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‘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 spell was written. The wizardry concerned is of the computer sort. A schoolboy called Andrew Price posts a defamatory statement about his hated father, Simon, on the website of Pagford Parish Council. Simon has put his name forward for election as a councillor, to replace the popular ...

The Mess They’re In

Ross McKibbin: Labour’s Limited Options, 20 October 2011

... responsibility for coalition policies; and the non-ministerial MPs, who include the deputy leader, Simon Hughes, and various spokespeople, and who often act as though the coalition doesn’t exist. Nick Clegg has been an ineffective leader: he made a mess of the negotiations that led to the formation of the coalition, and a mess of the AV referendum (from ...

Monopoly Mule

Anthony Howard, 25 January 1996

Plant Here the ‘Standard’ 
by Dennis Griffiths.
Macmillan, 417 pp., £35, November 1995, 0 333 55565 1
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... in the morning market. (Incidentally, it was the Standard that pioneered the Murdoch strategy of price-cutting by competitively bringing its price down to a penny in 1858.) Some awkward questions are raised even by this era of its history. There is ample evidence that the Standard was regularly in receipt of subventions ...

Like Colonel Sanders

Christopher Tayler: The Stan Lee Era, 2 December 2021

True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee 
by Abraham Riesman.
Bantam, 320 pp., £20, February, 978 0 593 13571 6
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Stan Lee: A Life in Comics 
by Liel Leibovitz.
Yale, 192 pp., £16.99, June 2020, 978 0 300 23034 5
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... to flood the market with similar titles. When Stanley joined the company as an assistant to Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1939, the first superhero craze was in full swing, and his bosses were about to launch Captain America, the most successful of several Nazi-punching heroes invented around that time. Comic books got cheaper postal rates if they included ...

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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... championing of the poor), and extended a placating patronage. In the mid-1980s, however, the price of oil fell, borrowings made against future revenue could not be repaid, the patronage dried up, and in February 1989, faced with rising prices imposed in an emergency agreement with the IMF, the poor came down from the barrios in Caracas to riot. Chávez ...


Simon Schaffer, 6 April 1995

Sir Hans Sloane: Collector, Scientist, Antiquary, Founding Father of the British Museum 
edited by Arthur MacGregor.
British Museum, 308 pp., £50, November 1994, 0 7141 2085 5
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... judged, because ‘no one would be so ridiculous as to bury their ivory teeth, which are of high price with all nations.’ Sloane’s ‘knick-knackatory’, as it was impiously called, was intimately connected with the emerging status of London as a world entrepôt. Mercantile credit and reputation were keys to public success, as much for Sloane’s ...

The Politics of Good Intentions

David Runciman: Blair’s Masochism, 8 May 2003

... get on with the task in hand, in the knowledge that dirty hands, and a soiled conscience, are the price that all politicians have to pay. Responsible politicians will suffer, but they should suffer in silence, because the test of politics is whether you can cope with the knowledge that you are not as good as you would like to be. How easy, though, is it to ...

Fallen Idols

David A. Bell, 23 July 1992

The Fabrication of Louis XIV 
by Peter Burke.
Yale, 242 pp., £19.95, May 1992, 0 300 05153 0
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... impossible. Seeing Versailles after reading accounts of the dreadful winter of 1709-10, when the price of bread rose tenfold or more, and millions stood on the brink of starvation while Louis pursued a ruinous war, puts one in mind of Tadeusz Borowski’s comment on the human price paid for the monuments of ...

The First Hundred Years

James Buchan, 24 August 1995

John Buchan: The Presbyterian Cavalier 
by Andrew Lownie.
Constable, 365 pp., £20, July 1995, 0 09 472500 4
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... The division of labour, whose language is money, helps us to prosperity and liberty but at the price of atomising our picture of the world. The labourer, Smith writes, is ‘not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment ...

The Only Way

Sam Kinchin-Smith: Culinary Mansplaining, 4 January 2018

... his excellent television programmes. But thanks to some of the cooks cited in his bibliography – Simon Hopkinson, say, whose Roast Chicken and Other Stories (Ebury, £16.99) is a founding text of contemporary cookbook-writing, or Fergus Henderson, whose St John restaurants trained many of London’s newish wave of serious chefs – and to his and Gill’s ...

The Imagined Market

Donald MacKenzie: Money Games, 31 October 2002

Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science 
by Philip Mirowski.
Cambridge, 670 pp., £24.95, February 2002, 0 521 77526 4
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... but not the obligation, to buy, or to sell, an asset – such as a block of shares – at a given price on, or up to, a given future date. It is an example of a ‘derivative’, an asset the value of which depends on the price of another, ‘underlying’, asset.) Over subsequent years, however, the fit between the ...

Prophet of the Rocks

Richard Fortey: William Smith, 9 August 2001

The Map that Changed the World: The Tale of William Smith and the Birth of a Science 
by Simon Winchester.
Viking, 338 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 0 670 88407 3
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... for many years – a period throughout which he laboured alone to be a true prophet of the rocks. Simon Winchester has done a considerable service to geology in rescuing Smith from comparative obscurity. It seems extraordinary that Darwin has had several dozen biographies and T.H. Huxley not so many fewer, yet Smith has been celebrated only by his nephew John ...

All the Cultural Bases

Ian Sansom, 20 March 1997

Moon Country: Further Reports from Iceland 
by Simon Armitage and Glyn Maxwell.
Faber, 160 pp., £7.99, November 1996, 0 571 17539 2
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... to a certain B. Mellor, who apparently bought the book in Blackwells, Oxford, in October 1937, price nine shillings. All in all, my Letters from Iceland is a sturdy and well-made object of considerable literary and historical interest, which has sustained numerous readings and spillages, while remaining in excellent condition. ...

Cures for Impotence

James Davidson, 19 October 1995

Foucault’s Virginity: Ancient Erotic Fiction and the History of Sexuality 
by Simon Goldhill.
Cambridge, 194 pp., £30, January 1995, 0 521 47372 1
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... challenge universalising notions of sexuality depends on universalising interpretations of sex. As Simon Goldhill shows in his subtle and complex new book, Foucault’s Virginity, antiquity was not immune to the argument from nature, although there it turns up in strange and unexpected guises that might not be familiar to modern sociobiologists. In a neglected ...


Hugh Pennington: Supermarkets, 18 November 2004

Shopped: The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets 
by Joanna Blythman.
Fourth Estate, 368 pp., £12.99, May 2004, 0 00 715803 3
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Not on the Label: What Really Goes into the Food on Your Plate 
by Felicity Lawrence.
Penguin, 272 pp., £7.99, May 2004, 0 14 101566 7
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Food Policy Old and New 
edited by Simon Maxwell and Rachel Slater.
Blackwell, 184 pp., £19.99, March 2004, 1 4051 2602 7
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... a Scottish option for maize, or an Orkney option for apples. But until the public turns away from price as the main determinant of food choice, it will not be possible for British farmers anywhere to make much more than a minor contribution. There have been some (mainly middle-class) marketing successes, such as organic food (most of which is imported), but ...

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