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Ultimate Place

Seamus Deane, 16 March 1989

Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage 
by Tim Robinson.
Viking, 298 pp., £12.95, February 1989, 0 670 82485 2
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... folklore, flora and fauna, is the book’s subject, it is oddly elusive. Despite the fact that Tim Robinson’s account is the story of a pilgrimage, exhaustively detailed and loyal to every intimation, there is no ultimate moment or place of devotion. The quest is an end in ...

At Turner Contemporary

Anne Enright: Dorothy Cross, Connemara , 19 December 2013

... though I am not sure Cross thinks in those terms. Where I see the history of Irish national optimism, Dorothy Cross sees glass, or also sees glass, and it is this playful refusal of accumulated meaning that allows her, perhaps, to get away with it. ‘Pointing the Finger’ (1994) ‘Spurs’ (1993) from the Udder Series. ‘Whale’ (2011) ‘Everest ...


David Craig: In the Barra Isles, 30 October 1997

... Long Island’ of the Outer Hebrides. I was researching my book On the Crofters’ Trail at the time, collecting from people whatever their grand or great-grandparents had told them about the High-land Clearances, when landlords desperate to increase the income from their land forced many thousands of small tenants from their homes by a mixture of ...

Delivering the Leadership

Nick Cohen: Get Mandy, 4 March 1999

Mandy: The Authorised Biography of Peter Mandelson 
by Paul Routledge.
Simon and Schuster, 302 pp., £17.99, January 1999, 9780684851754
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... him away.’ In 1996, when he was living on £46,000 a year, Mandelson borrowed £373,000 (eight times his MP’s salary) from Geoffrey Robinson, an industrialist Blair put in the Treasury after New Labour’s victory. Robinson’s fortune had been inflated by dealings with Robert ...

Corbyn in the Media

Paul Myerscough, 21 October 2015

... in the singing of the national anthem at a commemoration of the Battle of Britain. The Times led with ‘Veterans open fire after Corbyn snubs anthem,’ the Telegraph with ‘Corbyn snubs queen and country.’ Three days into the job as leader of the Labour Party and already he wasn’t doing it right. What colour poppy, white or red, would he ...

No Company, No Carpets

Tim Parks: Tolstoy v. Tolstaya, 25 April 2018

Tolstoy and Tolstaya: A Portrait of a Life in Letters 
by Andrew Donskov, translated by John Woodsworth, Arkadi Klioutchanski and Liudmila Gladkova.
Ottawa, 430 pp., £48, May 2017, 978 0 7766 2471 6
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... of his religious background were hardly less disturbing. Lev was disgusted with himself every time he had sex. All too easily he transferred his self-loathing to the object of his lust. Women were filthy. Yearning for purity, he whored compulsively. He tried to be good, helping the peasants on his country estate, even running a school for them, but in no ...

Make the music mute

John Barrell, 9 July 1992

English Music 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 241 12501 4
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... sheds. With luck we may one day look back on it as the last ‘English’ novel. It is the 1920s. Timothy Harcombe, the narrator, works with his father Clement, a faith-healer, at the Chemical Theatre in the City Road in London; his mother Cecilia died in giving him birth. Each evening, after work, father and son walk back by a variety of sinuous routes to ...

It’s alive!

Christopher Tayler: The cult of Godzilla, 3 February 2005

Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters 
by William Tsutsui.
Palgrave, 240 pp., £8.99, December 2004, 1 4039 6474 2
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... according to William Tsutsui, watched its scenes of destruction ‘in respectful silence, sometimes leaving the theatres in tears’. Gojira – or Godzilla, as he came to be known in English – was a fire-breathing dinosaur played by a man in a latex suit, but his destruction of Tokyo wasn’t played for laughs. Ishiro Honda, who directed the movie, had ...

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 ...


John Lanchester: Lehman Brothers, 5 November 2009

The Murder of Lehman Brothers: An Insider’s Look at the Global Meltdown 
by Joseph Tibman.
Brick Tower, 243 pp., £16.95, September 2009, 978 1 883283 71 1
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A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Incredible Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers 
by Larry McDonald, in collaboration with Patrick Robinson.
Ebury, 351 pp., £7.99, September 2009, 978 0 09 193615 0
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... was immediately apparent: a man who gave the impression of having to fight very hard, at all times, to rein in a powerful feeling of anger. He looked angry on the way in, he looked angry on the way out, he looked angry when he was offering a non-apology for what had happened, and he looked angry when Congressman Henry Waxman was asking him if it was true ...

Into the Underworld

Iain Sinclair: The Hackney Underworld, 22 January 2015

... impulse to regard your home as a volatile asset. The canny speculator should be alert for the optimum moment to cash in. Three-bed flats are on offer at £750,000. The average rent in the street is calculated at £1666 per month. Inspired by this febrile vision, householders dig. There are seven basement excavations in progress. Wilberforce Road is unlisted ...
... Oates’ in the Bookseller, and seen or heard several broadcast interviews and discussions. Time-limits ruled out an exhaustive listing even, I suspect, of material which actually appeared before I had to stop looking. Even so, the figures reveal an average of more than one fairly substantial discussion for every day since publication.Fourteen reviews ...

If It Weren’t for Charlotte

Alice Spawls: The Brontës, 16 November 2017

... were dead and the family famous. Charlotte, looking younger than she would have been at the time (37) and prettier than she probably ever was (more on this later), is copied from George Richmond’s chalk drawing of 1850. Gaskell – the least distinctive of the three – is represented as much by her dress and slightly haughty stance as by her ...

Iraq, 2 May 2005

Andrew O’Hagan: Two Soldiers, 6 March 2008

... He also killed many of them, and buried their bodies in mass graves around the city. But by the time the 1st Battalion of the Coldstream Guards were operating out of Camp Abu Naji, it was the British army that had become the enemy of the people. Mortar attacks on the base were just part of the general grief, a handful of dust to be thrown regularly in the ...


Colm Tóibín: The Great Irish Famine, 30 July 1998

... came like swallows and like swallows went,’ Yeats said in ‘Coole Park, 1929’, imagining a timeWhen all those rooms and passages are gone,When nettles wave upon a shapeless moundAnd saplings root among the broken stone.Nothing now roots among the broken stone: the site where the house once stood is cemented over, as though to contain uneasy spirits in ...

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