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My Feet Are Cut Off

Barbara Newman: Lives of the Saints

3 December 2009
Gilte Legende Vol. I 
edited by Richard Hamer and Vida Russell.
Early English Text Society (Oxford), 496 pp., £65, November 2006, 0 19 920577 9
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Gilte Legende Vol. II 
edited by Richard Hamer and Vida Russell.
Early English Text Society (Oxford), 1036 pp., £65, August 2007, 978 0 19 923439 4
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... English Text Society presents an opportunity to reflect on the meanings that saints’ lives held for medieval culture. (Readers who prefer modern English can consult the excellent translation by William Granger Ryan, published by Princeton in 1993.) Pious instruction, sensational entertainment, conservative propaganda, erotic titillation, sacred violence – the Golden Legend offered all these and ...

Sevenyearson

Michael Hofmann

22 September 1994
Walking a Line 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 105 pp., £5.99, June 1994, 0 571 17081 1
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... other upa brave long whilethat’s never love.                                  ‘Breez Marine’ because you’d fallen for this young priest he was a loiner Tim Ryan that’s a lie and driven with him July a heatwave all through the West the East Riding some harbour Hornsea Spurn Head it’s pathetic you were in cheesecloth he’d green shades I could scream ...

Taking Flight

Thomas Jones: Blake Morrison

7 September 2000
The Justification of Johann Gutenberg 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 259 pp., £14.99, August 2000, 0 7011 6965 6
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... later Morrison says something in connection with his father’s will which would seem to endorse this: ‘The books here on my shelves have countless examples of similar behaviour.’When Michael Ryan murdered 14 people in Hungerford in 1987 (and then killed himself), the idea was put about that he’d been motivated by watching Rambo videos. That someone could, apparently without motive ...
20 October 1994
Dictatorship of Virtue: Multiculturalism and the Battle for America’s Future 
by Richard Bernstein.
Knopf, 367 pp., $25, September 1994, 0 679 41156 9
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... it ends up with the self-fulfilling prediction that they will remain separated from their black contemporaries not just by money and life-chances but by a ‘difference of culture’. As Alan Ryan has pointed out, the people who wave the banners of multiculturalism typically pride themselves on their Post-Modernism, but revert to old-fashioned essentialism when they start describing the ...
21 January 1988
The Culture of Capitalism 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Blackwell, 254 pp., £19.50, August 1987, 0 631 13626 6
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... were very much rarer than crimes against property. In Justice and the Mare’s Ale, based on the Kirkby Lonsdale records, Macfarlane looked at the exploits of a band of coin-clippers and highwaymen. William Smorthwait, his brother and their friends were indeed ‘Insolent and Formidable Felons’ who committed numerous burglaries, perpetrated occasional though rather minor assaults, and for three and a ...
28 May 1992
The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell. Vol. I: The Private Years, 1884-1914 
edited by Nicholas Griffin.
Allen Lane, 553 pp., £25, March 1992, 0 7139 9023 6
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... the daughter of Lord Stanley of Alderley. Almost as soon as he was born, disasters rained down on the Russells. His uncle Rollo began to lose his sight and had to leave the Foreign Office, his uncle William went mad and was consigned to an asylum where he spent the rest of his long life, and his father had an epileptic seizure. In the winter of 1873-4, his parents and his older brother Frank went to ...

Spitting, Sneezing, Smearing

Marjorie Garber: Messy Business

10 August 2000
Cooking with Mud: The Idea of Mess in 19th-Century Art and Fiction 
by David Trotter.
Oxford, 340 pp., £35, February 2000, 0 19 818503 0
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... held at Harvard bore the uncompromising and prescient title ‘Dirt’, a rubric that encompassed topics from waste management to immigration to pornography. A forthcoming essay collection edited by Ryan Johnson and William Cohen will be entitled Filth. The interest in ‘waste-theory’ may be seen as a recyclable and non-biodegradable byproduct of a number of related tendencies in contemporary ...
24 January 1985
The Idea of Poverty: England in the Early Industrial Age 
by Gertrude Himmelfarb.
Faber, 595 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 571 13177 8
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... mind as the link between those who think and those who do. To the purist historians of political thought, she is too eclectic and inconsistent in her methodology (as suggested by the savaging Alan Ryan gave her book on Mill); while to hard-nosed historians of political action, she seems altogether too preoccupied with ideology (as shown by the severe criticisms of her attempt to analyse the passing ...
2 February 1984
The Oxford Companion to American Literature 
by James Hart.
Oxford, 896 pp., £27.50, November 1983, 0 19 503074 5
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The Modern American Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Oxford, 209 pp., £9.95, April 1983, 0 19 212591 5
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The Literature of the United States 
by Marshall Walker.
Macmillan, 236 pp., £14, November 1983, 0 333 32298 3
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American Fictions 1940-1980: A Comprehensive History and Critical Valuation 
by Frederick Karl.
Harper and Row, 637 pp., £31.50, February 1984, 0 06 014939 6
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Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 919 pp., £21, January 1984, 0 233 97610 8
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... writers and schools and themes, of a ‘usable past’ (whatever that is). I suppose the genre demands it. The Modern American Novel is an ‘Opus Book’ (General Editors – Keith Thomas, Alan Ryan, Peter Medawar) intended for students. The Literature of the United States is a volume in the Macmillan History of Literature. But no Oxford undergraduate could get by with generalities like this ...

Gaelic Communist

Graham Walker

12 October 1989
James Connolly: A Political Biography 
by Austen Morgan.
Manchester, 244 pp., £9.95, October 1989, 0 7190 2958 9
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James Connolly: Selected Writings 
edited by P. Beresford Ellis.
Pluto, 256 pp., £8.95, April 1988, 9780745302676
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... themes which are central to his reputation. The book is a critical study which, in conjunction with other recent published work, redresses the hagiographical bias of the previous biographies by Ryan (1924), Greaves (1961) and Levenson (1973). In the Late Victorian and Edwardian years, Connolly made an intellectually impressive and, indeed, ingenious attempt to accommodate socialism to Ireland ...

Burn Rate

Ed Harriman: The Iraq Disaster

6 September 2007
... to public order and security budgets. Sigir reports that, ‘as of January 2006, reprogramming had resulted in more than $5.5 billion in realignments’ of funds. Last year Brigadier-General William McCoy, head of the US Army Corp of Engineers, told the Washington Post: ‘The US never intended to completely rebuild Iraq … This was just supposed to be a jump-start.’ Exactly what this entails ...

The Fastidious President

David Bromwich: The Matter with Obama

18 November 2010
... The Afghan war looks as if it will outlast the Obama presidency, and if it does the largest single reason will be Obama’s choice of Robert Gates as secretary of defence. Gates worked under William Casey, the director of the CIA at the time of the Iran-Contra scandal. His nomination by Ronald Reagan to head the CIA was thwarted by suspicions of his complicity in covert operations in Nicaragua ...

Like a Manta Ray

Jenny Turner: The Entire History of Sex

21 October 2015
The Argonauts 
by Maggie Nelson.
Graywolf, 143 pp., £23, May 2015, 978 1 55597 707 8
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... brings forth ‘an art of pure wildness’, Nelson writes, whereas sometimes she thinks her own sentences do no more than mark that wildness’s grave. Being by trade a poet of plain language – William Carlos Williams would be another hero, also George Oppen, also Eileen Myles – Nelson finds her artistic focus drawn in two main directions. On the one hand, she crafts her words until she gets them ...

House-Cleaning

David Bromwich: I met a Republican

7 March 2019
... general, Jeff Sessions, was sacked on 7 November, the day after the midterm elections; the president’s chief of staff, John Kelly, was dismissed on 8 December; and the secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, under suspicion of corruption, finally resigned on 15 December. So at the start of the new year, the administration had an acting secretary of the interior, an acting secretary of defence (a ...
30 March 2016
... Anderson, a police commissioner, was published – it helped inspire Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent. The relevant passage was an account of a conversation between Gladstone’s home secretary, Sir William Harcourt, and a police chief. While Clarke was being moved from prison to prison, Harcourt had refused to countenance the idea that he and the others were political prisoners and insisted that they ...

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