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Huffing Along

Lorin Stein: The Emperor of Ocean Park, 8 August 2002

The Emperor of Ocean Park 
by Stephen L. Carter.
Cape, 657 pp., £18, June 2002, 0 224 06284 0
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... Stephen L. Carter has written the kind of novel in which the bad guys say ‘very well’ when they mean ‘OK’; in which the hero calls a visit from old friends ‘a delightfully rambunctious affair’ and his rocky marriage a ‘tumultuous mutuality’; in which ‘homes’ are ‘spacious’, jealousy ‘flames afresh’ and eminent legal scholars spend dinner parties debating the existence of God ...

Weimarama

Richard J. Evans, 8 November 1990

Male Fantasies Vol. I: Women, Floods, Bodies, History 
by Klaus Theweleit, translated by Chris Turner, Erica Carter and Stephen Conway.
Polity, 517 pp., £35, May 1987, 0 7456 0382 3
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Male Fantasies Vol. II: Male Bodies: Psychoanalysing the White Terror 
by Klaus Theweleit, translated by Chris Turner, Erica Carter and Stephen Conway.
Polity, 507 pp., £35, September 1989, 0 7456 0556 7
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... Since its appearance in Germany in 1977, Klaus Theweleit’s psychoanalytical study of fascist literature has graduated from the status of a cult work to that of a classic. Rereading it in English, a decade after my first, rather sceptical perusal, it is easy to see why. Much of what made Theweleit’s book so startlingly original in the mid-Seventies has since become relatively conventional in literary and historical studies, from the Foucaultian analysis of literary discourse, and the exploration of the political history of the human body, to a feminist perspective on sex and power ...

Old Tunes

Stephen Sedley, 16 July 2020

... The poet​ and songwriter Sydney Carter – remember ‘Lord of the Dance’? – wasn’t the only observer to notice that the 1950s British folk song revival was being accompanied, and occasionally drowned out, by the clang of cash registers. His song ‘Man with the Microphone’ began:As I roved out one morningI was singing a country songI met a man with a microphoneAnd oh he did me wrong ...

Who Will Lose?

David Edgar, 25 September 2008

Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future 
by Newton Minow and Craig LaMay.
Chicago, 219 pp., £11.50, April 2008, 978 0 226 53041 3
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... the US , going back to seven fabled three-hour tussles between the Illinois senatorial candidates Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln in 1858 (which certainly did involve direct confrontation), all on the single subject of slavery. In the 1920s, the League of Women Voters sponsored a ten-month series of radio debates, not between presidential candidates but ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... Mr Stephen is editing a little dictionary,’ a friend explained to a clergyman foolhardy enough to ask whether Leslie ‘did any writing’. The enterprise in question was the DNB, one of those grandiosely-conceived and indefatigably-executed works of late 19th-century self-regard, comparable to the Victoria County Histories and the Survey of London ...

No Man’s Mistress

Stephen Koss, 5 July 1984

Margot: A Life of the Countess of Oxford and Asquith 
by Daphne Bennett.
Gollancz, 442 pp., £12.95, May 1984, 0 575 03279 0
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... quantity of private correspondence, thereupon passed into other family hands. Mark Bonham Carter, who holds the copyright, permitted Michael and Eleanor Brock to consult – but, one may infer from their cautious phraseology, not to draw directly on – these materials in the course of preparing their splendid edition of Asquith’s letters to Venetia ...

Fine-Tuned for Life

John Leslie: Cosmology, 1 January 1998

Before the Beginning 
by Martin Rees.
Simon and Schuster, 288 pp., £7.99, January 1998, 0 684 81660 1
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The Life of the Cosmos 
by Lee Smolin.
Weidenfeld, 358 pp., £20, September 1997, 0 297 81727 2
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... These might nowadays be ending their ‘black hole evaporation’ (a process discovered by Stephen Hawking) in bangs detectable from two million light years away. Bigger black holes, their evaporation too slow to be detected, probably litter our galaxy in large numbers as the remnants of stellar explosions. Other such remnants are neutron ...

A Common Playhouse

Charles Nicholl: The Globe Theatre, 8 January 2015

Shakespeare and the Countess: The Battle That Gave Birth to the Globe 
by Chris Laoutaris.
Fig Tree, 528 pp., £20, April 2015, 978 1 905490 96 7
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... in Shakespearean associations, invisible but well attested. Down an alleyway running south off Carter Lane lies New Bell Yard. Now dominated by the glass-fronted atrium of the Grange St Paul’s Hotel, this was formerly the site of the Bell Inn. In the 1590s its landlady was a Mistress Greffine or Griffin, and among its frequent guests was a Stratford ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Alice in Wonderland’, 25 March 2010

Alice in Wonderland 
directed by Tim Burton.
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... be governed by, two figures: the Red Queen and the Mad Hatter. The former, played by Helena Bonham Carter, who seems to have gained a rich new expressive life through representing the forces of evil in the Harry Potter films (not that she didn’t express herself in Burton’s Sweeney Todd), displays such fine-tuned petulance and generally misbehaves with such ...

Belgravia Cockney

Christopher Tayler: On being a le Carré bore, 25 January 2007

The Mission Song 
by John le Carré.
Hodder, 339 pp., £17.99, September 2006, 9780340921968
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... When John le Carré published A Perfect Spy in 1986, Philip Roth, then spending a lot of time in London, called it ‘the best English novel since the war’. Not being such a fan of A Perfect Spy, I’ve occasionally wondered what Roth’s generous blurb says about the postwar English novel. As a le Carré bore, however, I’ve also wondered how Roth managed to overlook Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974), the central novel in le Carré’s career, in which George Smiley – an outwardly diffident ex-spook with a strenuously unfaithful wife and an interest in 17th-century German literature – comes out of retirement to identify the turncoat in a secret service that’s explicitly presented as a metaphorical ‘vision of the British establishment at play ...

Strait is the gate

Christopher Hitchens, 21 July 1994

Watergate: The Corruption and Fall of Richard Nixon 
by Fred Emery.
Cape, 448 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 224 03694 7
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The Haldeman Diaries: Inside the Nixon White House 
by H.R. Haldeman.
Putnam, 698 pp., $27.50, May 1994, 0 399 13962 1
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... Nixon and now columnist for the New York Times. He it was who, during the dismal days of the Jimmy Carter Presidency, came up with ‘Koreagate’, ‘Peanutgate’, ‘Billygate’ and – his own favourite, concerning some fiddle of government expenses – ‘Double Billingsgate’. In an interview with Eric Alterman for the latter’s excellent book Sound ...

Mastering the Art of Understating Your Wealth

Thomas Keymer: The Tonsons, 5 May 2016

The Literary Correspondences of the Tonsons 
edited by Stephen Bernard.
Oxford, 386 pp., £95, March 2015, 978 0 19 870085 2
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... Lord Sommers loved Perry,’ Newcastle wrote with heavy underlining. Many​ of the letters in Stephen Bernard’s meticulous edition owe their survival to Tonson’s Victorian heirs, who began auctioning off the most saleable manuscripts in the 1870s, as the family fortune dwindled. The rump of the archive was pulped for newsprint during World War Two, as ...

Salute!

Stephen Holmes: ‘Bomb Power’, 8 April 2010

Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State 
by Garry Wills.
Penguin Press, 278 pp., $27.95, January 2010, 978 1 59420 240 7
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... a ‘network of espionage and counter-subversion activities’. Wills applies his c’est-la-faute-à-la-bombe approach even to the CIA’s cloak-and-dagger escapades. ‘What,’ he asks, ‘made so many American officials feel they had the right to roam the world secretly killing “undesirables”?’ His reply ...
Dust-bowl Migrants in the American Imagination 
by Charles Shindo.
Kansas, 252 pp., £22.50, January 1997, 0 7006 0810 9
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In the Country of Country 
by Nicholas Dawidoff.
Faber, 365 pp., £12.99, June 1997, 0 571 19174 6
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... long before the Okies came to California. From the mid-Twenties onwards, Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family were recording songs about orphans, outlaws, disappointed love, homes left behind and nostalgically remembered – not to mention (though often forgotten) songs of hope and faith expressed in religious terms. Nicholas Dawidoff’s richly descriptive ...

Happy Man

Paul Driver: Stravinsky, 8 February 2007

Stravinsky: The Second Exile – France and America 1934-71 
by Stephen Walsh.
Cape, 709 pp., £30, July 2006, 0 224 06078 3
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Down a Path of Wonder: Memoirs of Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Other Cultural Figures 
by Robert Craft.
Naxos, 560 pp., £19.99, October 2006, 1 84379 217 6
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... At the end of his two-volume biography, Stephen Walsh writes that Igor Stravinsky’s music is ‘the one unquestioned staple of the modern repertoire, the body of work that, more than any other, stands as an icon of 20th-century musical thought and imagery’. There couldn’t be a richer subject for a musical biographer and Walsh admits to having an obsession with his subject ...

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