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When the Costume Comes Off

Adam Mars-Jones: Philip Hensher, 14 April 2011

King of the Badgers 
by Philip Hensher.
Fourth Estate, 436 pp., £18.99, March 2011, 978 0 00 730133 1
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... hallway. Mr Lovell returned from his GP’s practice in Barnstaple and dropped his clothes in the hall; Mrs Lovell, abundantly fleshy, would come from the garden to meet him, wriggling out of skirt and blouse as she came. Tonight, the little squeaks of joy came with treble clusters of tintinnabulating piano chords … They were doing it in the dining-room, on ...

Diary

Ian Aitken: Closing Time at the Last Chance Saloon, 6 August 1992

... that its purpose (apart from making money) is to do down the Labour Party. I have no idea whether Simon Jenkins, the Time’s highly civilised editor, whose resignation precipitated the offer to Mr Dacre, really did intend to quit after two or three years, as he says he did. Nor do I know whether his departure was as amicable as he and his employers ...

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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... that he specialised in giving to his characters. In the seven novels he produced between Headlong Hall (1815) and Gryll Grange (1860), names are rarely hard to decode. Anyside Antijack is a time-serving Tory politician; Cephalis Cranium, a phrenologist’s brainy daughter; the Revd Mr Grovelgrub, a sycophantic tutor; Dr Harry Killquick, a hit-or-miss ...

An Easy Lay

James Davidson: Greek tragedy, 30 September 1999

Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy 
edited by Simon Goldhill and Robin Osborne.
Cambridge, 417 pp., £45, June 1997, 0 521 64247 7
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The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy 
edited by P.E. Easterling.
Cambridge, 410 pp., £14.95, October 1997, 0 521 42351 1
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Tragedy in Athens: Performance Space and Theatrical Meaning 
by David Wiles.
Cambridge, 130 pp., £13.95, August 1999, 0 521 66615 5
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... contrasts strikingly with the passionate emotion of her songs.’ It’s most peculiar, as Edith Hall notes in Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy, that modern translations do not generally mark which parts of a tragedy were spoken and which were sung, although there is some difficulty, as Easterling admits in a footnote, over anapaests (often ...

Sorcerer’s Apprentice

E.S. Turner, 19 December 1991

Alistair MacLean 
by Jack Webster.
Chapmans, 326 pp., £18, November 1991, 1 85592 519 2
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Alistair MacLean’s Time of the Assassins 
by Alastair MacNeill.
HarperCollins, 288 pp., £14.99, December 1991, 0 00 223816 0
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... been turned into novels by John Denis; and a third screenplay is undergoing similar treatment by Simon Gandolfi. In this curious world there are occasional legal hiccups. One such, not so much a hiccup as a cardiac arrest, recently befell HarperCollins when they were prosecuted and heavily fined at the insistence of Warwickshire trading standards ...

‘They got egg on their faces’

Leofranc Holford-Strevens: The Oxford English Dictionary, 20 November 2003

The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary 
by Simon Winchester.
Oxford, 260 pp., £12.99, October 2003, 0 19 860702 4
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... of Parliament, I must declare an interest: I am employed by the publisher of both the OED and Simon Winchester’s account of its genesis. However, I have had no involvement with the latter, whose author’s qualities are well known to readers of his previous books, most relevantly The Surgeon of Crowthorne, and little with the former, which hardly needs ...

Positively Spaced Out

Rosemary Hill: ‘The Building of England’, 6 September 2001

The Buildings of England: A Celebration Compiled to Mark 50 Years of the Pevsner Architectural Guides 
edited by Simon Bradley and Bridget Cherry.
Penguin Collectors’ Society, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2001, 0 9527401 3 3
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... Pevsner’s is more difficult than it looks. It defeats A.N. Wilson in Who Was Oswald Fish?, as Simon Bradley points out in a wide-ranging essay on ‘Pevsner in Fiction, Theatre and Cinema’. Imitation even of the most laconic entries is difficult. Only Alan Hollinghurst, among Bradley’s examples, gets it nearly right. But Pevsner was if not an ...
The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age 
by Simon Schama.
Collins, 698 pp., £19.95, September 1987, 9780002178013
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... pendulum seems to be swinging back to narrative, it is encouraging to find a scholar as gifted as Simon Schama moving in the opposite direction. His first book, Patriots and Liberators, published in 1977, told the story of a major episode in Dutch political history, the revolution of the late 18th century, in a fluent narrative divided into 12 chronological ...

Diary

Fiona Pitt-Kethley: The Ravine, 20 May 2004

... cast of characters including three skeletons, 15 aardvarks, Quasimodo, Vinnie the Venus Fly Trap, Simon the Sundew and Pete the Pitcher plant. In my story, an old sofa that had been dumped beneath a tree became the aardvarks’ bed. The sofa has now been taken away by the police for DNA samples. I shall never tell a ravine story again. Housing estates have ...

All change. This train is cancelled

Iain Sinclair: The Dome, 13 May 1999

... of poisoned land, a couple of miles to the east of the Royal Naval College (film set, banqueting hall for hire, weddings a speciality), that is being prepared for its tent-show apocalypse, has never previously been part of the Greenwich story. The peninsula, if you check it out on a 19th-century map, is a vestigial tail, a pre-amputation stump known as ...

The Killing of Blair Peach

David Renton, 22 May 2014

... showed around twenty NF supporters, all men, giving Nazi salutes as they went into Southall Town Hall. Southall was one of the most racially diverse areas in London: in five wards surveyed in 1976, 46 per cent of the population had been born in the New Commonwealth. The National Front’s candidate, John Fairhurst, had stood in nearby Hayes and Harlington in ...

Last Leader

Neal Ascherson, 7 June 1984

Citizen Ken 
by John Carvel.
Chatto, 240 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 7011 3929 3
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... way ... The hunter-gatherer is what humanity is.’ So far, so Fourier, or Rousseau or St-Simon. The most interesting question about state-of-nature utopian thinkers is where they insert the Fall and what they consider to have played the serpent. Ken Livingstone has no doubts. It was the introduction of agriculture, the Neolithic revolution ‘twenty ...

Bringing Down Chunks of the Ceiling

Andy Beckett: Manchester, England: The Story of the Pop Cult City by Dave Haslam, 17 February 2000

Manchester, England: The Story of the Pop Cult City 
by Dave Haslam.
Fourth Estate, 319 pp., £12.99, September 1999, 1 84115 145 9
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... these halls.’ Precisely who went in mystified them, too; when a stampede at Ben Lang’s music hall killed 23 people in 1868, the victims were described as ‘street Arabs’. Local rumour muttered about prostitutes and criminals. A cycle had been established in which a craze or subculture would emerge, swell to bursting point, and alarm the city ...

Bus Lane Strategy

Tristram Hunt: London Governments, 31 October 2002

Governing London 
by Ben Pimlott and Nirmala Rao.
Oxford, 208 pp., £15.99, May 2002, 0 19 924492 8
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... battle in which the main winners were advertising executives, Margaret Thatcher closed down County Hall. The GLC’s functions were privatised, and London was represented in government by a succession of ministers with no particular interest in the city. During the mid-1990s, New Labour announced its intention to devolve power from Whitehall and, once ...

Blood on the Block

Maurice Keen: Henry IV, 5 June 2008

The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England’s Self-Made King 
by Ian Mortimer.
Vintage, 480 pp., £8.99, July 2008, 978 1 84413 529 5
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... to supplant the king. On 30 September, before the assembled lords and commons in Westminster Hall, he claimed the throne, which Richard had abdicated the day before, as the true heir ‘descended by right line of the blood coming from the good lord King Henry the Third’. On 13 October he was crowned king. The son of John of Gaunt, Edward III’s third ...

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