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22 August 1996
A Perfect Execution 
by Tim Binding.
Picador, 344 pp., £15.99, May 1996, 0 330 34564 8
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... Tim Binding is a confident writer. His paragraphs, lengthy but under control, take swift possession of the thick sheaf of pages, imposing form. The narrative voice is modestly assertive. There is a tale to be told. The taleteller, having caught your attention, will not let go. No tricks, no mannerisms, no eye-catching Modernist flourishes: that’s the trick of it ...
8 March 1990
The Uses of Adversity 
by Timothy Garton Ash.
Granta, 352 pp., £5.99, September 1989, 0 14 014018 2
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... Czechoslovakia to common sense, dignity and democracy. Nevertheless, in systems which lack really binding rules, ‘even the impossible is possible.’ Should such an impossibility occur, there would be, I suspect, a substantial drive in the country to have, after more than fifty years, a personality of Masaryk’s calibre in the highest office again. Looking ...

The Darth Vader Option

Colin Kidd: The Tories

24 January 2013
The Conservatives since 1945: The Drivers of Party Change 
by Tim Bale.
Oxford, 372 pp., £55, September 2012, 978 0 19 923437 0
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The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron 
by Tim Bale.
Polity, 471 pp., £14.99, January 2011, 978 0 7456 4858 3
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Reconstructing Conservatism? The Conservative Party in Opposition, 1997-2010 
by Richard Hayton.
Manchester, 166 pp., £60, September 2012, 978 0 7190 8316 7
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... behaviour. Yet when confronted with the culture of the Tories since 1945, the mind drifts off time and again to the sacred grove of Diana at Lake Nemi in the Alban hills. In antiquity this idyllic setting was the scene of a ‘strange and recurring tragedy’ which provided the point of departure for James Frazer’s anthropological classic, The Golden ...

Beyond the Ballot Box

Tim Barker: Occupy and Bernie

7 September 2016
Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt 
by Sarah Jaffe.
Nation, 352 pp., £20, August 2016, 978 1 56858 536 9
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... and of Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era banking regulation whose repeal in 1999 is sometimes blamed for the 2008 crisis. If the poisoned fruit had been eaten so recently, maybe there was no need to start from scratch. The tactic of occupation has left little trace. After protesters set up camp in Zuccotti Park in New York’s financial district on ...
17 March 1988
Politics: A Work of Constructive Social Theory 
by Roberto Mangabeira Unger.
Cambridge, 256 pp., £25, January 1988, 0 521 32974 4
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The Critical Legal Studies Movement 
by Roberto Mangabeira Unger.
Harvard, 128 pp., £15.25, October 1986, 0 674 17735 5
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W.A. Mozart: ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ 
by Tim Carter.
Cambridge, 180 pp., £27.50, February 1988, 0 521 30267 6
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... between them to portray the Almaviva house-hold is to see it in many different ways at once – Tim Carter’s useful Cambridge Handbook focuses, in its closing pages, on this aspect of the work’s achievement. Above all, it is to see clearly both the flimsy arbitrariness and the tense patterns of force that enable it for the most part to retain its shape ...

Purple Days

Mark Ford

12 May 1994
The Pugilist at Rest 
by Thom Jones.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 571 17134 6
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The Sorrow of War 
by Bao Ninh, translated by Frank Palmos.
Secker, 217 pp., £8.99, January 1994, 0 436 31042 2
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A Good Scent from Strange Mountain 
by Robert Olen Butler.
Minerva, 249 pp., £5.99, November 1993, 0 7493 9767 5
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Out of the Sixties: Storytelling and the Vietnam Generation 
by David Wyatt.
Cambridge, 230 pp., £35, February 1994, 9780521441513
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... the story itself becomes part of the process of surviving. One of the purest examples of this is Tim O’Brien’s ‘The Man I Killed’, a preternaturally lucid description of a young Vietnamese soldier blown up by the narrator’s grenade. O’Brien’s precise, almost entranced detailing of the star-shaped hole where one of the man’s eyes used to ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945

1 April 1999
The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... and twenty poets, and both, while aware of picking from a changing landscape, expect (for a time at least) to be definitive. Their editors are themselves well-known poets who leave their own work out. Luckily, and as if to exemplify the way even commercial rivals need one another, they are well represented in each other’s selections. Both books are ...

How can we live with it?

Thomas Jones: How to Survive Climate Change

23 May 2013
The Carbon Crunch: How We’re Getting Climate Change Wrong – and How to Fix It 
by Dieter Helm.
Yale, 273 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 0 300 18659 8
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Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering 
by Clive Hamilton.
Yale, 247 pp., £20, February 2013, 978 0 300 18667 3
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The City and the Coming Climate: Climate Change in the Places We Live 
by Brian Stone.
Cambridge, 187 pp., £19.99, July 2012, 978 1 107 60258 8
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... he insisted again, ‘is a load of codswallop.’ This year’s April snows provoked similar sentiments in many quarters. ‘After such a long spell of cold, wet weather,’ Channel 4 News asked, ‘should scientists admit that the drastic temperature rises they predicted have failed to materialise?’ A few days later, Nature Geoscience published a paper ...

The Great British Economy Disaster

John Lanchester: A Very Good Election to Lose

11 March 2010
... we almost certainly can’t, not because of government fiddling but because the data come in over time, and retrospectively alter the GDP estimate. The number goes on changing for months, indeed years. It may well be that the position is worse than it looks. It may be that it’s better: unemployment fell by 7000 in ...

Moral Lepers

John Banville: Easter 1916

15 July 2015
Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland, 1890-1923 
by R.F. Foster.
Allen Lane, 433 pp., £10.99, May 2015, 978 0 241 95424 9
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... rebel leaders, thus granting them the martyrdom that many of them had sought. Indeed, even the victims of that ‘blood sacrifice’, as it came to be considered, might have been consigned harmlessly to what the historian and journalist Tim Pat Coogan used to call the ‘pantechnicon’ of Irish heroes, but for the fact ...

Warmer, Warmer

John Lanchester: Global Warming, Global Hot Air

22 March 2007
The Revenge of Gaia 
by James Lovelock.
Allen Lane, 222 pp., £8.99, February 2007, 978 0 14 102597 1
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Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis Summary for Policymakers: Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 
IPCC, February 2007Show More
Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning 
by George Monbiot.
Allen Lane, 277 pp., £17.99, September 2006, 0 7139 9923 3
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The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies 
by Richard Heinberg.
Clairview, 320 pp., £12.99, October 2005, 1 905570 00 7
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The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review 
by Nicholas Stern.
Cambridge, 692 pp., £29.99, January 2007, 978 0 521 70080 1
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... who drive them; and in a city the size of London, a few dozen people could in a short space of time make the ownership of these cars effectively impossible, just by running keys down the side of them, at a cost to the owner of several thousand pounds a time. Say fifty people vandalising four cars each every night for a ...
27 September 2018
How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed Aids 
by David France.
Picador, 624 pp., £12.99, September 2017, 978 1 5098 3940 7
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Patient Zero and the Making of the Aids Epidemic 
by Richard A. McKay.
Chicago, 432 pp., £26.50, November 2017, 978 0 226 06395 9
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Modern Nature: The Journals of Derek Jarman, 1989-90 
by Derek Jarman.
Vintage, 314 pp., £9.99, May 2018, 978 1 78487 387 5
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Smiling in Slow Motion: The Journals of Derek Jarman, 1991-94 
by Derek Jarman.
Vintage, 388 pp., £9.99, August 2018, 978 1 78487 516 9
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The Ward 
by Gideon Mendel.
Trolley, 88 pp., £25, December 2017, 978 1 907112 56 0
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... the blights of sheep, of birds, of cats, diseases no man had ever died of before. Men dying in the time it takes to catch and throw off a cold: ‘One Thursday,’ David France writes in How to Survive a Plague, ‘sexy Tommy McCarthy from the classifieds department stayed out late at an Yma Sumac concert. Friday he had a fever. Sunday he was ...

The Satoshi Affair

Andrew O’Hagan

29 June 2016
... motorway heading to north Sydney. She just wanted to be somewhere familiar where she would have time to think. She felt vulnerable without her phone, and decided to drive to a friend’s and borrow his. She went to his workplace and took his phone, telling him she couldn’t explain because she didn’t want to get him involved. Meanwhile, Wright was still ...

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