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Monstrous Carbuncle

Tim Flannery: In the Coal Hole

6 January 2005
Coal: A Human History 
by Barbara Freese.
Heinemann, 320 pp., £12.99, February 2004, 0 434 01333 1
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... Edward I knew a thing or two about coal. He hated its stink, and in 1306 banned the burning of it in his kingdom, threatening offenders with ‘great fines and ransoms’. There are even records of coal-burners being hanged, tortured or decapitated (sources don’t agree on the punishment: it’s possible all three were applied). After reading Barbara Freese’s book, you get the feeling that vigorous ...


Tim Flannery: When the British met the Australians

15 December 2005
Dancing with Strangers: The True History of the Meeting of the British First Fleet and the Aboriginal Australians 1788 
by Inga Clendinnen.
Canongate, 322 pp., £16.99, August 2005, 1 84195 616 3
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... On 25 January 1788, HMS Supply eased her way between the imposing sandstone cliffs that mark the entrance to Port Jackson and into a waterway that John White, the First Fleet’s surgeon, proclaimed as ‘the finest and most extensive harbour in the universe’. The hyperbole was perhaps understandable, for the Britons were seeing Sydney Harbour through eyes wearied by months at sea, and this was to ...

Hell Pigs

Francis Gooding: Before there was Europe

22 December 2019
Europe: The First One Hundred Million Years 
by Tim Flannery.
Penguin, 368 pp., £10.99, June 2019, 978 0 14 198902 0
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... Tethys Ocean a hundred million years ago, and look out towards a vast archipelago, could we really call our surroundings ‘Europe’?Maybe so. Defining Europe at all is ‘a slippery undertaking’, TimFlannery writes at the start of Europe, ‘its diversity, evolutionary history and shifting border make the place almost protean.’ But definitions can be found, and for natural history purposes ...

Behaving like Spiders

Tim Flannery: The Holocene summer of social evolution

24 June 2004
The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilisation 
by Brian Fagan.
Granta, 284 pp., £20, May 2004, 1 86207 644 8
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... Can you imagine a winter so cold that the sea is frozen over all the way from Norway to Denmark? Not even the last Ice Age saw such a thing, for then the sea level was lower, and all of Scandinavia was joined together by dry land. Yet in 1837-38 the Norwegians survived such a season. And what of having to watch as every day the sea rises another 15 centimetres, until after two years what was your home ...
1 June 2000
Driving the Heart 
by Jason Brown.
Cape, 224 pp., £10, January 2000, 0 224 06053 8
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... similarities: Tobias Wolff, Bobbie Ann Mason and Ann Beattie all use an austere, melancholic naturalism, tinged with the grotesque, that owes something to Anderson’s successors – early Hemingway, Flannery O’Connor, Faulkner. In the 1980s, short fiction established itself as a form appropriate to their subject matter: broken homes, failed marriages, second wives, second chances, missed opportunities ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2011

5 January 2012
... in the rooms of undergraduates one didn’t really know or even like but who just happened to be marooned in Oxford out of term.One black mark against Larkin is that he no more cares for the work of Flannery O’Connor than Amis did: ‘The day didn’t get off to a very good start by my reading some stories by “Flannery O’Connor” in the bath … horribly depressing American South things.’ This ...

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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... them. Stone urges the adoption of ‘mitigation strategies that yield concurrent adaptive benefits’. Examples of the opposite – adaptation without mitigation – are easier to come by. In 2004, TimFlannery said that ‘there is a fair chance Perth will be the 21st century’s first ghost metropolis’ because of the threat to its freshwater supply. The capital of Western Australia has since ...

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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... and the Case for Renewable and Nuclear Energy by William Sweet (Columbia, 256 pp., £17.95, April 2006, 978 0 231 13710 2) The Weather Makers: The History and Future Impact of Climate Change by TimFlannery (Allen Lane, 341 pp., £20, March 2006, 978 0 713 999 21 1) State of the World 2006: The Challenge of World Sustainability by the Worldwatch Institute (Earthscan, 244 pp., £14.99, January 2006, 978 ...

Get a Real Degree

Elif Batuman: Down with Creative Writing

23 September 2010
The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing 
by Mark McGurl.
Harvard, 480 pp., £25.95, April 2009, 978 0 674 03319 1
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... US: a paradoxically enabling disablement’. ‘Almost all artistically ambitious authors in the postwar period “self-commodify” in this sense,’ McGurl continues, inviting us to ‘think of Tim O’Brien and his lifelong use of nine months in Vietnam.’ Indeed, think of Tim O’Brien. As a White Person, he couldn’t write about most of his life experience, which was probably just like ...

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