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William IanMiller: Jon Elster, 10 August 2000

Alchemies of the Mind: Rationality and the Emotions 
by Jon Elster.
Cambridge, 450 pp., £14.95, March 1999, 0 521 64487 9
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... Suppose that 16 years ago you had written not one but two superlative books. Would you suffer from anxiety of influence with regard to early versions of yourself, as if, to twist Harold Bloom, your early self now played an insurmountably glorious Milton to your later romantic phases? Did Shakespeare say to himself: ‘No way I can beat Hamlet, so why write again?’ Jon Elster wrote two gems in the 1970s and 1980s, Ulysses and the Sirens and Sour Grapes ...

Troll-Descended Bruisers

Tom Shippey: ‘Njal’s Saga’, 1 July 2015

‘Why Is Your Axe Bloody?’: A Reading of ‘Njal’s Saga’ 
by William IanMiller.
Oxford, 334 pp., £55, July 2014, 978 0 19 870484 3
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... sagas’ like Njal’s Saga and The Laxdalers’ Saga works of unrivalled subtlety. William IanMiller, who teaches law at the University of Michigan, wrote his study of the two sides of the saga, Bloodtaking and Peacemaking, 25 years ago. Since then he has written several books on awkward aspects of ...

Get it out of your system

Jenny Diski, 8 May 1997

The Anatomy of Disgust 
by William IanMiller.
Harvard, 313 pp., £16.50, April 1997, 0 674 03154 7
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... be someone ready to show that these truths are not universal. It’s just possible, however, that William Miller has cracked the problem with his simple but glorious statement: ‘One simply did not drink pus, even back then.’ If we want to find a common response on which all people at all times and all places can agree, then the pus-drinking activity ...

Don’t tread on me

Galen Strawson, 6 October 1994

Humiliation and Other Essays on Honour, Social Discomfort and Violence 
by William IanMiller.
Cornell, 270 pp., £20.95, December 1993, 0 8014 2881 5
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... are the most often felt; their centrality may lie in the strength of our desire to avoid them. William Miller’s suggestion has a creeping plausibility – in the playground, among teenagers, among mid-life colleagues, in the retirement home. It has a serious claim to express a human universal, valid for all societies, with origins in the deep past ...

Composite Person

Alex Clark: Pat Barker, 24 May 2001

Border Crossing 
by Pat Barker.
Viking, 216 pp., £16.99, April 2001, 0 670 87841 3
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... drama of the First World War into a series of minutely observed pairings between the neurologist William Rivers and his severely shellshocked charges. The most famous of them is Siegfried Sassoon, who was sent to a psychiatric hospital after he issued a public declaration against the continuation of the war. But much more striking is Billy Prior, who ...

A Very Modern Man

Edmund Gordon: William Boyd, 8 March 2012

Waiting for Sunrise 
by William Boyd.
Bloomsbury, 368 pp., £18.99, February 2012, 978 1 4088 1774 2
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... War from Barcelona (where he gets drunk with Hemingway), is recruited to Naval Intelligence by Ian Fleming and dispatched to Portugal to spy on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, becomes a prisoner of war in Switzerland, takes a job running an art gallery in New York (which brings him into contact with de Kooning and Pollock), gets caught up in the Biafran ...

Shareware

Ian Sansom: Dave Eggers, 16 November 2000

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius 
by Dave Eggers.
Picador, 415 pp., £14.99, July 2000, 0 330 48454 0
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... that pseudo-autobiographical mode in which Americans excel, The Tao of Muhammad Ali (1997), Davis Miller recalled a conversation with Ali: ‘I’ve wanted to write for years. Like you, when you threw your gold medal off the bridge, I threw my beeper in the river and quit my job so I could write.’ ‘I never did that,’ he says. ‘Did what?’ I ...

We’ve done awfully well

Karl Miller: The Late 1950s, 18 July 2013

Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, June 2013, 978 0 7475 8893 1
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... are uncommon in the book’s 1957-59, which abstains from the desire expressed at the time by William Golding to blow up Eton College. Bloomsbury’s Frances Partridge, queen of the diary put-down, seems to have wanted to blow up television, ‘the box in the corner’. In the flat of her friend Robert Kee, a great asset to the box in the corner, she ...

Gutted

Steven Shapin, 30 June 2011

A Modern History of the Stomach: Gastric Illness, Medicine and British Society, 1800-1950 
by Ian Miller.
Pickering and Chatto, 195 pp., £60, May 2011, 978 1 84893 181 7
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... his perforated stomach, along with bits of the stomach itself – but a US army surgeon called William Beaumont was nevertheless sent for. Beaumont was pessimistic, but he cleaned the wound as best he could and was amazed the next day to find his patient still alive. It was touch and go for almost a year: St Martin survived, though with a gastric fistula ...

Karl Miller Remembered

Neal Ascherson, John Lanchester and Andrew O’Hagan, 22 October 2014

... sense, though, Edinburgh did adopt him. His talents took him to the Royal High School, where William Drummond, Henry Mackenzie and Walter Scott had been before him. There Karl became favourite pupil and close friend of Hector MacIver, that incomparable teacher of literature, who recognised his gifts and took him with his other clever boys down the Calton ...

The Ballad of Andy and Rebekah

Martin Hickman: The Phone Hackers, 16 July 2014

... of the News of the World, then edited by Coulson, intercepted the voicemail messages of Princes William and Harry. Goodman was arrested, and the police found 15 confidential palace phone books at his house in Putney. They also found five thousand names mentioned in 11,000 pages of handwritten notes at the home and in the office of Glenn Mulcaire, the ...

Cheering us up

Ian Jack, 15 September 1988

In for a Penny: The Unauthorised Biography of Jeffrey Archer 
by Jonathan Mantle.
Hamish Hamilton, 264 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 241 12478 6
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... biographer came from the lips of Mary Archer herself, when she observed some years ago to Russell Miller of the Sunday Times Magazine that her husband had ‘a gift for inaccurate précis’. Laurence Marks elaborated on this aside in one of his excellent unsigned profiles for the Observer in 1984: All good raconteurs ornament the truth. Archer’s technique ...
London Reviews 
edited by Nicholas Spice.
Chatto, 222 pp., £5.95, October 1985, 0 7011 2988 3
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The New Review Anthology 
edited by Ian Hamilton.
Heinemann, 320 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 31330 0
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Night and Day 
edited by Christopher Hawtree, by Graham Greene.
Chatto, 277 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 07 011296 7
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Lilliput goes to war 
edited by Kaye Webb.
Hutchinson, 288 pp., £10.95, September 1985, 9780091617608
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Penguin New Writing: 1940-1950 
edited by John Lehmann and Roy Fuller.
Penguin, 496 pp., September 1985, 0 14 007484 8
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... from the editor as part-payment. Perhaps contributors to the LRB could work the same trick on Karl Miller, who for this anthology hands over to Nicholas Spice, who in turn sensibly makes sure that Karl Miller’s long essay about the LRB heads the list of contents. This essay is to be relished, not least when it is most ...

Sinking Giggling into the Sea

Jonathan Coe: Giggling along with Boris, 18 July 2013

The Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson 
edited by Harry Mount.
Bloomsbury, 149 pp., £9.99, June 2013, 978 1 4081 8352 6
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... and the show opened with a huge nuclear explosion, following which, in the words of the producer William Donaldson, the audience was treated to a whole evening’s worth of ‘terrible gloomy stuff – the punchline of every sketch was people dying.’ Nonetheless, it was undoubtedly a strong influence on Peter Cook (one of the original cast members) and the ...

Going on the air

Philip French, 2 May 1985

Orwell: The War Broadcasts 
edited by W.J. West.
Duckworth/BBC, 304 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 7156 1916 0
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... It is, however, represented in The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters (edited in 1968 by Ian Angus and Sonia Orwell) by a single enticing paragraph from a 1940 review of Max Miller at the Holborn Empire, attached as a footnote to ‘The Art of Donald McGill’. The same four-volume collection contains 20 pieces ...

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