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Good Things

Colin McGinn

5 September 1996
Virtues and Reasons: Philippa Foot and Moral Theory 
edited by Rosalind Hursthouse, Gavin Lawrence and Warren​ Quinn.
Oxford, 350 pp., £35, July 1996, 0 19 824046 5
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... beliefs in a certain way; rather, we need to determine whether the thinker desires to reason validly. If she does not, she is not being irrational in reasoning by invalid rules of inference. We may hope that people will desire to reason as logic says they should, but we can’t accuse them of unreason if they fail to. Such a view of logical reasoning will strike most people as radical and bizarre ...
17 October 1996
‘People for Lunch’ and ‘Spoilt’ 
by Georgina Hammick.
Vintage, 408 pp., £6.99, August 1996, 0 09 946381 4
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The Arizona Game 
by Georgina Hammick.
Chatto, 285 pp., £14.99, August 1996, 0 7011 6214 7
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... Motherhood, the hidden currents of family history and the seductions and dangers of the imagination are as conspicuous here as in the stories. Hannah, 36 years old, has been brought up by her Aunt Hope. Her mother is in a long-term psychiatric institution, her father ran off years ago, her brother Ivo was killed in a road accident at the age of four. There has been, the novel begins by telling us ...
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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Vinland 
by George Mackay Brown.
Murray, 232 pp., £14.95, July 1992, 0 7195 5149 8
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... human) is called sharply into question: ‘Where else,’ her narrator asks, ‘is the membrane between manicured lawn and quarry so wafer thin?’ The ‘quarry’ referred to here is a nightmarish warren into which Sydney’s underclass has been driven: Hospital likes to describe it in terms of Dante’s hellish circles, its outer regions consisting of seedy pubs and bars, its innermost recesses ...

Long March

Martin Pugh

2 June 1983
Renewal: Labour’s Britain in the 1980s 
by Shadow Cabinet, edited by Gerald Kaufman.
Penguin, 201 pp., £2.50, April 1983, 0 14 052351 0
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Socialism in a Cold Climate 
edited by John Griffith.
Allen and Unwin, 230 pp., £2.95, April 1983, 9780043350508
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Liberal Party Politics 
edited by Vernon Bogdanor.
Oxford, 302 pp., £17.50, April 1983, 0 19 827465 3
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... 1945, 1966 and 1974 all owed something to the capacity of the radical party of the time to allay the fears of voters alarmed by the Right. Now Mrs Thatcher is as reassuring as a lively ferret in a warren full of rabbits, but Labour’s escape route attracts little traffic. Many of the contributors seem primarily to be reassuring themselves, for they look back to 1945-51 as if hoping to recapture glad ...

The Art of Stealth

Bruce Ackerman: The Supreme Court under Threat

17 February 2005
... was still a dynamic force on the court. But the last liberal justices retired more than a decade ago. Nobody on the bench is interested in reviving the strong egalitarianism of the 1960s, when the Warren Court was in its heyday. The present judicial spectrum ranges from moderate liberals to radical rightists, and Bush will be aiming to nominate candidates who will push the court’s centre of gravity ...

Diary

Paul Foot: Windsor Girls School on 22 June

4 July 1985
... were saying.’ She called this ‘pure intellectual escapism’, and proceeded to prove it with an analysis of the treatment of India and the Orient by the Romantic poets. In the 1780s, she said, Warren Hastings had hoped to rule India through Indians, without imposing a British civil service or a British army. For this purpose, he needed to sow a gentle, rather radical view of the Hindu people and ...

Leave off saying I want you to be savages

Sandra Gilbert: D.H. Lawrence

19 March 1998
D.H. Lawrence: Dying Game 1922-30 
by David Ellis.
Cambridge, 814 pp., £25, January 1998, 0 521 25421 3
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... pollyanalytics’, most by now the fodder for countless critical treatises, and even apart from his still oddly scandalous paintings at which, David Ellis reports, 13,000 visitors to London’s Warren Gallery gawked in the early summer of 1929, he was a figure of extraordinary fascination, even during his lifetime. Paradoxically, then, to contemplate works by the author of that famous critical ...

Stifled Truth

Wyatt Mason: Tobias Wolff and fictions of the self

5 February 2004
Old School 
by Tobias Wolff.
Bloomsbury, 195 pp., £12.99, February 2004, 0 7475 6948 7
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... and daring daylight raids on enemy headquarters. Woermer told these lies without pleasure, because he saw the reporter had no respect for truth. The desire to report experience truly, and the hope that his readers will respond to, and respect, the cost of this truth, has characterised Wolff’s work since Ugly Rumours. Typically, his protagonists face an acute moral dilemma, unable to ...

Reasons for thinking that war is a good thing

Eric Foner: The death of Liberalism

27 June 2002
The Strange Death of American Liberalism 
by H.W. Brands.
Yale, 200 pp., £16, January 2002, 0 300 09021 8
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... faire reigned supreme. During World War One, the Government conscripted soldiers, increased taxes, regulated industry and labour and suppressed dissent. But in 1920, Americans elected a President – Warren Harding – who promised a return to ‘normalcy’, defined as individualism free from public intervention. World War Two witnessed an even more striking expansion of government power. It would ...

‘Mmmmm’ not ‘Hmmm’

Michael Wood: Katharine Hepburn

11 September 2003
Kate Remembered 
by A. Scott Berg.
Simon and Schuster, 318 pp., £18.99, July 2003, 0 7432 0676 2
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... Michael Jackson at Hepburn’s New York townhouse, where the singer is silent on all topics except the pleasure he has in watching his pet boa constrictor eat small rodents. And there is the saga of Warren Beatty, with Berg’s help, recruiting Hepburn for Love Affair, a remake of Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr’s weepie An Affair to Remember. ‘Poor girl,’ Hepburn murmurs, thinking of Beatty’s wife ...
25 May 1995
The Akhmatova Journals. Vol. I: 1938-1941 
by Lydia Chukovskaya, translated by Milena Michalski and Sylva Rubashova.
Harvill, 310 pp., £20, June 1994, 0 00 216391 8
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Remembering Anna Akhmatova 
by Anatoly Nayman, translated by Wendy Rosslyn.
Halban, 240 pp., £18, June 1991, 9781870015417
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Anna Akhmatova and Her Circle 
edited by Konstantin Polivanov, translated by Patricia Beriozkina.
Arkansas, 281 pp., $32, January 1994, 1 55728 308 7
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Anna Akhmatova: Poet and Prophet 
by Roberta Reeder.
Allison and Busby, 592 pp., £25, February 1995, 0 85031 998 6
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Women’s Works in Stalin’s Time: On Lidia Chukovskaia and Nadezhda Mandelstam 
by Beth Holmgren.
Indiana, 225 pp., £25, September 1993, 0 253 33860 3
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... In the late Fifties, in the dusty warren of a Manhattan apartment, the composer Artur Sergeevich Lourié answered my questions about his friend Osip Mandelstam, whom he plausibly deemed to have been by that time irretrievably forgotten. I ...
18 November 1993
New York Days 
by Willie Morris.
Little, Brown, 400 pp., £19.45, September 1993, 0 316 58421 5
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... would take many more years, and boxcar loads of wine and cheese and testimony in front of the United States Congress, to determine just how those dreams had been deferred. Yet tonight the cemetery of hope and idealism is empty. Jack Kennedy is alive. Martin Luther King is alive. Bobby Kennedy is alive. James Baldwin is alive. Janis Joplin is alive. Jack Kerouac is alive. Jimi Hendrix is alive. Lyndon ...

Magic Zones

Marina Warner

8 December 1994
Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilisation 
by Richard Sennett.
Faber, 413 pp., £25, October 1994, 9780571173907
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... Tales, The Decameron and The Arabian Nights. By turning from the uncanny, contemporary metaphysics of a film like Theorem, he was making common cause with the vulgar imagination and placing his hope in its vigour, in what he perceived to be its unabashed appetites and its laughter. The Arabian Nights, which sadly seems to have survived in this country only in a mutilated and dubbed print, is a ...

Scarlet Woman

Michael Young

1 September 1988
East End 1888: A Year in a London Borough among the Labouring Poor 
by William Fishman.
Duckworth, 343 pp., £18.95, June 1988, 0 7156 2174 2
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... of Salisbury from Balmoral: ‘All these courts must be lit, and our detectives improved. They are not what they should be.’ After that, the number of streetlamps is increased and Sir Charles Warren, the Police Commissioner, forced to resign. The extra streetlamps do nothing for the insides of the buildings, where people are even more on top of each other than they are outside in the streets ...

Untouched by Eliot

Denis Donoghue: Jon Stallworthy

4 March 1999
Rounding the Horn: Collected Poems 
by Jon Stallworthy.
Carcanet, 247 pp., £14.95, September 1998, 1 85754 163 4
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... Between the Lines. It is not unusual for a poet to comment on his own work or even to lead his readers through a particular poem. Valéry, Allen Tate, William Empson, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren and Robert Lowell were instructive in that way. But it is rare for a poet to lead readers through a poem, draft by draft, or explain how he settled for one word rather than another. Yeats did not ...

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