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The Only True Throne

John Pemble: ‘Muckraker’, 19 July 2012

Muckraker: The Scandalous Life and Times of W.T. Stead 
by W. Sydney Robinson.
Robson, 281 pp., £20, May 2012, 978 1 84954 294 4
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... a swollen head,’ the Fleet Street veteran A.G. Gardiner wrote in his memoirs. He must have had W.T. Stead especially in mind, because no editorial head was bigger than Stead’s. In the 1880s, first as deputy editor then editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, he’d been able (he said) to ‘wreck cabinets [and] let loose a tide of war upon helpless ...

Best Beloved

Kevin Brownlow, 18 April 1985

Chaplin: His Life and Art 
by David Robinson.
Collins, 792 pp., £15, March 1985, 9780002163873
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... still searching for an English publisher), Richard Schickel’s D. W. Griffith and now David Robinson’s Chaplin. All have one vital quality in common, and are preceded in this respect by Alexander Walker’s book on Garbo: they depend far less upon books of film history than upon first-class and first-hand research. Instead of a furtive glance at Terry ...

Sydney’s Inferno

Jonathan Coe, 24 September 1992

The Last Magician 
by Janette Turner Hospital et al.
Virago, 352 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 1 85381 325 7
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by George Mackay Brown.
Murray, 232 pp., £14.95, July 1992, 0 7195 5149 8
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... sloshing flood of time and space’. From the perspective of a smart garden party overlooking Sydney harbour, the line separating order (of which Hospital disapproves, because it’s authoritarian) from chaos (of which she approves, because it’s human) is called sharply into question: ‘Where else,’ her narrator asks, ‘is the membrane between ...

Dun and Gum

Nicholas Jose: Murray Bail, 16 July 1998

by Murray Bail.
Harvill, 264 pp., £12.99, July 1998, 1 86046 494 7
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... a writer whose approach is so painterly. Then, of course, there is the problem of Australia. ‘We’re so cripplingly laconic,’ he says, clinging to the place in spite of its constraints. But perhaps the biggest problem remains the writer’s self that can never quite be abolished. Bail’s early London diaries, published as Longhand: A Writer’s ...
The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen 
introduced by Angus Wilson.
Cape, 782 pp., £8.50, February 1981, 0 224 01838 8
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Elizabeth Bowen: An Estimation 
by Hermione Lee.
Vision, 225 pp., £12.95, July 1981, 9780854783441
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... of the Heart.* (The other, and for some readers the even finer novel, was The Last September.) If we again open it and read its first two pages to peer through the first wisps of its smoke of battle in search of the central theme, it is there as plain as an opened diary. The ‘catch’ is, as old lovers of this poignant, funny, passionate story will at once ...

Homage to the Provinces

Michael Wood, 28 May 1992

by Robert Hughes.
Harvill, 575 pp., £20, May 1992, 0 00 272078 7
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by Manuel Vazquez Montalban, translated by Andrew Robinson.
Verso, 210 pp., £17.95, May 1992, 0 86091 353 8
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Cities of Spain 
by David Gilmour.
Murray, 214 pp., £17.95, March 1992, 0 7195 4833 0
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Red City, Blue Period: Social Movements in Picasso’s Barcelona 
by Temma Kaplan.
California, 266 pp., $30, April 1992, 0 520 07507 2
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... and rigidity, and there is a Catalan word for it: seny. This untranslatable term means, we are told, something like common sense, or the spirit of compromise, but it is also rendered as wisdom and intelligence, and Temma Kaplan associates it with solidarity. ‘The man of seny,’ we learn from a Catalan writer ...

Tricked Out as a Virgin

Bee Wilson: Respectable Enough, 4 November 2021

The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey: A True Story of Sex, Crime and the Meaning of Justice 
by Julia Laite.
Profile, 410 pp., £16.99, April, 978 1 78816 442 9
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... slave trade’, fictional and factual. The journalist who did most to establish the genre was W.T. Stead of the Pall Mall Gazette. In 1885 he exposed the extent of child prostitution in London in a multi-part investigation, ‘The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon’. ‘Is it or is it not a fact,’ he asked an experienced police officer, ‘that, at this ...

Solid Advice

Michael Wilding, 8 May 1986

A Fortunate Life 
by A.B. Facey.
Viking, 331 pp., £10.95, February 1986, 0 670 80707 9
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... were just thrown into heaps near the camps.     Aunt and Grandma gathered the tins, then we would gather bushes, scrub and sticks, spread them onto the ground, and pile the tins on top. A pile would be left for a few days until the bushes and scrub, which were mostly green, dried enough to burn. Then we would come ...


Patrick Parrinder, 6 December 1990

by Jose Donoso, translated by Alfred MacAdam.
Picador, 310 pp., £13.95, October 1990, 0 330 31157 3
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War Fever 
by J.G. Ballard.
Collins, 176 pp., £12.95, November 1990, 0 00 223770 9
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Great Climate 
by Michael Wilding.
Faber, 147 pp., £12.99, November 1990, 0 571 14428 4
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Honour Thy Father 
by Lesley Glaister.
Secker, 182 pp., £13.99, September 1990, 9780436199981
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... transformation while sedulously avoiding the style of unrestrained ‘magic realism’ that we have come to expect of Latin American novels. ‘It was so easy to imitate Garcia Marquez, and everyone was doing it,’ the narrator remarks of the mourners gathered at the Nerudas’ house: but the scene from which this comment is taken is less reminiscent ...

Mighty Merry

E.S. Turner, 25 May 1995

The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Eleven Volumes, including Companion and Index 
edited by R.C. Latham and W. Matthews.
HarperCollins, 267 pp., £8.99, February 1995, 0 00 499021 8
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... as ‘Obj.’ (objectionable). The richer by £200, he then followed his father into the Church. We would do well to remember the Reverend John Smith in a year which sees the first publication in paperback of the work on which he did the initial drudgery. This entire version, infinitely corrected, is the transcription first published in 1971 by R.C. Latham ...

The Things We Throw Away

Andrew O’Hagan: The Garbage of England, 24 May 2007

... other people’s needs before my own,’ he said. ‘When I left that hideous job I got a sense we were all interconnected. Freeganism tries to connect with people’s needs – putting community first. In 2002, I decided to devote my life to getting the message out and living as sincerely as possible. Instead of using money and all that I wanted to tread ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2000, 25 January 2001

... a man’s job. 8 January. By train to Cambridge on a day of blinding sunshine and bitter cold. We eat our sandwiches on the train, a busy, bucketing electric job that scampers through Shepreth and Foxton and very different from the plodding little steam train I used to take into Cambridge when I was doing National Service. These days, the populousness of ...

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