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Really Very Exhilarating

R.W. Johnson: Macmillan and the Guardsmen, 7 October 2004

The Guardsmen: Harold Macmillan, Three Friends and the World They Made 
by Simon Ball.
HarperCollins, 456 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 00 257110 2
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... His idyll was brought to a thunderous halt by his father’s death, struck down by a cricket ball. Cranborne, for his part, was a Cecil. His grandfather, Lord Salisbury, had, while prime minister, made his son Jim (Cranborne’s father) a minister – a piece of nepotism no other family would have contemplated. Cranborne was a lazy, hopeless student at ...


Simon Kelner: Murdoch strikes again, 6 July 1995

... and, on the sideline, stood a four-year-old boy and his mother. The child picked up a rugby ball and disappeared to a neighbouring pitch. When he returned, his mother asked: ‘Did you play rugby?’ The boy nodded. She followed this up with the enquiry that was entirely natural to her. ‘Did you win?’ Rugby Union is not the most democratic of ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bo yakasha., 4 January 2001

... scientist’ as ‘romantic neurology’, but in the foreword to Synaesthesia, Simon Baron-Cohen says: this book will do much to educate the general public about the important but often overlooked point that we do not all experience this universe in the same way. For the most part, synaesthetes would not wish to be free of the synaesthesia ...

Entranced by the Factory

Simon Schaffer: Maxwell’s Demon, 29 April 1999

The Natural Philosophy of James Clerk Maxwell 
by P.M. Harman.
Cambridge, 232 pp., £35, April 1998, 0 521 56102 7
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... a famous diagram of this ether as a vast array of spinning gears separated by long strings of ball-bearings, a bit like Charles Babbage’s newfangled calculating engine on show in the College museum next door. He showed that the equations of such a complex array, suitably adjusted, were exactly the same as those of electromagnetism, and even managed to ...

Carry on up the Corner Flag

R.W. Johnson: The sociology of football, 24 July 2003

Ajax, the Dutch, the War: Football in Europe during the Second World War 
by Simon Kuper.
Orion, 244 pp., £14.99, January 2003, 0 7528 5149 7
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Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed and the Souring of British Football 
by Tom Bower.
Simon and Schuster, 342 pp., £17.99, February 2003, 9780743220798
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... Brought up Jewish and soccer-loving in the Netherlands, Simon Kuper has come to realise that he accepted too easily the myth of Dutch wartime heroism. The result is a long litany of hurt feelings, awkwardly transposed onto the world of soccer. He starts with a snapshot of interwar football, when international encounters were still few and English players enjoyed such unquestioned primacy that one German soccer writer referred to them as ‘a sort of Übermenschen ...


Julian Evans: What might Larbaud have thought?, 31 July 1997

... Yorker in 1957, shy, dreamy Art Longwood climbs a tree on a family picnic to retrieve his son’s ball – and carries on climbing: Up and up Art Longwood swarmed and shinned, And the leaves said yes to the questioning wind. What tiaras of gardens! What torrents of light! How accessible ether! How easy flight! His family circled the tree all day. Pauline ...

They both hated DLT

Andy Beckett: Radio 1, 15 April 1999

The Nation’s Favourite: The True Adventures of Radio 1 
by Simon Garfield.
Faber, 273 pp., £9.99, October 1998, 0 571 19435 4
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... were Radio 1 car stickers on Ford Sierras. There were conservatories being added to the strains of Simon Bates’s mid-morning show. There were big and tidy back gardens, on hot Saturdays, ringing with the amplified chuckle of Dave Lee Travis. I was 12 or 13. I’d stay in the car when my parents went to the garden centre, trying to get a better reception on ...

Short Cuts

John Sturrock: At the Test Match, 6 September 2001

... have lost, but invoked ever since, with the help of patriotic clips showing Botham launching the ball out of the ground, to try and take our minds off the fact that England have now lost to Australia in seven Ashes series on the trot. During future unsuccessful series, the producers will at least have Butcher’s innings to go with Botham’s. One very ...

Come here, Botham

Paul Foot, 9 October 1986

High, Wide and Handsome. Ian Botham: The Story of a Very Special Year 
by Frank Keating.
Collins, 218 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 00 218226 2
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... explained that the real problem was Botham’s bowling. Botham took a wicket with his first ball, another the next over, another soon after that. Then he scored an astonishing 59 not out in 32 balls. Before long, he was having a row with Somerset County Cricket Club Committee, which sacked his two friends Richards and Garner. The row seemed to inspire ...

The Planet That Wasn’t There

Thomas Jones: Phantom Planets, 19 January 2017

The Hunt for Vulcan: How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet and Deciphered the Universe 
by Thomas Levenson.
Head of Zeus, 229 pp., £7.99, August 2016, 978 1 78497 398 8
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... of the Colorado state line. James Craig Watson, the director of the Ann Arbor Observatory, and Simon Newcomb, from the Naval Observatory in Washington, were among those hoping to catch a first definitive glimpse of Vulcan, though others had other purposes: Thomas Edison wanted to test one of his inventions, an infrared measuring device he called a ...

Black Electricities

John Sutherland, 30 October 1997

The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle. Vol. XXV: January-December 1850 
edited by Clyde de L. Ryals and K.J. Fielding.
Duke, 364 pp., £52, September 1997, 0 8223 1986 1
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by Thomas Carlyle, edited by K.J. Fielding and Ian Campbell.
Oxford, 481 pp., £7.99, September 1997, 0 19 281748 5
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... Carlyle’s reputation was sunk long before the Nazis took him along to their Götterdämmerung. Simon Heffer gives a useful account of the ‘long and damaging fall from the pedestal’ in the first chapter of his 1995 Life of Carlyle. The extent of that fall can also be gauged in the acres of cheap Victorian editions still to be found in secondhand ...

The Great Accumulator

John Sturrock: W.G. Grace, 20 August 1998

W.G. Grace: A Life 
by Simon Rae.
Faber, 548 pp., £20, July 1998, 0 571 17855 3
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W.G.’s Birthday Party 
by David Kynaston.
Night Watchman, 154 pp., £13, May 1998, 0 9532360 0 5
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... demons of social class that money incubates, comes into Grace’s life-story at every turn, and Simon Rae’s new biography does well to start by recording that, where one of his grandfathers had been a butler, one of his sons became an admiral. This was a family promotion that turned on his own hugely newsworthy command of a game which, as it grew in scope ...

Baseball’s Loss

Geoffrey Hawthorn: The Unstoppable Hugo Chávez, 1 November 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope 
by Tariq Ali.
Verso, 244 pp., £14.99, November 2006, 9781844671021
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Democracy and Revolution: Latin America and Socialism Today 
by D.L. Raby.
Pluto, 280 pp., £18.99, July 2006, 0 7453 2436 3
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Venezuela: Hugo Chavez’s Revolution, Latin America Report No. 19 
by International Crisis Group.
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... thought polite. When he passed, Chávez, instinctive politician that he is, at once flicked the ball on to the feet of the Hand of God. (He originally wanted to be a baseball player. Football is not his game.) What was important was that his largesse had secured the Copa for his country, thereby strengthening his popular appeal at home, enhancing his ...

Knucklehead Truman

Douglas Johnson, 2 June 1983

The Eisenhower Diaries 
edited by Robert Ferrell.
Norton, 445 pp., £15.25, April 1983, 0 393 01432 0
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The Life and Times of Joe McCarthy: A Biography 
by Thomas Reeves.
Blond and Briggs, 819 pp., £11.95, June 1983, 0 85634 131 2
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The past has another pattern 
by George Ball.
Norton, 544 pp., £14.95, September 1982, 0 393 01481 9
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Torn Lace Curtain 
by Frank Saunders and James Southwood.
Sidgwick, 361 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 283 98946 7
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The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power 
by Robert Caro.
Collins, 882 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 00 217062 0
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The Politician: The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson 
by Ronnie Dugger.
Norton, 514 pp., £13.25, September 1982, 9780393015980
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Years of Upheaval 
by Henry Kissinger.
Weidenfeld/Joseph, 1312 pp., £15.95, March 1982, 0 7181 2115 5
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Richard Nixon: The Shaping of his Character 
by Fawn Brodie.
Norton, 574 pp., £14.95, October 1982, 0 393 01467 3
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Haig: The General’s Progress 
by Roger Morris.
Robson, 458 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 9780860511885
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Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President 
by Jimmy Carter.
Collins, 622 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 00 216648 8
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Crisis: The Last Year of the Carter Presidency 
by Hamilton Jordan.
Joseph, 431 pp., £12.95, November 1982, 0 7181 2248 8
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Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser 1977-81 
by Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Weidenfeld, 587 pp., £15, April 1983, 0 297 78220 7
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... this is in comparison with the clichéridden public pronouncements he was given to making: George Ball, who twice campaigned against him, has written of ‘a plodding fivestar general uttering pedestrian language written by some journalistic hack with all the grace of a gun-carriage being hauled across cobblestones’. It appears from the diaries that ...


John Lanchester, 21 November 2019

... himself isn’t like that: he’s much more feline. The actor who catches this side of him is Simon McBurney in The Loudest Voice in the Room, the dramatisation of Gabriel Sherman’s book about Fox News. The Loudest Voice is the best depiction to date of how systematised, institutionalised sexual harassment works (and is recommended even to, or perhaps ...

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