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Mrs Straus’s Devotion

Jenny Diski, 5 June 1997

Last Dinner on the ‘Titanic’: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner 
by Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley.
Weidenfeld, 128 pp., £9.99, April 1997, 1 86448 250 8
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The ‘Titanic’ Complex 
by John Wilson Foster.
Belcouver, 92 pp., £5.99, April 1997, 0 9699464 1 4
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Down with the Old Canoe 
by Steven Biel.
Norton, 300 pp., £18.95, April 1997, 9780393039658
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... moved but not overwrought at the fate of those who died at Pompeii, with the sinking of the Mary Rose, during the San Francisco earthquake and at the collapse of the Tay Bridge. We respond much more uneasily to the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise, the Estonia and the Marchioness. Lives cut short are less poignant once, to paraphrase Beckett, they ...

False Brought up of Nought

Thomas Penn: Henry VII’s Men on the Make, 27 July 2017

Henry VII’s New Men and the Making of Tudor England 
by Steven Gunn.
Oxford, 393 pp., £60, August 2016, 978 0 19 965983 8
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... in the following reign, Thomas Cromwell was the apotheosis (or nadir) of these ‘new men’. As Steven Gunn argues in his new book, a work of characteristic meticulousness, not only did these men encapsulate the mood, workings and functioning of Henry VII’s disorientating regime, they ‘were central … at the start and at the heart of the making of ...

Cartoon Quality

Zachary Leader, 6 December 1979

Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943-1954 by Jeffrey Cartwright 
by Steven Millhauser.
Routledge, 305 pp., £4.95
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A Prize Paradise 
by Oliver Pritchett.
Eyre Methuen, 171 pp., £4.95
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A Revenger’s Comedy 
by Derwent May.
Chatto, 191 pp., £5.95
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... the encounter with Edward Penn, aged seven, muralist; Edwin’s doomed love for the sullen Rose Dorn, third-grade femme fatale; Rose’s fiery end; the improbable friendship with Arnold Hasselstrom, inarticulate playground psychopath; the romantically tortured genesis of Cartoons, complete with feverish bouts of ...

Confusion of Tongues

Steven Shapin: Scientific Languages, 3 December 2015

Scientific Babel: The Language of Science from the Fall of Latin to the Rise of English 
by Michael Gordin.
Profile, 432 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 1 78125 114 0
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... over 50 per cent of science texts. Then it really took off: between 1980 and 1996, English usage rose from about 75 per cent to 91 per cent; Russian dropped from 11 per cent to 2 per cent; and German from 2.5 per cent to 1.2 per cent. Gordin canvasses several explanations for this surge. The first story concerns the decline of German. After the First World ...

Pretence for Prattle

Steven Shapin: Tea, 30 July 2015

Empire of Tea: The Asian Leaf that Conquered the World 
by Markman Ellis, Richard Coulton and Matthew Mauger.
Reaktion, 326 pp., £25, May 2015, 978 1 78023 440 3
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... Red Zinger ‘tea’ is a caffeine and Camellia-free brew of peppermint, hibiscus, orange peel, rose hips, verbena, liquorice, wild cherry bark and lemongrass. Even in the 18th century, the Chinese-derived name of tea was borrowed to refer to hot-water infusions of domestic herbs, so the rising British popularity of flavoured and herbal ‘teas’ would be ...

Why did we start farming?

Steven Mithen: Hunter-Gatherers Were Right, 30 November 2017

Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States 
by James C. Scott.
Yale, 336 pp., £20, September 2017, 978 0 300 18291 0
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... the barbarians and the city-states were entirely dependent on each other for their existence. They rose and fell together: the Huns and the Romans; the ‘Sea People’ and the Egyptians. And for the vast part of recorded history the majority of people lived in the barbarian world. Scott’s view is that the barbarian Golden Age ended as recently as four ...

Yuh wanna play bad?

Christopher Tayler: Henry Roth, 23 March 2006

Redemption: The Life of Henry Roth 
by Steven Kellman.
Norton, 372 pp., $16.99, September 2005, 0 393 05779 8
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Call It Sleep 
by Henry Roth.
Picador US, 462 pp., $15, July 2005, 0 312 42412 4
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... Roth told a publisher in 1960, ‘and that is redemption, but I haven’t the fable.’ As Steven Kellman sees things, he ‘finally found his fable’ in the writing of the Mercy of a Rude Stream books, which ended the deeply-felt ignominy of his non-productive decades ‘even as it put rest to an old man’s mortal pain.’ ‘The arc of Roth’s 89 ...

How to Be Tudor

Hilary Mantel: Can a King Have Friends?, 17 March 2016

Charles Brandon: Henry VIII’s Closest Friend 
by Steven Gunn.
Amberley, 304 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 1 4456 4184 3
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... wives, Charles Brandon would come near the top, second only to the king he served. The subtitle of Steven Gunn’s scholarly biography describes its subject as ‘Henry VIII’s Closest Friend’. What a prospect of damp-palmed horror that phrase evokes! The knocking of Tudor knees echoes down the years. Can a king have friends? Could Henry VIII have ...

More than Machines

Steven Shapin: Man or Machine?, 1 December 2016

The Restless Clock: A History of the Centuries-Long Argument over What Makes Living Things Tick 
by Jessica Riskin.
Chicago, 544 pp., £30, March 2016, 978 0 226 30292 8
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... to elicit emotion. She produced music as humans would. Her fingers pressed the keys; her chest rose and fell as she apparently breathed; she bowed gracefully; she was visibly moved by the music she performed, and her audience was moved in turn. A critic who had not seen her defied ‘all the machinists on earth to make an artificial face that expresses the ...

City of Blood

Peter Pulzer, 9 November 1989

The Jews of Vienna in the Age of Franz Joseph 
by Robert Wistrich.
Oxford, 696 pp., £45, June 1989, 0 19 710070 8
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Vienna and the Jews, 1867-1938: A Cultural History 
by Steven Beller.
Cambridge, 271 pp., £27.50, August 1989, 0 521 35180 4
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The German-Jewish Economic Elite 1820-1935: A Socio-Cultural Profile 
by W.E. Mosse.
Oxford, 369 pp., £35, October 1989, 0 19 822990 9
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Decadence and Innovation: Austro-Hungarian Life and Art at the Turn of the Century 
edited by Robert Pynsent.
Weidenfeld, 258 pp., £25, June 1989, 0 297 79559 7
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The Torch in My Ear 
by Elias Canetti, translated by Joachim Neugroschel.
Deutsch, 372 pp., £13.95, August 1989, 0 233 98434 8
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From Vienna to Managua: Journey of a Psychoanalyst 
by Marie Langer, translated by Margaret Hooks.
Free Association, 261 pp., £27.50, July 1989, 1 85343 057 9
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... Robert Wistrich’s book is about the Jews of Vienna in their golden age, Steven Beller’s about the city’s culture in its golden age. You could be forgiven for thinking that these amounted to the same thing. Not all Viennese Jews were cultural heroes, and not all Viennese cultural heroes were Jews. But the overlap is impressive and in need of explanation ...

Reputation

Peter Burke, 21 May 1987

The Count-Duke of Olivares: The Statesman in an Age of Decline 
by J.H. Elliott.
Yale, 733 pp., £19.95, August 1986, 0 300 03390 7
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Philip IV and the Decoration of the Alcazar of Madrid 
by Steven Orso.
Princeton, 227 pp., £36.70, July 1986, 0 691 04036 2
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... of the Spanish monarchy declined (despite his efforts, or even because of them), while France rose. The ‘planet king’, Philip IV, was eclipsed by the sun of Louis XIV. History, or the historian at any rate, has little patience with failure. The second reason for the neglect of Olivares is the loss of most of his papers, those notorious papers which he ...

Hedonistic Fruit Bombs

Steven Shapin: How good is Château Pavie?, 3 February 2005

Bordeaux 
by Robert Parker.
Dorling Kindersley, 1244 pp., £45, December 2003, 1 4053 0566 5
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The Wine Buyer’s Guide 
by Robert Parker and Pierre-Antoine Rovani.
Dorling Kindersley, two volumes, £50, December 2002, 0 7513 4979 8
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Mondovino 
directed by Jonathan Nossiter.
November 2004
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... Sancho Panza fancied himself a wine connoisseur of rare ability. Challenged on his claim to have a ‘great natural instinct in judging wines’, he assured a sceptic that you ‘have only to let me smell one and I can tell positively its country, its kind, its flavour and soundness, the changes it will undergo and everything that appertains to a wine ...

Do you Floss?

Lawrence Lessig: The sharing economy, 18 August 2005

The Success of Open Source 
by Steven Weber.
Harvard, 312 pp., £19.95, August 2004, 0 674 01292 5
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Democratising Innovation 
by Eric von Hippel.
MIT, 208 pp., £19.95, May 2005, 0 262 00274 4
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... trend in social research that governments, and corporations, would be wise to keep track of. Steven Weber’s The Success of Open Source explores the economy that has produced the ‘open source’ and ‘free software’ movements. Eric von Hippel’s Democratising Innovation looks at an economy involving a much wider range of user-supplied ...

Out of the Ossuary

Michael Neill: Shakespeare and Emotion, 14 July 2016

The Reformation of Emotions in the Age of Shakespeare 
by Steven Mullaney.
Chicago, 231 pp., £24.50, July 2015, 978 0 226 11709 6
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... sanctions of enforced forgetfulness. That, at any rate, is the notion that drives the argument of Steven Mullaney’s new book. The Reformation of Emotions in the Age of Shakespeare begins in the prescribed New Historicist fashion, with a telling anecdote: During the night of 10 April 1549, a procession of carts rumbled through the streets of London on a ...

In a Frozen Crouch

Colin Kidd: Democracy’s Ends, 13 September 2018

How Democracy Ends 
by David Runciman.
Profile, 249 pp., £14.99, May 2018, 978 1 78125 974 0
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Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy Is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth – And How to Fix It 
by Dambisa Moyo.
Little, Brown, 296 pp., £20, April 2018, 978 1 4087 1089 0
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How Democracies Die 
by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.
Viking, 311 pp., £16.99, January 2018, 978 0 241 31798 3
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Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy 
by William Galston.
Yale, 158 pp., £25, June 2018, 978 0 300 22892 2
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... in the first place.’ No democracy, we are told, has ever reverted to military rule once GDP rose above $8000 per head. The worst that might befall us is something like the experiences of Japan since the freezing of its economic miracle or of Greece in the aftermath of the debt crisis. Japan is elderly – half the population is over the age of 47 ...

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