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Goldfish are my homies

John Lahr, 22 October 2020

Casting Shadows: Fish and Fishing in Britain 
by Tom Fort.
William Collins, 368 pp., £20, April, 978 0 00 828344 5
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... It, which begins: ‘In our family there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.’ Tom Fort’s Casting Shadows: Fish and Fishing in Britain may not qualify as ‘literature’; but it offers garrulous witness to a fine passion. Fort, who is a former fishing columnist at the Financial Times and the ...

On Tom Pickard

August Kleinzahler: Tom Pickard, 22 November 2018

... In June​ 2002, Tom Pickard moved into a cramped attic in the Hartside Café in Cumbria, perched on Fiends Fell, six miles from Alston, where Pickard had been living. The café sits at the high point of the road between Penrith and Alston, one of the few trans-Pennine roads. At just below two thousand feet it was the highest café in England, and felt like the windiest ...


Tom Paulin: Summer in Donegal, 16 September 1999

... and earth, and find a stone-paved floor, the hazel bushes growing up through it. I want it to be a fort or an ancient lookout, in line with the crannog, the tiny island fort, in the estuary below, but the fact it’s not circular, the way it’s set into the lee of the hill, makes me think it must be an old stone cabin, how ...

Jigsaw Mummies

Tom Shippey: Pagan Britain, 6 November 2014

Pagan Britain 
by Ronald Hutton.
Yale, 480 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 300 19771 6
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The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria 
by Max Adams.
Head of Zeus, 450 pp., £25, August 2013, 978 1 78185 418 1
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... of what Hutton calls ‘a lady of ill fame’ who had probably plied her trade at the Iron Age fort on the cliff above. We now know that the Red Lady was male, the bones have been dated to 32,000 bc, far earlier than the fort, and the careful arrangement of the body suggests that the dead man ‘most probably possessed ...

Little Brits

Tom Shippey: Murder on Hadrian’s Wall, 19 November 2015

The Real Lives of Roman Britain 
by Guy de la Bédoyère.
Yale, 241 pp., £20, May 2015, 978 0 300 20719 4
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... he was more likely a veteran on detached duty) whose stone survives not far away at Corbridge. The fort at South Shields was called Arbeia, which may derive from Arabi and mean ‘Arabtown’, and at a later date it was garrisoned by an auxiliary unit of Barcarii Tigrisienses, ‘boatmen from the Tigris’. Regina died at the age of thirty and Barates ...

So Much Smoke

Tom Shippey: King Arthur, 20 December 2018

King Arthur: the Making of the Legend 
by Nicholas Higham.
Yale, 380 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 0 300 21092 7
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... woman, lying in a pit beneath the bones of nine warhorses, all buried in the middle of the fort’s old parade ground. The mix of mystery, ritual, old civilisation and new barbarism has proved intoxicating. The Morris-and-Alcock revaluation of the 1970s, to which Higham is still responding, also got a lot of its force from dig discoveries, notably at ...

House of Miscegenation

Gilberto Perez: Westerns, 18 November 2010

Hollywood Westerns and American Myth 
by Robert Pippin.
Yale, 198 pp., £25, May 2010, 978 0 300 14577 9
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... Hawks’s Red River (1948) is not about equality but authority. It is a tale of two leaders: Tom Dunson (John Wayne) and his adopted son Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift). Dunson is the organiser of a massive cattle drive, starting out in south-west Texas and heading for a railroad in the Midwest. But the kinder and gentler Matt takes over when the cowhands ...

Short Cuts

David Bromwich: Stirrers Up of Strife, 17 March 2016

... in the first term, was largely a third Bill Clinton term: Rahm Emanuel, Lawrence Summers, Tom Donilon, Leon Panetta, John Podesta and Hillary Clinton were called back and held over. The interlude of subsequent personal enrichment by Clinton, trading on her prestige and inside knowledge, has drawn attention in recent days, after the revelation of her ...

Summer Simmer

Tom Vanderbilt: Chicago heatwaves, 22 August 2002

Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago 
by Eric Klinenberg.
Chicago, 305 pp., £19.50, August 2002, 0 226 44321 3
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... and wild’, the skyscraper pioneer Louis Sullivan wrote in the 1870s of this former frontier fort, a ‘crude extravaganza’. The city was wresting itself from its surroundings, ‘the primal power assuming self-expression amid nature’s impelling urge’. Others were less sanguine about this conquest of nature. The novelist Hamlin Garland, visiting ...

Adventures of the Black Box

Tom McCarthy, 18 November 2021

... perhaps ours is Trevor Paglen’s aerial photograph, taken in 2013, of the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland. At its centre are two literal black boxes, their mirrored surfaces impenetrable. Paglen’s genius is to give the giant complex – photographed after dark, the ground glowing with sodium light – a quality we could call ...

Rain, Blow, Rustle

Nick Richardson: John Cage, 19 August 2010

No Such Thing As Silence: John Cage’s 4'33" 
by Kyle Gann.
Yale, 255 pp., £16.99, April 2010, 978 0 300 13699 9
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... he had purloined from Cornish, and Credo in US, scored for tin cans, gongs, electric buzzer, tom-tom, piano and phonograph. He prepared a piano for the first time in March 1940, for a performance by the dancer Syvilla Fort. She wanted to dance to percussion music but the hall she was ...

The Most Corrupt Idea of Modern Times

Tom Stevenson: Inspecting the Troops, 1 July 2021

The Changing of the Guard: The British Army since 9/11 
by Simon Akam.
Scribe, 704 pp., £25, March, 978 1 913348 48 9
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... Security Assistance Force. If the two main forms of colonial war are urban occupation and rural fort-soldiering, Basra exemplified the first and Helmand the second. British officers knew that they had too few troops in Helmand. The armed forces often claim that the civilian state asks them to do too much with too little, but in this case the military ...

Eric’s Hurt

David Craig, 7 March 1985

Eric Linklater: A Critical Biography 
by Michael Parnell.
Murray, 376 pp., £16, October 1984, 0 7195 4109 3
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... This Seriously’ or ‘I Am A Caricature’: the war profiteer in The Impregnable Women called Tom Hogpool, who is ‘red-eared, brutally fat, ferret-eyed, and vulgar as a pig in a sty’; the writer’s sisters-in-law in ‘A Sociable Plover’, one ‘a painter in the abstract style, and a Lesbian’, the other a ‘stiff-seeming, soggy-minded lecturer ...

A feather! A very feather upon the face!

Amit Chaudhuri: India before Kipling, 6 January 2000

The Unforgiving Minute 
by Harry Ricketts.
Chatto, 434 pp., £25, January 1999, 0 7011 3744 4
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... of the British scholarly and administrative classes. William Jones, whose researches at the Fort William College in Calcutta were largely responsible for inaugurating Orientalist scholarship and the reconstruction of Indian history, wore native clothes made of muslin in the heat – the solar hat and khaki uniform that Beerbohm has Kipling wear in one ...

The Fire This Time

John Sutherland, 28 May 1992

... rich or famous civilians. The Mayor of Los Angeles is black, and is also a former LAPD officer. Tom Bradley exudes flexibility, tolerance and a benign moral laxity. When his daughter was caught driving under the influence of PCP, she was forgiven. Bradley, who, at 74, is much older than he looks, belongs to the Martin Luther King ‘one race, the human ...

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