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Beebology

Stefan Collini: What next for the BBC?, 21 April 2022

The BBC: A People’s History 
by David Hendy.
Profile, 638 pp., £25, January, 978 1 78125 525 4
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This Is the BBC: Entertaining the Nation, Speaking for Britain? 1922-2022 
by Simon J. Potter.
Oxford, 288 pp., £20, April, 978 0 19 289852 4
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... detail and anecdotes, shrewd in its assessment of personalities, light on socioeconomic change. Simon Potter’s is more academic and astringent. Potter tends to be critical where Hendy is indulgent, but Hendy’s volume is more fun, while Potter’s occasionally dips into ...

Learned Insane

Simon Schaffer: The Lunar Men, 17 April 2003

The Lunar Men: The Friends who Made the Future 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 588 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 571 19647 0
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... which her book is ornamented. Charles Darwin’s maternal grandfather was Josiah Wedgwood, master potter and aggressive manufacturer, and like Erasmus Darwin a member of the Society which gives this book its title. These ‘learned insane’, meeting each full moon, were much concerned with tending the fragile light of progress. Always keen on problems of ...

‘I worry a bit, Joanne’

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘The Casual Vacancy’, 25 October 2012

The Casual Vacancy 
by J.K. Rowling.
Little, Brown, 503 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 4087 0420 2
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... The Casual Vacancy is as much an event as a novel – J.K. Rowling’s first book for adults! – but only the novel aspect can be reviewed. Incidental atmospherics don’t come into it – an astronomer trying to establish the composition of a comet will try to look beyond the streak it makes in the sky. On one level, nothing could be more natural than that a successful writer should try something new ...

Diary

Tobias Jones: Campaigning at the Ministry of Sound, 6 March 1997

... Parliamentary Candidates into the strobes, to question, canvass and press the sweaty flesh. Simon Hughes of the Liberal Democrats, the local MP for Southwark and Bermondsey, regularly boasts of his clubbing credentials, gasping for credibility each time he does so. This combination of the carefree and the caring may not be Utopian, but it’s full of ...

At Tate Britain

Brian Dillon: ‘Phantom Ride’, 4 July 2013

... Simon Starling’s film installation Phantom Ride, commissioned by Tate Britain for its vast Duveen Galleries, takes its title from a cinematic fad of the early 1900s. Cameras and cameramen were hitched to the buffers of trains, and latterly trams, and filmed the track and scenery as they hurtled along. An early phantom ride was typically a single shot, just a few minutes long, which might, if you visited Hale’s Tours of the World (established on Oxford Street in 1906), have had its speeding colonial vistas enhanced with railway whistles, hissing steam and even shaking benches ...

Voldemort or Stalin?

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Shostakovich, 1 December 2011

Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen Quartets 
by Wendy Lesser.
Yale, 350 pp., £18.99, April 2011, 978 0 300 16933 1
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Shostakovich in Dialogue: Form, Imagery and Ideas in Quartets 1-7 
by Judith Kuhn.
Ashgate, 296 pp., £65, February 2010, 978 0 7546 6406 2
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... music accordingly, others – including the big guns of Western studies of Soviet music, Taruskin, Simon Morrison and Laurel Fay – trying to clear away the emotional-political undergrowth. The problem is aggravated by the fact that the autobiographical subtext is often so vivid for performers as well as listeners. The Emerson String Quartet found the ...

Tall Storeys

Patrick Parrinder, 10 December 1987

Life: A User’s Manual 
by Georges Perec, translated by David Bellos.
Collins Harvill, 581 pp., £15, October 1987, 0 00 271463 9
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The New York Trilogy: City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 314 pp., £10.95, November 1987, 0 571 14925 1
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... Like Hoyle and Stephen Potter, Georges Perec was a devotee of indoor games. La Vie Mode d’Emploi (1978), a title combining lifemanship, gamesmanship and one-upmanship, was the monumental creation of an author whose other productions included a treatise on Go (the Japanese board-game) and a weekly crossword for the magazine Le Point ...

The Right to Protest

Rosa Curling, 9 May 2019

... Rich Loizou, a teacher from Devon, climbed onto the cab of the final lorry. At around 3 p.m. Simon Blevins, a soil scientist from Sheffield, managed to climb onto another lorry. Fellow protesters threw blankets, food and water up to the men, who remained on the lorries for four days. The three men did not attach themselves to the lorries, but their ...

Flat-Nose, Stocky and Beautugly

James Davidson: Greek Names, 23 September 2010

A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Vol. V.A Coastal Asia Minor: Pontos to Ionia 
edited by T. Corsten.
Oxford, 496 pp., £125, March 2010, 978 0 19 956743 0
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... day at primary school I was surrounded by boys with what I still think of as normal classic names: Simon, Mark, Peter, Andrew, Paul, Martin, Michael, Stephen, Richard, Robert, David. Girls’ names remained more modish: some Sarahs, Anns and Elizabeths and even some residual Marys, but also plenty of Janets, Jackies, Lisas and Debbies, who soared and plummeted ...

swete lavender

Thomas Jones: Molesworth, 17 February 2000

Molesworth 
by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle.
Penguin, 406 pp., £8.99, October 1999, 0 14 118240 7
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... died in 1958, at the age of 47), Back in the Jug Agane (1959). Unlike his 1990s successor, Harry Potter – the name of Potter’s school, ‘Hogwarts’, is surely derived from ‘The Hogwarts’, a Latin play by Marcus Plautus Molesworthus – Molesworth does not have adventures; instead he daydreams, ruminates and ...

Their Way

José Harris: On the Origin of Altruism, 12 March 2009

The Invention of Altruism: Making Moral Meanings in Victorian Britain 
by Thomas Dixon.
British Academy, 420 pp., £60, May 2008, 978 0 19 726426 3
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... inspiration at least as much from the ‘positivist’ legacy of Comte (and his mentor Saint-Simon) as from the more obvious influences of either democratic socialism or Soviet-style Marxism. Some of the most prominent social planners of those years, such as William Beveridge and Barbara Wootton in Britain, Pierre Laroque and Francis Netter in ...

Diary

Colin Robinson: Publishing’s Demise, 26 February 2009

... were able to discount major titles, taking business away from smaller shops. A 608-page Harry Potter could be bought at Asda for a fiver. As the market share of Waterstone’s, Amazon and the supermarkets grew on the back of three-for-two offers and substantial price-cutting, many independent bookshops went out of business. The US didn’t have a Net Book ...

Diary

Will Self: Walking out of London, 20 October 2011

... peregrination to Oxford; my final airport walk, a curious hop, skip and limp from the late J.G. Ballard’s house in Shepperton to Heathrow Airport, where I enplaned for Dubai. In Dubai I dragged myself for two days across the overcooked city and then into the baking Empty Quarter, all the way dogged by a mounting depression. It seemed to me that in ...

My Castaway This Week

Miranda Carter: Desert Island Dreams, 9 June 2022

... murder, the actor Stephen Graham on his suicide attempt, Maya Angelou on childhood trauma, Simon Cowell boasting, Alfred Wainwright on his last walk in the Lakes as his eyes failed (‘the mountains wept for me that day’) and Tom Hanks moved to tears discussing his lonely childhood. Plomley would have been horrified by such emotional outpourings. He ...

My Old, Sweet, Darling Mob

Iain Sinclair: Michael Moorcock, 30 November 2000

King of the City 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 421 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 684 86140 2
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Mother London 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 496 pp., £6.99, May 2000, 0 684 86141 0
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... and rearranging co-ordinates until the city conforms to his reading of it. No longer able to potter out into Notting Hill to check on some detail, he is in the position that Robin Cook found himself in when, working in a vineyard in the South of France, he decided to reinvent himself as ‘Derek Raymond’. Raymond’s late London novels are pure wish ...

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