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30 August 2012
... years. It may be that Mali is a portent of state collapse to come, as the façade of democracy erodes, exposing the informal government mechanisms that really run the show. What if, as the historian StephenEllis has argued, the increasing fragility of African states is ‘an early sign of a wider problem with the system of international governance’ built after World War Two? Western powers are ...

Feed the Charm

Adewale Maja-Pearce: Political violence in Africa

25 July 2002
In the Shadow of a Saint: A Son’s Journey to Understand His Father’s Legacy 
by Ken Wiwa.
Black Swan, 320 pp., £7.99, January 2002, 0 552 99891 5
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This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis 
by Karl Maier.
Penguin, 327 pp., £9.99, February 2002, 0 14 029884 3
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The Mask of Anarchy: The Destruction of Liberia and the Religious Dimension of an African Civil War 
by Stephen Ellis.
Hurst, 350 pp., £40, November 1999, 1 85065 417 4
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... any future for Nigeria that could be worse than what has happened in Liberia (and looks set to happen all over again). For evidence of this, one could do worse than consult The Mask of Anarchy, StephenEllis’s meticulously detailed attempt to understand how it was that young men dressed in wigs and bathrobes could eat the heart of a fellow human being in the belief that it would protect them from ...

Mr Trendy Sicko

James Wolcott

23 May 2019
White 
by Brett Easton Ellis.
Picador, 261 pp., £16.99, May, 978 1 5290 1239 2
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... series Vintage Contemporaries, the springboard for Jay McInerney’s breakthrough novel, Bright Lights, Big City, and Morgan Entrekin, the editor at Simon and Schuster who acquired Bret Easton Ellis’s Less than Zero. Lish had the cult cred, but their properties shone the brightest. Gary and Morgan, Morgan and Gary, Jay and Bret, Bret and Jay – how often we heard their names tick-tock ...

Mandela: Death of a Politician

Stephen​ W. Smith: Mandela, the Politician

9 January 2014
... patina of hindsight, the title of Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, is widely misunderstood as a Kumbaya invitation to join hands for a moral-historical promenade. In reality, as StephenEllis was able to show in 2011, Mandela joined the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party in 1960 to help impose the SACP’s strategic choice of armed struggle on a reluctant ANC ...

Talk about doing

Frank Kermode

26 October 1989
Against Deconstruction 
by John Ellis.
Princeton, 168 pp., £13.70, February 1989, 0 691 06754 6
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The New Historicism 
by H. Aram Veeser.
Routledge, 318 pp., £30, July 1989, 0 415 90070 0
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Rethinking Historicism: Critical Essays in Romantic History 
by Marjorie Levinson, Marilyn Butler, Jerome McGann and Paul Hamilton.
Blackwell, 149 pp., £22.50, August 1989, 0 631 16591 6
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Towards a Literature of Knowledge 
by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 138 pp., £16.50, May 1989, 9780198117407
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The Stoic in Love: Selected Essays on Literature and Ideas 
by A.D. Nuttall.
Harvester, 209 pp., £25, July 1989, 0 7450 0614 0
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... object to any and all descriptions of it, and invariably claim that all adverse criticism depends on the very presuppositions that have already been terminally deconstructed. The virtue of John Ellis’s book is that he insists on putting his questions in pre-deconstructive terms, refusing to believe that they can be dismissed as inapposite. For, as he remarks more than once, the importance of a ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: I'll eat my modem

10 August 2000
... By now everyone must know the deal: if 75 per cent of people who download the monthly installments of Stephen King’s ‘new’ online novel, The Plant, pay for it, he’ll keep on churning it out. Addressing visitors to his website as ‘my friends’, he urges them to ‘Remember: Pay and the story rolls ...

Miracles Aren’t Enough

George Ellis: The mathematical universe

26 January 2006
The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe 
by Roger Penrose.
Vintage, 1099 pp., £15, February 2006, 0 09 944068 7
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... about the nature of reality. Many physicists do not believe this is a question one should ask (‘I don’t demand that a theory correspond to reality because I don’t know what reality is,’ Stephen Hawking says), but Penrose believes that such matters are crucial to quantum mechanics and are far from being settled. He explains why standard approaches fail to solve the problem, and proposes ...
30 October 1997
Secret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American Presidency 
by Stephen​ Knott.
Oxford, 258 pp., £19.50, November 1996, 0 19 510098 0
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The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 367 pp., £25, December 1996, 1 85619 637 2
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American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson 
by Joseph Ellis.
Knopf, 365 pp., $26, February 1997, 0 679 44490 4
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Slave Laws in Virginia 
by Philip Schwarz.
Georgia, 253 pp., $40, November 1996, 0 8203 1831 0
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... Shrine and the public Temple: Monticello and the Jefferson Memorial in Washington. The ‘pacific’ Jefferson has even won new converts among the ranks of the hawks. In Secret and Sanctioned, Stephen Knott, aware of the difficulty of reconciling necessary covert government operations with an open democracy, invokes the history of clandestine activities from the Founding era through to 1882. Not ...

The Real Johnny Hall

Penelope Fitzgerald

3 October 1985
Our Three Selves: A Life of Radclyffe Hall 
by Michael Baker.
Hamish Hamilton, 386 pp., £13.95, June 1985, 0 241 11539 6
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... its career as the best-known lesbian novel in the English language. At heart, The Well is a nice long solid Great-War-period romantic novel. The ethos is that of If winter comes, or The Forsyte Saga. Stephen, the hero/heroine, driven out of her grand ancestral home, joins an ambulance unit, is wounded and gets the Croix de Guerre, and won’t declare her compromising love until she is sure it’s ...

The Ultimate Novel

William Empson

19 August 1982
Ulysses 
by Hugh Kenner.
Allen and Unwin, 182 pp., £10, March 1980, 0 00 480003 6
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A Starchamber Quiry: A James Joyce Centennial Volume 1882-1982 
edited by E.L. Epstein.
Methuen, 164 pp., £9.50, February 1982, 0 416 31560 7
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... more material available for the centenary collection, A Starchamber Quiry, just after printing his own book. He puts a new idea of his own into both of these books, and it urgently needs refuting. Stephen, he says (Kenner’s Ulysses, p. 152), is practically blind all through the book; his eyes without his glasses focus eight inches in front of his nose, and he broke them ‘yesterday’. This proves ...

Strangers

John Lanchester

11 July 1991
Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon 
edited by Stephen​ Egger.
Praeger, 250 pp., £33.50, October 1990, 0 275 92986 8
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Serial Killers 
by Joel Norris.
Arrow, 333 pp., £4.99, July 1990, 0 09 971750 6
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Life after Life 
by Tony Parker.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.50, May 1991, 0 330 31528 5
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American Psycho 
by Bret Easton Ellis.
Picador, 399 pp., £6.99, April 1991, 0 330 31992 2
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Dirty Weekend 
by Helen Zahavi.
Macmillan, 185 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 333 54723 3
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Silence of the Lambs 
by Thomas Harris.
Mandarin, 366 pp., £4.99, April 1991, 0 7493 0942 3
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... top box-office receipts on both sides of the Atlantic, have recently provided the material for works by artists as different from each other as P.D. James, DV8 Physical Dance Theatre and David Lynch. Stephen Egger, an American academic and former policeman who wrote the first doctoral dissertation on the phenomenon, gives a definition/description of serial murder in Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon ...

Thinking Persons

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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... what is it about this system of thought that requires the repeated denials that even its own devotees 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 ...
30 October 1997
Noel Coward and Radclyffe Hall: Kindred Spirits 
by Terry Castle.
Columbia, 150 pp., £15.95, November 1996, 0 231 10596 7
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Your John: The Love Letters of Radclyffe Hall 
edited by Joanne Glasgow.
New York, 273 pp., £20, March 1997, 0 8147 3092 2
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Radclyffe Hall: A Woman Called John 
by Sally Cline.
Murray, 434 pp., £25, June 1997, 9780719554087
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...  and what she sees as their, more or less disguised, fictional portraits of each other. Jonathan Brockett in The Well of Loneliness bears an unmistakable resemblance to Coward. Hall’s heroine Stephen Gordon (Radclyffe Hall was called John for most of her adult life) knows that Brockett, a playwright with soft white hands and an effeminate voice, is a man ‘who would never require more of her ...

Short Cuts and Half Cuts

Luke Kennard: ‘Early Work’

20 June 2019
Early Work 
by Andrew Martin.
Picador, 256 pp., £14.50, July, 978 1 250 21501 7
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... is concerned with the ‘regular current’ of American life, or that this is really what Pete is trying to get by in. Excepting one roundly mocked character who announces he’s going to be the next Stephen King, Pete’s contemporaries dream of artistic fulfilment – and perhaps an adjunct teaching position at a state college – rather than financial success. But perhaps the point is that the ...

Come and Stay

Arnold Rattenbury

27 November 1997
England and the Octopus 
by Clough Williams-Ellis.
CPRE, 220 pp., £10.95, December 1996, 0 946044 50 3
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Clough Williams-EllisRIBA Drawings Monograph No 2 
by Richard Haslam.
Academy, 112 pp., £24.95, March 1996, 1 85490 430 2
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Clough Williams-EllisThe Architect of Portmeirion 
by Jonah Jones.
Seren, 204 pp., £9.95, December 1996, 1 85411 166 3
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... Sir Clough Williams-Ellis is best known nowadays as the owner-architect of Portmeirion, the hotel he built as a partly cliff-hanging, partly tree-nestled village on a North Wales coastal estuary, adding to it building by ...

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