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19 June 1980
The Bretheren: Inside the Supreme Court 
by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong.
Secker, 467 pp., £7.95, March 1980, 0 436 58122 1
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... many Justices have said that they come to regard clerks as sons and daughters – and is in every case supposed to be based on confidentiality. Woodward (the famous hero of Watergate journalism) and Armstrong, his colleague at the Washington Post, apparently succeeded in shattering that confidentiality, for most of their ‘inside stories’ (if true) come from among the 170 former clerks they say they ...

What did you expect?

Steven Shapin: The banality of moon-talk

1 September 2005
Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth 
by Andrew Smith.
Bloomsbury, 308 pp., £17.99, April 2005, 0 7475 6368 3
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... The precipitating cause is a televised fight between the first two astronauts to land on the Moon about who gets to go back home on a damaged lunar ascent module that can carry only one. Astronaut Scott shoves Astronaut Oates off the steps of the module – ‘I am going up now. I may be gone for some time’ – and blasts off. For Dorothy, this is the end of all romance (‘Goodbye spoony Juney ...

Pop your own abscess

Rory Scothorne: Definitions of Poverty

22 February 2018
The New Poverty 
by Stephen Armstrong.
Verso, 242 pp., £12.99, October 2017, 978 1 78663 463 4
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Poverty Safari 
by Darren McGarvey.
Luath, 244 pp., £7.99, November 2017, 978 1 912147 03 8
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... feel’ dental clinic that had been set up in Dewsbury with the support of DentAid, an international NGO. DentAid’s UK operations began in 2015, providing a charitable alternative to what Stephen Armstrong calls ‘DIY Dentistry’. In a chapter that’s almost impossible to read without flinching, Armstrong tells story after story of individuals forced by the scarcity of public services and the cost ...
24 March 1994
Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Poetics and Politics 
by Isobel Armstrong.
Routledge, 545 pp., £35, October 1993, 0 415 03016 1
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The Woman Reader: 1837-1914 
by Kate Flint.
Oxford, 366 pp., £25, October 1993, 0 19 811719 1
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... individual studies of note, nothing like the feminist affinity for the novel or the deconstructive fascination with the Romantics has brought the Victorian poets back into critical fashion. Isobel Armstrong’s Victorian Poetry represents a massive attempt to alter the balance. The break between the Victorians and the Modernists, Armstrong contends, is largely an illusion, a fiction constructed by the ...

Operation Backfire

Francis Spufford: Britain’s space programme

28 October 1999
... produced it. But it was a genuine breakthrough in harnessing destructive chemistry to deliberate ends. All the British rocketmen talk of the pleasure of working with very high levels of energy. John Scott-Scott was a hydrodynamicist at Armstrong Siddeley Rocket Motors at Ansty near Rugby, who worked on conventional turbine engines before switching to rockets. He invented a turbo-pump incorporating a ...


Karl Miller: Football Tribes

1 June 1989
... Force was the only answer’ to the troubles, says Fraser, while also a stimulus to fresh troubles – until the time came for a genocidal pacification, ordered by none other than James I, and Armstrong said his last good night. Nationality counted for very little, compared with family. Perpetually at feud among themselves, a community of predator victims straddled the frontier, as did a population ...
24 January 2019
...  the White House counsel who testified in public about the presidential cover-up. Unlike Cox, ‘we didn’t have an intelligence insider.’ The Washington press corps was equally in the dark. ScottArmstrong, a Washington journalist who spent years researching US policy on Iran, recalled a pleasant lunch he had long after the Iran-Contra inquiry with Don Gregg, Bush’s national security ...


James Wood

8 December 1994
Shadow Dance 
by Angela Carter.
Virago, 182 pp., £9.99, September 1994, 1 85381 840 2
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Flesh and the Mirror: Essays on the Art of Angela Carter 
edited by Lorna Sage.
Virago, 358 pp., £8.99, September 1994, 1 85381 760 0
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... of course. But this dissolves into the texture of the novel itself, which is intensely histrionic: ‘smiling her tremulous, shy, disingenuous smile and saying Halloo with the dying fall of an F. Scott Fitzgerald chick spinning giddily to hell’. Carter establishes her dirty atmospherics with superb swiftness and confidence – some extravagant and dangerous players, a seedy Gothic neighbourhood ...


Tam Dalyell: The Belgrano Affair

7 February 1985
... be wasting his time floundering around in the dark, and would be vulnerable to being made an ass of. In essence, what one deep throat told me was this ... Towards the end of December 1983, Sir Robert Armstrong, as Secretary of the Cabinet, set up an inquiry into leaks, relating, inter alia, to GCHQ Cheltenham and Belgrano matters. Various people were checked out, either known or unbeknown to themselves. In ...
4 July 2013
Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of ‘The Great Gatsby’ 
by Sarah Churchwell.
Virago, 306 pp., £16.99, June 2013, 978 1 84408 766 2
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The Great Gatsby 
directed by Baz Luhrmann.
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... Preposterous dreams can seem reasonable when you’re young. ‘I want to be one of the greatest writers who have ever lived,’ Scott Fitzgerald said to his friend Edmund Wilson when they were just out of college, ‘don’t you?’ Wilson was the son of a lawyer, a bit chilly, a prodigious reader steeped in Plato and Dante. He ...

Pseud’s Corner

John Sutherland

17 July 1980
by Dan Kavanagh.
Cape, 181 pp., £4.95, July 1980, 0 224 01822 1
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Moscow Gold 
by John Salisbury.
Futura, 320 pp., £1.10, March 1980, 0 7088 1702 5
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The Middle Ground 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 297 77808 0
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The Boy Who Followed Ripley 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 292 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 434 33520 7
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... richly exploited. Ever since its rise the novel has flirted with authorial anonymity and pseudonymity. Great unknowns, pen names and spoof attributions figure centrally in the genre’s history, from Scott, to George Eliot, to Kilgore Trout. According to the massive, nine-volume Dictionary of Anonymous and Pseudonymous English Literature there are, largely speaking, only three reasons for masked ...


Fredric Jameson

8 November 2018
My Struggle: Book 6. The End 
by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated by Martin Aitken and Don Bartlett.
Harvill Secker, 1153 pp., £25, August 2018, 978 1 84655 829 0
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... His death. I always did whenever I read biographies. Because of course they all die. Thomas Alva Edison. Henry Ford. Benjamin Franklin. Marie Curie. Florence Nightingale. Winston Churchill. Louis Armstrong. Theodore Roosevelt.’ ‘You read Theodore Roosevelt’s biography when you were a kid?’ ‘I did, yes. There was a series. About twenty of them, I suppose. One on each. Most were about ...


Benjamin Markovits: What It Takes to Win at Sport

7 November 2013
... man behind Britain’s eight gold medals in cycling at London 2012 and the Tour de France victories of Wiggins and Froome – studied sports science and psychology before doing an MBA. When the Lance Armstrong story broke, Brailsford was worried about the possible implications for Team Sky, which had adopted a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to drug cheats. So he called his friend Alastair Campbell for ...

Iraq, 2 May 2005

Andrew O’Hagan: Two Soldiers

6 March 2008
... family, ‘and they’re treated like gods in certain schools.’ The photograph accompanying the article is of a tousle-haired, clean-limbed and smiling John Spahr, looking like a tragic hero out of Scott Fitzgerald. Why does one of the very best scholastic rowers in the United States go to school in North Philadelphia – when he lives in Cherry Hill? ‘It was just word of mouth,’ said John Spahr ...

His Bonnet Akimbo

Patrick Wright: Hamish Henderson

3 November 2011
Hamish Henderson: A Biography. Vol. I: The Making of the Poet (1919-53) 
by Timothy Neat.
Polygon, 416 pp., £14.99, May 2009, 978 1 84697 132 7
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Hamish Henderson: A Biography. Vol. II: Poetry Becomes People (1954-2002) 
by Timothy Neat.
Polygon, 395 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 1 84697 063 4
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... conflict that could be settled only by the total defeat of one side. Henderson also found himself a home of sorts in Dry Drayton, a fenland village north-west of Cambridge. His host was Canon Allan Armstrong, a Church of Ireland priest and a socialist who had been driven overseas by the IRA and kept an open house in the rambling Georgian rectory – ‘shabby, genteel and sublime’, as Neat describes it ...

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