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Congenial Aspirations

W.G. Runciman, 4 October 1984

The Theory of Communicative Action. Vol. One: Reason and the Rationalisation of Society 
by Jurgen Habermas, translated by Thomas McCarthy.
Heinemann, 456 pp., £25, May 1984, 0 435 82391 4
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... In the bad old days of academic insularity, when Anglo-Saxon philosophers dismissed Continental philosophy as so much hot air, Continental philosophers were equally ready to dismiss analytical philosophy in its Anglo-Saxon form as flippant and trivial. It is a measure of how far things have changed for the better that Professor Habermas of Frankfurt not only commands a substantial following in the English-speaking world but is himself as willing to proffer a citation from Austin or Ryle as from Husserl or Heidegger ...

If Goofy Could Talk

Frank Cioffi, 6 April 1995

When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals 
by Jeffrey Masson and Susan McCarthy.
Cape, 268 pp., £14.99, September 1994, 0 224 03554 1
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The Hidden Life of Dogs 
by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas.
Weidenfeld, 148 pp., £12.50, May 1994, 0 297 81461 3
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The Tribe of Tiger 
by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £12.99, October 1994, 0 297 81508 3
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... Jeffrey Masson and Susan McCarthy’s book is a collection of anecdotes, arguments and exhortations which insists on the analogies between human and animal being. The rationale given for this enterprise in Masson’s Preface is implausible: it is to bridge the ‘tremendous gap between the common sense view (that “animals have such feelings as happiness, anger and fear”) and that of official science ...

Young Man’s Nostalgia

Diarmaid MacCulloch: William Byrd, 30 July 2014

Byrd 
by Kerry McCarthy.
Oxford, 282 pp., £25, August 2013, 978 0 19 538875 6
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... amount about William Byrd, partly thanks to quite recent archival rediscoveries, and Kerry McCarthy splendidly and concisely presents it all in this intelligent and affectionate biography. Alas, the one thing we don’t have is a contemporary portrait, not even anything as clumsy as the universally recognisable dome-headed icon of Shakespeare: the ...

Look on the Bright Side

Seamus Perry: Anna Letitia Barbauld, 25 February 2010

Anna Letitia Barbauld: Voice of the Enlightenment 
by William McCarthy.
Johns Hopkins, 725 pp., £32, December 2008, 978 0 8018 9016 1
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... Bald’, Coleridge enjoyed calling her in private, with more antipathy than inspiration. William McCarthy quotes the Table Talk anecdote early on in his compendious and admiring new biography of Barbauld, as though obliged to get it over with, and makes the suggestion that Barbauld had unwittingly revived Coleridge’s severe hang-ups about his ...

Other Selves

John Bayley, 29 October 1987

How I Grew 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 0 297 79170 2
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Myself and Michael Innes 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 575 04104 8
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... instead of a novel by Marcel, is a depressing thought. Such reflections are prompted by Mary McCarthy’s latest book. There was something challenging and stimulating, a bracing offer of American romance, about A Charmed Life, and Cast a Cold Eye, and The Group, and other novels and tales of hers. Even Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood had a zing to it, and ...

Every Latest Spasm

Christopher Hitchens, 23 June 1994

A Rebel in Defence of Tradition: The Life and ‘Politics’ of Dwight Macdonald 
by Michael Wreszin.
Basic Books, 590 pp., £17.99, April 1994, 0 465 01739 8
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... To have been lampooned once by Mary McCarthy might have been considered a misfortune, but to have been ridiculed by her three times must count as some sort of carelessness. In her ‘Portrait of the Intellectual as a Yale Man’, she presented Jim Barnett, a likeable boy from a promising background who, in the devil’s decade of the Thirties, could nonetheless suit his own fancy: From the very first, Jim was an independent in politics, siding now with the Communists, now with the Lovestoneites, now with the Trotskyists, now with the group of middle-class liberals he had known at college who were trying to build a Farmer-Labour party of their own ...

Knucklehead Truman

Douglas Johnson, 2 June 1983

The Eisenhower Diaries 
edited by Robert Ferrell.
Norton, 445 pp., £15.25, April 1983, 0 393 01432 0
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The Life and Times of Joe McCarthyA Biography 
by Thomas Reeves.
Blond and Briggs, 819 pp., £11.95, June 1983, 0 85634 131 2
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The past has another pattern 
by George Ball.
Norton, 544 pp., £14.95, September 1982, 0 393 01481 9
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Torn Lace Curtain 
by Frank Saunders and James Southwood.
Sidgwick, 361 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 283 98946 7
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The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power 
by Robert Caro.
Collins, 882 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 00 217062 0
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The Politician: The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson 
by Ronnie Dugger.
Norton, 514 pp., £13.25, September 1982, 9780393015980
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Years of Upheaval 
by Henry Kissinger.
Weidenfeld/Joseph, 1312 pp., £15.95, March 1982, 0 7181 2115 5
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Richard Nixon: The Shaping of his Character 
by Fawn Brodie.
Norton, 574 pp., £14.95, October 1982, 0 393 01467 3
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Haig: The General’s Progress 
by Roger Morris.
Robson, 458 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 9780860511885
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Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President 
by Jimmy Carter.
Collins, 622 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 00 216648 8
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Crisis: The Last Year of the Carter Presidency 
by Hamilton Jordan.
Joseph, 431 pp., £12.95, November 1982, 0 7181 2248 8
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Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser 1977-81 
by Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Weidenfeld, 587 pp., £15, April 1983, 0 297 78220 7
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... has been repeatedly laid low, whether by the intervention of some violent figure such as Senator McCarthy or by some crusading newspaper such as the Washington Post, whether by its own divisions or its neuroticisms. It has at times been rendered almost powerless by the actions of distant states, such as North Vietnam, Iran and Israel (and may well now be ...

A Regular Bull

Christopher Hitchens, 31 July 1997

Whittaker Chambers: A Biography 
by Sam Tanenhaus.
Random House, 640 pp., $35, February 1997, 0 394 58559 3
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... over the devious intellectuals and sinister pointy-heads – it was one of the building blocks for McCarthyism, for the Goldwater campaign and for what eventually became the ‘Reagan revolution’. Yet the man at the centre of it was anything but the simple, honest all-American type. Chambers was an intellectual of a sort, and a poet and writer of some ...

Firm Lines

Hermione Lee, 17 November 1983

Bartleby in Manhattan, and Other Essays 
by Elizabeth Hardwick.
Weidenfeld, 292 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 297 78357 2
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... Janet Flanner (New Yorker correspondent from 1925 to 1975), Elizabeth Hardwick’s friend Mary McCarthy, and the Californian novelist and essayist Joan Didion. There is really nothing to compare with it in England, unless one excepts Orwell (who rather resembles Wilson in his analyses of the Depression, of false language and of Kipling). Indeed, the last ...

Try It on the Natives

James C. Scott: Colonial Intelligence Agencies, 9 October 2008

Empires of Intelligence: Security Services and Colonial Disorder after 1914 
by Martin Thomas.
California, 428 pp., £29.95, October 2007, 978 0 520 25117 5
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... Communist Party was a pale shadow of what it had been two decades earlier. Thanks to the FBI, the McCarthy hearings in the Senate and the Un-American Activities Committee in the House of Representatives, blacklists, firings and generalised fear, the Party’s ranks had been radically thinned. And still it lived. That it survived was in no small measure due to ...

The Statistical Gaze

Helen McCarthy: The British Census, 28 June 2017

The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick-Maker: The Story of Britain through Its Census, since 1801 
by Roger Hutchinson.
Little, Brown, 352 pp., £20, February 2017, 978 1 4087 0701 2
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... that Britain’s population was shrinking fast, with dire consequences for national wellbeing. Thomas Malthus was equally convinced that the opposite was true, making that case in his Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798. Malthus was disturbed by the possibility of unchecked growth because he believed it was a natural tendency for population to ...

Orwellspeak

Julian Symons, 9 November 1989

The Politics of Literary Reputation: The Making and Claiming of ‘St George’ Orwell 
by John Rodden.
Oxford, 478 pp., £22.50, October 1989, 0 19 503954 8
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... by a backlist of Seeker foreign authors including Mishima, Moravia, Svevo, Gide, Colette, Kafka, Thomas Mann, Grass, Böll and half a dozen others, found that the whole lot added up to half Orwell’s earnings in the same period. New editions of four books have just been published, said to be ‘authoritative texts’ although in some the variants from the ...

Diary

Thomas Jones: Death in Florence, 21 June 2012

... up the microfilm for La Nazione from September and October 1913. In The Stones of Florence, Mary McCarthy says that the ‘Cronaca di Firenze’ in ‘that excellent morning newspaper’ is a ‘daily chronicle of disasters to foreigners’. McCarthy was writing in the 1950s, but there was no reason to think the paper had ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies, 26 January 2012

An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... They’re not going to stop,’ Joe McCarthy said of the Communists. ‘It’s right here with us now. Unless we make sure there’s no infiltration of our government, then just as certain as you sit there, in the period of our lives you will see a Red world.’ So began the 1954 Senate hearings on subversive influence in the army ...

What the hell happened?

Alexander Star: Philip Roth, 4 February 1999

I Married a Communist 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 323 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 224 05258 6
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... again and again to Murray’s long dead brother Ira, who was blacklisted and disgraced during the McCarthy era. Murray’s monologue and Nathan’s reminiscences combine to tell the story of Ira’s rise and fall: his flight from Newark to the zinc mines of western New Jersey; his conversion to Communism while serving in World War Two; his impersonation of ...

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