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Cocoa is blood and they are eating my flesh

Toby Green: Slavery and Cocoa, 11 April 2013

Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery and Colonial Africa 
by Catherine Higgs.
Ohio, 230 pp., £24.95, June 2012, 978 0 8214 2006 5
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... For centuries, the region that now straddles northern Angola and the western part of the Democratic Republic of Congo formed a political and cultural whole. South of what the BaKongo knew as the Zaire river lay the heartland of the Kingdom of Kongo, one of the most powerful states of West-Central Africa. Kongo sat at the crossroads of trade routes linking the forests of the interior with the arid coastal areas near Luanda, in Angola, and the savannahs of the plateau further north ...

As the Lock Rattles

John Lanchester, 16 December 2021

Breathtaking: Inside the NHS in a Time of Pandemic 
by Rachel Clarke.
Abacus, 228 pp., £9.99, September 2021, 978 0 349 14456 6
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Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World’s Economy 
by Adam Tooze.
Allen Lane, 354 pp., £25, September 2021, 978 0 241 48587 3
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Failures of State: The Inside Story of Britain’s Battle with Coronavirus 
by Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott.
Mudlark, 432 pp., £20, March 2021, 978 0 00 843052 8
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Covid by Numbers: Making Sense of the Pandemic with Data 
by David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters.
Pelican, 320 pp., £10.99, October 2021, 978 0 241 54773 1
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The Covid Consensus: The New Politics of Global Inequality 
by Toby Green.
Hurst, 294 pp., £14.99, April 2021, 978 1 78738 522 1
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... Rachel Clarke points out that in the last twenty years there have been seventeen white papers, green papers and reviews of funding concerning social care, but no actual change. Social care wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen, it was a disaster that was already happening, in slow motion and full public view; but the only people who noticed or cared were ...
The ego is always at the wheel 
by Delmore Schwartz.
Carcanet, 146 pp., £6.95, May 1987, 0 85635 702 2
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A Nest of Ninnies 
by John Ashbery and James Schuyler.
Carcanet, 191 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 85635 699 9
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... a name exotic or absurd, half old-time Jewish and half Hollywood – Shenandoah Fish, Hershey Green, Cornelius Schmidt. In his best verse play, Shenandoah, he even features himself looking back on his own naming ceremony twenty-five years earlier. When his mother, Elsie Fish, decides on Shenandoah, he breaks out Macbeth-like: Now it is done and quickly ...

Behind the Sandwall

Jeremy Harding: Morocco’s Shame, 23 February 2006

Endgame in the Western Sahara: What Future for Africa’s Last Colony? 
by Toby Shelley.
Zed, 215 pp., £16.95, November 2004, 1 84277 341 0
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... sooner or later to ‘Africa’s forgotten war’. The conflict in Western Sahara, the subject of Toby Shelley’s book, was often referred to as a forgotten war. It also displaced a large number of the territory’s inhabitants, whose camps are in no sense makeshift: the Sahrawi refugees from former Spanish Sahara have been stranded across the border in ...

Baggy and Thin

Susan Eilenberg: Annie Dillard, 3 January 2008

The Maytrees 
by Annie Dillard.
Hesperus, 185 pp., £12.99, September 2007, 978 1 84391 710 6
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... and blinked. It was a ruckus.’ And the particulars matter in the death of a particular small green frog: He was exactly half in and half out of the water, looking like a schematic diagram of an amphibian, and he didn’t jump. He didn’t jump; I crept closer. At last I knelt on the island’s winterkilled grass, lost, dumbstruck, staring at the frog ...

Cityscape with Figures

Julian Symons, 21 August 1980

The Great Fortune, The Spoilt City, Friends and Heroes 
by Olivia Manning.
Penguin, 287 pp., £1.25, March 1980, 0 14 003543 5
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... rather than fantasy, but also by the quality of understatement. From Compton-Burnett to Hartley to Green and Greene and Powell, novelists have felt that the climactic points of a book may be more effective if they occur offstage, or even if they are left unsaid. There are exceptions, Angus Wilson’s novels most notable among them, but this remains the ...

One Single Plan

Andrew Berry: Proto-Darwinism, 17 March 2005

Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire: A Visionary Naturalist 
by Hervé le Guyader, translated by Marjorie Grene.
Chicago, 302 pp., £31.50, February 2004, 0 226 47091 1
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... promoting adaptive change is pure functionalism. In her excellent 1987 account of the debate, Toby Appel argues that both protagonists ‘defended extreme positions’. As so often in scientific disputes, the truth lay somewhere in the middle; and so, Appel points out, the debate’s significance lay in its challenge to ‘naturalists to come to a ...

Fugitive Crusoe

Tom Paulin: Daniel Defoe, 19 July 2001

Daniel Defoe: Master of Fictions 
by Maximilian Novak.
Oxford, 756 pp., £30, April 2001, 0 19 812686 7
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Political and Economic Writings of Daniel Defoe 
edited by W.R. Owens and P.N. Furbank.
Pickering & Chatto, £595, December 2000, 1 85196 465 7
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... a knowledge of five languages, was educated at Charles Morton’s Dissenting Academy in Newington Green. Morton was a distinguished teacher and educationalist who was incessantly harassed by the Anglican Church till he left England for North America, where he became Vice-President of Harvard. The American connection can be sensed in Crusoe, and it is wittily ...

What about the aeroplanes?

Gillian Beer, 23 April 1987

The Essays of Virginia Woolf: Vol. 1 1904-1912 
edited by Andrew McNeillie.
Hogarth, 411 pp., £20, November 1986, 0 7012 0666 7
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The Interrupted Moment: A View of Virginia Woolf’s Novels 
by Lucio Ruotolo.
Stanford, 262 pp., $29.50, November 1986, 0 8047 1342 1
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Virginia Woolf and the Real World 
by Alex Zwerdling.
California, 370 pp., £24.95, October 1986, 0 520 05684 1
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... seclusion in a bedroom in Wimpole Street.’ Woolf’s mother died when she was 12; her brother Toby died of typhoid on a visit to Greece; her health repeatedly broke down; and, although the tyranny was of a different kind, any reader of Stephen’s Mausoleum Book and of Woolf’s own accounts will recognise the tyrannical tenderness of the ...

Stop the Robot Apocalypse

Amia Srinivasan: The New Utilitarians, 24 September 2015

Doing Good Better: Effective Altruism and a Radical New Way to Make a Difference 
by William MacAskill.
Guardian Faber, 325 pp., £14.99, August 2015, 978 1 78335 049 0
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... William MacAskill, a 28-year-old lecturer at Oxford. As graduate students MacAskill and his friend Toby Ord committed themselves to donate most of their future earnings to charity (in MacAskill’s case anything above £20,000, in Ord’s £18,000), and set themselves the task of figuring out how to make best use of the money they had pledged. The result was ...

NHS SOS

James Meek, 5 April 2018

... to NHS England, the master of Leicestershire’s STP is a long-term NHS administrator called Toby Sanders, who’s also managing director of West Leicestershire CCG. But when I approached Sanders in August, I got nowhere: initially a flat refusal, through an intermediary, to have anyone talk to me about anything to do with Leicestershire NHS, then months ...

One, Two, Three, Eyes on Me!

George Duoblys, 5 October 2017

... by Christodoulou, Gove, Gibb and Lemov as well as Boris Johnson, Roger Scruton and the journalist Toby Young, who co-founded the West London Free School.* Recently Michaela joined City, Mossbourne and King Solomon in being rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.There is an invitation to visit Michaela on the school’s website. (For a while recently, visits were ...

Cute, My Arse

Seamus Perry: Geoffrey Hill, 12 September 2019

The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Oxford, 148 pp., £20, April 2019, 978 0 19 882952 2
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... brewery marketing campaigns: ‘O Tory-grandee-right-to-buy oligarchy, plutocratic malarkey, Uncle Toby and Tristram Shandy real ale, in which and wherefrom we are all grounded awash, thriftlessly and for sale’. The idea of intrinsic value came from Ruskin: Hill often invoked it in his later prose – ‘Let me recommence my old caterwaul of “intrinsic ...

Bastard Foreigners

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare v. the English, 2 July 2020

Shakespeare’s Englishes: Against Englishness 
by Margaret Tudeau-Clayton.
Cambridge, 245 pp., £75, October 2019, 978 1 108 49373 4
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... inevitably had particular problems with the cultural legacies of the Norman conquest. John Green, with exactly the bluntness he advocates, longed for the linguistic and ethnic purity of Anglo-Saxon England. ‘Before the Conquest by Bastard William that the French came in,’ he claimed in 1615, ‘our English tongue was most perfect,’ but nowadays ...

The Best Stuff

Ian Jack: David Astor, 2 June 2016

David Astor: A Life in Print 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 400 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 0 224 09090 2
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... whose literary style he so admired that new arrivals on the paper were greeted by a circular on green paper setting out Orwell’s advice on how to write. Orwell’s experience as a contributor to the paper wasn’t particularly happy: Ivor Brown took him on as a reviewer very reluctantly and treated him like a novice, frowning at his copy and wondering if ...

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