation of James Stirling, world-class architect, the man who as much as Philip Johnson or Arata Isosaki invented the ‘signature building’ and who travelled the rewarding circuit of international big money prizes, lectures and juries from the 1960s onwards, is a very contemporary tale of celebrity and image, fame and fallibility. His ...

Mrs Thatcher’s Spengler

Tom Nairn, 24 January 1980

An Unfinished History of the World 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 700 pp., £12.50, November 1980, 0 241 10282 0
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... is granted time sufficient to revive the noblest political lineage of Europe, that of ‘Dr Johnson, Pitt the Younger, Burke, Benjamin Disraeli and Lord Salisbury’. Some other recent world-histories have taken a stand against Euro-centrism, notably William McNeill’s A World History (1971) and J.M. Roberts’s The Hutchinson History of the World ...


Alan Bennett: Selling my hair on eBay, 6 January 2022

... back pain, his sometimes disastrous women and his two marriages. I like the sound of his brother, Sandy, his mother and many of his boyhood friends, on whom he doesn’t turn his back. But it’s a fucking big book, which I actually fell over yesterday on my birthday.24 May. It occurs to me that the whole course of English history would have been changed had ...


Iain Sinclair: The Thames, 25 June 2009

Thames: Sacred River 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Vintage, 608 pp., £14.99, August 2008, 978 0 09 942255 6
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... North and South Circular roads, and given London a second orbital motorway, was aborted by Boris Johnson: it was too closely associated with the former mayor, Ken Livingstone. Thames Gateway is a geographical area and a philosophy for which Johnson has no enthusiasm. Boris champions the Eagle comic wheeze of an ...

How to Grow a Weetabix

James Meek: Farms and Farmers, 16 June 2016

... Agnew farms just over four hundred acres on two parcels of land a couple of miles apart on the sandy soil of north Norfolk, near the market town of Fakenham. Agnew’s is a mixed farm, with sheep and chickens as well as crops, but it’s a measure of how conditions have changed that in the 1970s, his acreage would have been ample for an arable farmer (that ...

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