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Two Spots and a Bubo

Hugh Pennington: Use soap and water, 21 April 2005

Return of the Black Death: The World’s Greatest Serial Killer 
by Susan Scott and Christopher Duncan.
Wiley, 310 pp., £16.99, May 2004, 0 470 09000 6
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The Great Plague: The Story of London’s Most Deadly Year 
by Lloyd Moote and Dorothy Moote.
Johns Hopkins, 357 pp., £19.95, April 2004, 0 8018 7783 0
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Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrifying Future of the World’s Most Dangerous Disease 
by Wendy Orent.
Free Press, 276 pp., £17.99, May 2004, 0 7432 3685 8
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... and contemporary records of the symptomatology and mortality of the disease, have persuaded Susan Scott and Christopher Duncan (and others) that another parasite must have been at work. There can be no doubt that not everyone who died during these outbreaks died of the plague itself. But the sceptics dismiss strong evidence of Yersinia pestis too ...

Death in Belgravia

Rosemary Hill, 5 February 2015

A Different Class of Murder: The Story of Lord Lucan 
by Laura Thompson.
Head of Zeus, 422 pp., £20, November 2014, 978 1 78185 536 2
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... that became Mothercare; the Shand Kydds’ wealth came from wallpaper manufacture; and Ian Maxwell-Scott was employed as a director of the Clermont, having bought his substantial home in Sussex on the proceeds of an insurance policy taken out against his wife having twins, which she did in 1966.For a man with plenty of money and a short attention span it was ...

Dat’s de Truth

Terence Hawkes, 26 January 1995

Dancing to a Black Man’s Tune: A Life of Scott Joplin 
by Susan Curtis.
Missouri, 265 pp., £26.95, July 1994, 0 8262 0949 1
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King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era 
by Edward Berlin.
Oxford, 334 pp., £19.99, September 1994, 0 19 508739 9
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... found themselves engaged in complex and fateful negotiations with European culture. One was Scott Joplin, black ‘King of Ragtime’ and already the famous composer of ‘Maple Leaf Rag’, ‘The Entertainer’, ‘Peacherine Rag’ and ‘Elite Syncopations’. (The other can be caught up with later.) The son of a former slave, born in 1868, the year ...

Peripheries

Charles Rzepka, 21 March 1991

The Puritan-Provincial Vision: Scottish and American Literature in the 19th Century 
by Susan Manning.
Cambridge, 270 pp., £32.50, May 1990, 0 521 37237 2
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... of a puritan-provincial ‘state of mind’ in tales that closely resemble my dream narrative. Susan Manning argues that themes of the pursuer becoming the pursued, of self-mirroring and doubling, of pilgrimages and impenetrable ‘centres’, are, in a special sense, Calvinistic, and reflect religious influences peculiarly strong in Scottish and American ...

Pugin’s Law

Mark Swenarton, 4 December 1980

The Work of Sir Gilbert Scott 
by David Cole.
Architectural Press, 244 pp., £25, May 1980, 0 85139 723 9
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Lutyens Country Houses 
by Daniel O’Neill.
Lund Humphries, 167 pp., £8.95, May 1980, 0 85331 428 4
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A Revolution in London Housing: LCC Housing Architects and their Work 1893-1914 
by Susan Beattic.
GLC/Architectural Press, 127 pp., £6.95, July 1980, 0 85139 560 0
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... to questions of this sort in the new study of the principal architect involved. Sir Gilbert Scott. David Cole looks at 19th-century architecture as if from the drawing-office of the architect: commissions appear (their source and significance is not questioned); the architect provides a design, supervises construction and moves on to the next job. The ...

Fairyland

Bruce Bawer, 2 May 1985

Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald 
by James Mellow.
Souvenir, 569 pp., £15.95, February 1985, 0 285 65001 7
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Home before Dark: A Personal Memoir of John Cheever 
by Susan Cheever.
Weidenfeld, 243 pp., £10.95, January 1985, 0 297 78376 9
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... Scott Fitzgerald – who was renowned in his lifetime as much for his escapades with Zelda as for his contribution to literature – would doubtless be gratified to know how profoundly most literate citizens of the English-speaking world now admire The Great Gatsby, Tender is the night, and a number of his short stories ...

Simplicity

Marilyn Butler: What Jane Austen Read, 5 March 1998

Jane Austen: A Life 
by David Nokes.
Fourth Estate, 578 pp., £20, September 1997, 1 85702 419 2
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Jane Austen: A Life 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 341 pp., £20, October 1997, 0 670 86528 1
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... life. Here Tomalin makes some risky moves. Arbitrarily chosen characters from the novels – Lady Susan, Marianne Dashwood, Mary Crawford – speak for their author’s repressed desires. Unsupported guesses, strategically placed in the story, take the weight of the biographer’s argument. Of Austen’s first months in Bath, Tomalin remarks: ‘Jane was ...

Scaling Up

Peter Wollen: At Tate Modern, 20 July 2000

... its aftermath the Festival Hall, the National Film Theatre and, on the other side of Giles Gilbert Scott’s Waterloo Bridge, the new National Theatre. The next came in 1977, with the foundation of the Coin Street Action Group when, reacting against a decline in public housing and the proliferation of office blocks, the inhabitants of the area to the east of ...

Nothing but the Present

Lorna Scott Fox, 23 May 1996

The Law of Enclosures 
by Dale Peck.
Chatto, 287 pp., £15.99, February 1996, 0 7011 6160 4
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... Myra,’ she said, ‘you ... I mean, I’m sure Henry must’ve mentioned that neither Susan nor John wants to come see us. I mean, they refuse to, they um, they just won’t do it.’ ‘Yeah, I guess I knew that. I guess I ... yeah’ Other signs of the deprived common lot include working in a supermarket (her), where all the girls are named ...

Double Duty

Lorna Scott Fox: Victor Serge, 22 May 2003

Victor Serge: The Course Is Set on Hope 
by Susan Weissman.
Verso, 364 pp., £22, September 2001, 1 85984 987 3
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... was forgotten for decades, being useless to either side in the Cold War – all probity and no PR. Susan Weissman is even more discreet on personal matters than her subject was. Like most modern Serge commentators, she views him primarily as a misunderstood political figure, and suggests that to look deeper into such a private person would be mere ...

Diary

David Denby: Deaths on Camera, 8 September 2016

... there is nothing wrong with it. In one of her last books, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), Susan Sontag discussed the ethical complications of looking at ‘extreme’ images – in Sontag’s case, still photographs of war, the Holocaust, ethnic cleansing. Sontag rejected the then fashionable notion that the sheer abundance of such images could lead ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Kitsch and Kilts in Celtic Park, 21 August 2014

... of a whole nation to cram onto an LED screen the length of Sauchiehall Street, plus they had Susan Boyle, the underdogs’ underdog, who is required by popular edict to sing with the winds of destiny blowing about her skirts. I think the wind machine at Parkhead might have been too strong, though, even for Scotland, clearly blowing the singer’s memory ...

Not Enough Delilahs

Andrew O’Hagan: Lillian Ross, 4 July 2019

Picture 
by Lillian Ross.
NYRB, 219 pp., £14.99, June 2019, 978 1 68137 315 7
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... lecture, with examples, demonstrating that Ephron was the world’s worst writer, even worse than Susan Sontag, Gore Vidal and Renata Adler. A few years later, I would understand the hatred when Ephron wrote a very funny account (‘The Legend’) of her mother throwing Lillian out of a party.Great reporting isn’t usually harmed by the reporter having a ...

Wordsworth and the Well-Hidden Corpse

Marilyn Butler, 6 August 1992

The Lyrical Ballads: Longman Annotated Texts 
edited by Michael Mason.
Longman, 419 pp., £29.99, April 1992, 0 582 03302 0
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Strange Power of Speech: Wordsworth, Coleridge and Literary Possession 
by Susan Eilenberg.
Oxford, 278 pp., £30, May 1992, 0 19 506856 4
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The Politics of Nature: Wordsworth and Some Contemporaries 
by Nicholas Roe.
Macmillan, 186 pp., £35, April 1992, 0 333 52314 8
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... history repressed is more interesting than history expressed, as in the poetry of Southey, Scott, even Shelley. Besides, this historical foraging into the bad conscience of Wordsworth the ex-radical challenges the portrait of Wordsworth as counter-revolutionary which began to take shape around 1950, to be gradually developed by some of the leading ...

What’s wrong with that man?

Christian Lorentzen: Donald Antrim, 20 November 2014

The Emerald Light in the Air: Stories 
by Donald Antrim.
Granta, 158 pp., £12.99, November 2014, 978 1 84708 649 5
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... you’re in the wrong corridor. You’ll have to make a half-turn and backtrack through Sir Walter Scott. This is tricky. Be careful not to go too far because the Waverley novels will return you, inevitably, to The Castle of Perseverance, and you’ll never get out. It’s better to remain in the 19th century if you can get there. As you know, we’ve had ...

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