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John Ellis, 14 May 1992

Addressing Frank Kermode: Essays in Criticism and Interpretation 
edited by Margaret Tudeau-Clayton and Martin Warner.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £40, July 1991, 9780333531372
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The Poverty of Structuralism: Literature and Structuralist Theory 
by Leonard Jackson.
Longman, 317 pp., £24, July 1991, 0 582 06697 2
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Inconvenient Fictions: Literature and the Limits of Theory 
by Bernard Harrison.
Yale, 293 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 300 05057 7
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Reading Minds: The Study of English in the Age of Cognitive Science 
by Mark Turner.
Princeton, 298 pp., £18.99, January 1992, 0 691 06897 6
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Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics 
by Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson.
Stanford, 530 pp., $49.50, December 1990, 0 8047 1821 0
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... really understand it, and that its founder said what he plainly did say? The political theorist Stephen Holmes gives an interesting possible answer for the analogous case of anti-liberal political thought. At first, extreme claims are made, but under challenge there is a retreat to watered-down versions so ordinary that they can not be objected ...

The pleasure of not being there

Peter Brooks, 18 November 1993

Benjamin Constant: A Biography 
by Dennis Wood.
Routledge, 321 pp., £40, June 1993, 0 415 01937 0
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Isabelle de Charrière (Belle de Zuylen): A Biography 
by C.P Courtney.
Voltaire Foundation, 810 pp., £49, August 1993, 0 7294 0439 0
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... and theoretician of constitutional monarchy, but his liberalism is not so easily categorised, as Stephen Holmes noted in his fine Benjamin Constant and the Making of Modern Liberalism. It was, not simply a vision of the laissez-faire state guaranteeing the French bourgeoisie the right to get rich – as François Guizot was famously to propose ...

The Middling Sort

Alan Ryan, 25 May 1995

The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy 
by Christopher Lasch.
Norton, 276 pp., £16.95, March 1995, 0 393 03699 5
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... to partial failure at best, is as familiar a note in American social thinking as is boosterism. Stephen Holmes made a shrewd, unkind, point about the characteristic argumentative style of The True and Only Heaven. Lasch depicts liberalism as a creed that fails to satisfy the moral passions of its opponents, and says that if it has failed to satisfy ...

Gaslight and Fog

John Pemble: Sherlock Holmes, 26 January 2012

The Ascent of the Detective: Police Sleuths in Victorian and Edwardian England 
by Haia Shpayer-Makov.
Oxford, 429 pp., £30, September 2011, 978 0 19 957740 8
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... to jumble sales and charity bookshops to do it for someone else – unless they feature Sherlock Holmes. He seldom turns up with Poirot and Miss Marple in trays of second-hand pulp, but haunts the libraries, loos and luggage of people like T.S. Eliot, Ronald Knox, Eric Newby, Vladimir Nabokov and Umberto Eco. He even made it into Edmund Wilson’s ...

Barriers of Silliness

J.I.M. Stewart, 1 July 1982

The Great Detectives: Seven Original Investigations 
by Julian Symons.
Orbis, 143 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 0 85613 362 0
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Critical Observations 
by Julian Symons.
Faber, 213 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 571 11688 4
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As I walked down New Grub Street: Memories of a Writing Life 
by Walter Allen.
Heinemann, 276 pp., £8.95, November 1981, 0 434 01829 5
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... entitled ‘How a hermit was disturbed in his retirement’, is an apocryphal Sherlock Holmes story in which the great detective is lured away from his bee-keeping activities (Holmes has ‘developed a cage of a new type that can be slipped between two combs in the brood chamber’) by a distressed young woman ...

The President and the Bomb

Adam Shatz, 16 November 2017

... secretly prefer this arrangement. ‘What Congress wants isn’t power so much as deniability,’ Stephen Holmes has suggested. It is less interested in claiming a president’s successes than in disowning his failures. ‘He is sovereign​ who decides,’ in the words of the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, and the American president’s bomb power is one of ...

Bloodbaths

John Sutherland, 21 April 1988

Misery 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 320 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 340 39070 0
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The Tommyknockers 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 563 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 340 39069 7
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Touch 
by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 245 pp., £10.95, February 1988, 9780670816545
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Sideswipe 
by Charles Willeford.
Gollancz, 293 pp., £10.95, March 1988, 0 575 04197 8
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Ratking 
by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 282 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 571 15147 7
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... Stephen King has occasionally raised a rueful protest against being typed as a horror writer – even with the consolation of being the best-selling horror writer in the history of the world. But, as he disarmingly reminds us, there is worse literary company than Lovecraft, Leiber, Bloch, Matheson and Jackson. ‘I could, for example, be an “important” writer like Joseph Heller and publish a novel every seven years or so, or a “brilliant” writer like John Gardner and write obscure books for bright academics who eat macrobiotic foods and drive old Saabs with faded but still legible GENE McCARTHY FOR PRESIDENT stickers on the rear bumpers ...

The big drops start

John Bayley, 7 December 1989

Coleridge: Early Visions 
by Richard Holmes.
Hodder, 409 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 340 28335 1
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Wordsworth: Romantic Poetry and Revolution Politics 
by John Williams.
Manchester, 203 pp., £29.95, November 1989, 0 7190 3168 0
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Sara Coleridge, A Victorian Daughter: Her Life and Essays 
by Bradford Keyes Mudge.
Yale, 287 pp., £18.95, September 1989, 0 300 04443 7
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... perpetually present – and never more so than in this almost incredibly vivid biography. Richard Holmes has a genius for the job, as he showed fifteen years ago in his biography of Shelley. In a sense, there is no need to bring Coleridge to life, but in this compelling narrative of those early years of the poet ...

How complex is a lemon?

Stephen Mulhall: Object-Oriented Ontology, 27 September 2018

Object-Oriented Ontology: A New Theory of Everything 
by Graham Harman.
Pelican, 295 pp., £8.99, March 2018, 978 0 241 26915 2
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... the electron, the Dutch East India Company and the galaxy; fictional entities such as Sherlock Holmes or the conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy; and forests and married couples (whose status as objects in their own right is not impugned by the objecthood of the individual trees and people that make them up). For Harman, an object is simply ...

A Broken Teacup

Amanda Claybaugh: The ambition of William Dean Howells, 6 October 2005

William Dean Howells: A Writer’s Life 
by Susan Goodman and Carl Dawson.
California, 519 pp., £22.95, May 2005, 0 520 23896 6
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... invited Howells to a dinner with the editor of the Atlantic, James T. Fields, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of its chief contributors. It was Holmes who ratified the judgment that literary Boston had already passed. ‘This is something like the apostolic succession,’ he said. ‘This is the laying on of hands.’ And ...

Doctors’ Orders

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 18 February 1982

‘All that summer she was mad’: Virginia Woolf and Her Doctors 
by Stephen Trombley.
Junction, 338 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 9780862450397
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... In the summer following the death of Leslie Stephen in 1904, his daughter Virginia lay in bed, listening to the birds singing in Greek and imagining King Edward lurking naked in the azaleas, shouting obscenities; that same summer she apparently attempted to kill herself by leaping out of the window. ‘I have never spent such a wretched 8 months in my life,’ she wrote to a friend when the crisis had passed ...

The smallest details speak the loudest

John Upton: The Stephen Lawrence inquiry, 1 July 1999

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry 
by Sir William Macpherson.
Stationery Office, 335 pp., £26, February 1999, 0 10 142622 4
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The Case of Stephen Lawrence 
by Brian Cathcart.
Viking, 418 pp., £16.99, May 1999, 0 670 88604 1
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... There are now two Stephen Lawrences. The first, the murdered 18-year-old victim of racism. The second, a cultural balloon with Stephen Lawrence’s image on it: a balloon so large there is barely any space left in which to think objectively about Lawrence, his murder and the subsequent investigations and Inquiry ...

The Right to Know

Stephen Sedley: Freedom of information, 10 August 2000

... a century before Adam Smith, was the theory of the marketplace of ideas. In the mouth of Justice Holmes, echoing John Stuart Mill, this became part of the jurisprudence of the First Amendment: ‘The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.’ Holmes’s dictum ...

The Great Fear

William Lamont, 21 July 1983

Charles I and the Popish Plot 
by Caroline Hibbard.
North Carolina, 342 pp., £21, May 1983, 0 8078 1520 9
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Charles I: The Personal Monarch 
by Charles Carlton.
Routledge, 426 pp., £14.95, June 1983, 9780710094858
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The Puritan Moment: The Coming of Revolution in an English County 
by William Hunt.
Harvard, 365 pp., £24, April 1983, 0 674 73903 5
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... the right religious dimension? We still lack biographies in depth of key religious figure such as Stephen Marshall, Cornelius Burges, John Goodwin, Edmund Calamy, Henry Burton and others. They flit tantalisingly through the pages of Valerie Pearl’s valuable study of the London revolution of 1641, or Anthony Fletcher’s equally important analysis of ...

Cubist Slugs

Patrick Wright: The Art of Camouflage, 23 June 2005

DPM: Disruptive Pattern Material; An Encyclopedia of Camouflage: Nature – Military – Culture 
DPM, 2 vols, 944 pp., £100, September 2004, 9780954340407Show More
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... to his discovery: ‘Wars are only a means of publicising the thing already accomplished.’ Stephen Kern has pointed out that the Cubist quality of camouflage was quite widely perceived during the war. The artist Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scévola, who was one of the forces behind France’s camouflage initiative, claimed to have used Cubist means to ...

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