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Exercises and Excesses

Frank Kermode: Kazuo Ishiguro, 14 May 2009

Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall 
by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Faber, 221 pp., £14.99, May 2009, 978 0 571 24498 0
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... recordings, and to favourite singers, some fictional and some historical, such as Ray Charles or Sarah Vaughan. Much of the action takes place at night, or in darkness. A more substantial recurrent theme is that of threatened or collapsing marriages or relationships, some of which are sad and some heartlessly funny. Much of the pleasure of the reader ...

On Roy DeCarava

Gazelle Mba, 7 April 2022

... the already famous: jazz musicians like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, Jimmy Scott’s hands. Sarah Vaughan turns and flashes a smile at the camera; Ornette Coleman looks mean and impressive. But there are also the photos of the unknown and unnamed: a garment worker tugging a covered cart, three men pushing heavy hand trucks on a busy street. The ...

Incapable of Sustaining Weeds

Tom Stevenson: What happened in Tigray, 25 January 2024

Understanding Ethiopia’s Tigray War 
by Martin Plaut and Sarah Vaughan.
Hurst, 459 pp., £25, February 2023, 978 1 78738 811 6
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... of how and why the war broke out goes far beyond the events of a few days in early November 2020. Sarah Vaughan and Martin Plaut’s book represents the first serious attempt at an account of the conflict. They show that the war, which is mostly described in the later chapters written by Plaut, can’t be explained without an account of Ethiopia’s ...

You don’t mean dick to me

Lidija Haas: Amy Winehouse, 16 July 2015

... against a vast, inhospitable landscape; one aberrance in the form of a Hollywood thriller starring Sarah Michelle Gellar; and Senna (2010), a documentary about the Formula One driver pieced together from 15,000 hours of archival footage. As Kapadia told the New York Times, there are few people about whom you could make a film like Senna, because he was so ...

Steamy, Seamy

David Margolick: The Mob’s Cuban Kleptocracy, 20 March 2008

The Havana Mob: Gangsters, Gamblers, Showgirls and Revolutionaries in 1950s Cuba 
by T.J. English.
Mainstream, 400 pp., £17.99, September 2007, 978 1 84596 192 3
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... not the only American celebrity on the Havana scene: Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Eartha Kitt, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Johnny Mathis performed in its nightclubs. George Raft practically moved in. The Cuban kleptocracy was too good to be true, and too good to last. And the seeds of its undoing sprouted at the same time as all the hotels and ...

Peter Conrad’s Flight from Precision

Richard Poirier, 17 July 1980

Imagining America 
by Peter Conrad.
Routledge, 319 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7100 0370 6
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... and emotionally unbalanced,’ it only means that you have never heard of Louis Armstrong or Sarah Vaughan or any other jazz musician? To whom can the blundering and blustering juvenility of this performance be addressed? Not to anyone who knows anything, and not, God forbid, to anyone who ...


Andrew O’Hagan: Julian Assange, 6 March 2014

... I arrived at Ellingham Hall Assange was fast asleep. He’d been living there, at the house of Vaughan Smith, one of his sureties and founder of the Frontline Club, since his arrest on Swedish rape allegations. He was effectively under house arrest and wearing an electronic tag on his leg. He would sign in at Beccles police station every afternoon, proving ...

Elegy for Gurney

Sarah Howe: Robert Edric, 4 December 2008

In Zodiac Light 
by Robert Edric.
Doubleday, 368 pp., £16.99, July 2008, 978 0 385 61258 6
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... a Gloucester tailor. He won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in 1911 and studied under Vaughan Williams, who recognised the genius of his early song-settings. Gurney’s mental instability was already apparent when war interrupted his studies. He served as a private in France and wrote his first volume of poems before being wounded, gassed and ...

A good God is hard to find

James Francken: Jenny Diski, 4 January 2001

Only Human: A Divine Comedy 
by Jenny Diski.
Virago, 215 pp., £15.99, October 2000, 1 86049 839 6
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... Only Human rattles through the lives of Adam, Cain and Noah and retells the story of Abraham and Sarah. But the omniscient third-person narrative is interrupted; the novel’s central character is God and Diski lets her deity have a point of view. In extended monologues, God looks down on the world, judging the ‘happy, human family’: ‘What ...

The Health Transformation Army

James Meek: What can the WHO do?, 2 July 2020

... he found China’s coronavirus campaign congenial. The Health Transformation Army, I was told by Sarah Vaughan, who came to know Tedros in the course of thirty years’ research in Ethiopia, ‘was basically a kind of health extension programme using women through a classic party cell mobilisation system, a one to five system, where one woman would have ...

Into Apathy

Neil McKendrick, 21 August 1980

The Wedgwood Circle, 1730-1897 
by Barbara Wedgwood and Hensleigh Wedgwood.
Studio Vista, 386 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 289 70892 3
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... strange for so rarely seeing the light of day. In such little explored shadowy corners we find Sarah Wedgwood, the last surviving daughter of Josiah and Sally, living alone. Sarah was tall, thin, solemn and sad, but above all remarkably fastidious. She was so fastidious that she kept special pairs of gloves for ...

Wordsworth’s Crisis

E.P. Thompson, 8 December 1988

Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years 
by Nicholas Roe.
Oxford, 306 pp., £27.50, March 1988, 0 19 812868 1
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... intelligentsia: William Frend, George Dyer, John Thelwall, Basil Montagu, John Tweddell, Felix Vaughan, James Losh, Joseph Fawcett. Roe’s research has been strenuous, his attention to detail earnest, and his book will be useful. But it will not be quite as useful as the book which he intended to write, which would have brought poetic text and historical ...

Chop, Chop, Chop

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘Grief Is the Thing with Feathers’, 21 January 2016

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers 
by Max Porter.
Faber, 114 pp., £10, September 2015, 978 0 571 32376 0
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... exist at the same moment, even in the case of those who have chosen to die, like the painter Keith Vaughan in 1977, who continued to write his journal after taking the overdose: I am ready for death though I fear it. Of course the whole thing may not work and I shall wake up. I don’t really mind either way. Once the decision seems inevitable the courage ...

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