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William Ian Miller: 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 ...

Troll-Descended Bruisers

Tom Shippey: ‘Njal’s Saga’

1 July 2015
‘Why Is Your Axe Bloody?’: A Reading of ‘Njal’s Saga’ 
by William Ian Miller.
Oxford, 334 pp., £55, July 2014, 978 0 19 870484 3
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... and reputation, and it’s the closely observed micro-politics of this world that make the great ‘family sagas’ like Njal’s Saga and The Laxdalers’ Saga works of unrivalled subtlety. WilliamIanMiller, 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 ...
8 May 1997
The Anatomy of Disgust 
by William Ian Miller.
Harvard, 313 pp., £16.50, April 1997, 0 674 03154 7
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... means of production, or the ubiquitous appeal of the smell of frying onions, and there will always be someone ready to show that these truths are not universal. It’s just possible, however, that WilliamMiller 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 ...

Don’t tread on me

Galen Strawson

6 October 1994
Humiliation and Other Essays on Honour, Social Discomfort and Violence 
by William Ian Miller.
Cornell, 270 pp., £20.95, December 1993, 0 8014 2881 5
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... existence’? It is not obviously false. To say that these emotions are central is not to say that they are the most often felt; their centrality may lie in the strength of our desire to avoid them. WilliamMiller’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 ...

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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... In the Regeneration trilogy, Pat Barker distilled the trauma and 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 ...

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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... about Oxford and London with the likes of Cyril Connolly and Henry Green, reports on the Spanish Civil 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 ...

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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... the 19th-century public school system for the very few who can afford to pay for it.’ Such sentiments 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 ...

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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... to come as second nature, and is no reason for shame or misgivings. In another recent example of 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 ...

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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... was serious and likely to be fatal – his half-digested breakfast was pouring out of the wound from 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 ...

The Ballad of Andy and Rebekah

Martin Hickman: The Phone Hackers

16 July 2014
... police investigation. It’s worth going back over this story. In 2006, Clive Goodman, the royal editor 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 ...
7 November 1985
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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... bound files of the New York Review of Books, and more impressed still that he had extracted these 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 ...

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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... Footlights revue, directed and largely devised by John Bird. CND was just beginning to gather momentum 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 ...

Karl Miller​ Remembered

Neal Ascherson, John Lanchester and Andrew O’Hagan

22 October 2014
... hills, Caerketton and Allermuir, watching over Gilmerton and Straiton and the city beyond.In another 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 ...

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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... the press clippings need more than a skim. The best summary of the difficulties facing an Archer 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 ...

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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... censor, then at the Ministry of Food. Orwell’s film and theatre criticism is of considerable interest. 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 ...

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