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Lacking in style

Keith Kyle, 25 February 1993

Divided we stand: Britain, the US and the Suez Crisis 
by W. ScottLucas.
Hodder, 399 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 340 53666 7
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Blind Loyalty: Australia and the Suez Crisis 
by W.J. Hudson.
Melbourne, 157 pp., £12.50, November 1991, 0 522 84394 8
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... The late Lord Caccia, who had the misfortune to arrive in Washington as British Ambassador in November 1956 just as the ‘special relationship’ hit its all-time low  with the abrupt American-driven ceasefire on the Suez Canal, was much given in later years to recalling how flabbergasted he had been by an encounter he witnessed on the 17th of that month ...

Reach-Me-Down Romantic

Terry Eagleton: For and Against Orwell, 19 June 2003

George Orwell 
by Gordon Bowker.
Little, Brown, 495 pp., £20, May 2003, 0 316 86115 4
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Orwell: The Life 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 448 pp., £20, June 2003, 0 7011 6919 2
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Orwell: Life and Times 
by Scott Lucas.
Haus, 180 pp., £8.99, April 2003, 1 904341 33 0
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... He was the son of a servant of the Crown from a well-heeled South of England background, who shone at prep school but proved something of an academic flop later on. A passionate left-wing polemicist, he nonetheless retained more than a few traces of his public-school breeding, including a plummy accent and a horde of posh friends ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The gangster movie, 13 December 2007

American Gangster 
directed by Ridley Scott.
November 2007
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... Ridley Scott is always a director to watch. This proposition includes watching for things to avoid, especially when he goes for history and costume, as in 1492 and The Kingdom of Heaven ...

I hear, I see, I learn

Nicholas Spice, 4 November 1993

The Green Knight 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 472 pp., £15.99, September 1993, 0 7011 6030 6
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... The question of how  we are to take Iris Murdoch’s characters (indeed, whether we can take them at all) is raised, even before we get to know them, by their names. In The Green Knight we have to contend with Lucas and Clement Graffe, Harvey Blacket, Bellamy James and his dog Anax, the Anderson women – Louise and her daughters Alethea (Aleph), Sophia (Sefton) and Moira (Moy) – Emil and Clive and the Adwardens ...

How the sanity of poets can be edited away

Arnold Rattenbury: The Sanity of Ivor Gurney, 14 October 1999

‘Severn and Somme’ and ‘War’s Embers’ 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 152 pp., £7.95, September 1997, 1 85754 348 3
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80 Poems or So 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by George Walter and R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 148 pp., £9.95, January 1997, 1 85754 344 0
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... Most loyal and protective of Gurney’s many friends, Marion Scott wrote after one of her regular visits to the asylum: ‘Ivor is so heart-breakingly sane in his insanity.’ Letters, reported conversation, music, poems all attest to the fact. He was trained and already admired as a composer before enlistment; in the trenches poetry had occupied him more and more and, when he returned afterwards to music, the poetry continued ...

In Brighton

Peter Campbell: Free associating on stucco, 23 May 2002

... The Brighton Museum is open again. Ten million pounds has been well spent: it is tidier, lighter, more extensive and more coherent than it was. The rich, crammed display style, which always suited its heterogeneous holdings, has been brought up to date rather than abandoned for something cooler ...

Remembering the taeog

D.A.N. Jones, 30 August 1990

People of the Black Mountains. Vol. II: The Eggs of the Eagle 
by Raymond Williams.
Chatto, 330 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 7011 3564 6
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In the Blue Light of African Dreams 
by Paul Watkins.
Heinemann, 282 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 09 174307 9
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Friedrich Harris: Shooting the hero 
by Philip Purser.
Quartet, 250 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 7043 2759 7
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The Journey Home 
by Dermot Bolger.
Viking, 294 pp., £13.99, June 1990, 0 670 83215 4
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Evenings at Mongini’s 
by Russell Lucas.
Heinemann, 262 pp., £12.95, January 1990, 0 434 43646 1
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... Rightly admired as a critic, an interpreter of ‘culture and society’, Raymond Williams was disappointing as a writer of fiction. The Eggs of the Eagle is the second volume of ‘People of the Black Mountains’, his uncompleted ‘historical novel ...

I’ll be back

Marjorie Garber: Sequels, 19 August 1999

Part TwoReflections on the Sequel 
edited by Paul Budra and Betty Schellenberg.
Toronto, 217 pp., £40, February 1999, 0 8020 0915 8
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... She would, if asked, tell us many little particulars about the subsequent career of her people,’ Jane Austen’s nephew  wrote in his Memoir of his aunt. In this traditionary way we learned that Miss Steele never succeeded in catching the Doctor; that Kitty Bennet was satisfactorily married to a clergyman near Pemberley, while Mary obtained nothing higher than one of her uncle Philips’ clerks, and was content to be considered a star in the society of Meriton; that the ‘considerable sum’ Mrs Norris gave William Price was one pound; that Mr Woodhouse survived his daughter’s marriage, and kept her and Mr Knightley from settling at Donwell, about two years; and that the letters placed by Frank Churchill before Jane Fairfax, which she swept away unread, contained the word ‘pardon ...

Slick Chick

Elaine Showalter, 11 July 1991

The Haunting of Sylvia Plath 
by Jacqueline Rose.
Virago, 288 pp., £14.99, June 1991, 1 85381 307 9
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Passions of the Mind 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 340 pp., £17, August 1991, 0 7011 3260 4
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... We all know the story. A brilliant, neurotic young American woman poet, studying on a fellowship at Cambridge, meets and marries the ‘black marauder’ who is the male poet-muse of her fantasies ...

When the beam of light has gone

Peter Wollen: Godard Turns Over, 17 September 1998

The Films of Jean-Luc Godard 
by Wheeler Winston Dixon.
SUNY, 290 pp., £17.99, March 1997, 0 7914 3285 8
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Speaking about Godard 
by Kaja Silverman and Harun Farocki.
New York, 256 pp., $55, July 1998, 0 8147 8066 0
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... I was living in Paris in 1959, the year of both Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless and Budd Boetticher’s The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, and I went to see both of these films the week they were released. In fact, I went back to see them a number of times ...

The World Took Sides

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Martin Luther, 10 August 2016

Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Centre of Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe – and Started the Protestant Reformation 
by Andrew Pettegree.
Penguin, 383 pp., £21.99, October 2015, 978 1 59420 496 8
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Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet 
by Lyndal Roper.
Bodley Head, 577 pp., £30, June 2016, 978 1 84792 004 1
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Martin Luther: Visionary Reformer 
by Scott H. Hendrix.
Yale, 341 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 0 300 16669 9
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... Next autumn​ marks the half-millennium since an event now so mythic that some have doubted it ever took place. If it did, the date was 31 October 1517. The main actor belonged to a religious Order known as the Hermits of Saint Augustine, Martin Luther by name, though he also tried out a hybrid Greek/Latin polish for his surname by dressing it up as ‘Eleutherius’, ‘the freed man ...

The Party in Government

Conor Gearty, 9 March 1995

... The last two years of sleaze have given the false impression that there is something new about the way in which this government now runs the country. In fact it has been an inefficient, authoritarian, hypocritical and morally bankrupt administration almost since the day it took office in 1979 ...

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