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Sean Wilentz, 19 April 1990

America’s Rome. Vol I: Classical Rome 
by William Vance.
Yale, 454 pp., £19.95, September 1989, 0 300 03670 1
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America’s Rome. Vol II: Catholic and Contemporary Rome 
by William Vance.
Yale, 498 pp., £19.95, September 1989, 0 300 04453 4
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... and depictions of Rome. Out of these changes, and the persisting themes that attended them, William Vance has fashioned this gargantuan two-volume commentary on American culture from the end of the 18th century to the present. The project is not as far-fetched as it might appear at first. To the extent that American culture has puritanical ...

How Tudjman won the war

Misha Glenny, 4 January 1996

The Death of Yugoslavia 
by Allan Little and Laura Silber.
Penguin, 400 pp., £6.99, September 1995, 0 14 024904 4
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... military, the ‘Old Ironsides’ excelled itself in the deserts of Kuwait. Yet from Major-General William Nash, the commanding officer, down through the ranks, there is little appetite for testing this reputation in the mud and slush of Bosnia-Hercegovina. President Clinton has not yet convinced the soldiers of the mission’s purpose. Indeed, President ...

There are some limits Marlowes just won’t cross

Christopher Tayler: Banville’s Marlowe, 3 April 2014

The Black-Eyed Blonde 
by Benjamin Black.
Mantle, 320 pp., £16.99, February 2014, 978 1 4472 3668 9
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... connoisseur in degenerates. You wouldn’t know him.’ She couldn’t have said the same to Philo Vance, S.S. Van Dine’s famous aesthete-sleuth – polo player, expert in Chinese ceramics, former student of William James – whom Raymond Chandler regarded as ‘the most asinine character in detective fiction’, and on ...

Leaping on Tables

Norman Vance: Thomas Carlyle, 2 November 2000

Sartor Resartus 
by Thomas Carlyle, edited by Rodger Tarr and Mark Engel.
California, 774 pp., £38, April 2000, 0 520 20928 1
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... here as ‘Oliver York’), to whom Carlyle refers several times, as the Irish journalist William Maginn, editor of Fraser’s Magazine and one of its principal contributors when Sartor was appearing in it. Other editors of Sartor have made the same simple identification, and there is some truth in it, but it is not the whole truth. ‘Oliver ...

The Duckworth School of Writers

Frank Kermode, 20 November 1980

Human Voices 
by Penelope Fitzgerald.
Collins, 177 pp., £5.25, September 1980, 0 00 222280 9
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Winter Garden 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 157 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 7156 1495 9
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... The potter William de Morgan, finding himself at the age of 65 without a studio, decided not to look for another but instead to change his trade and become a novelist. Not so long ago the lucky and the cunning were picking up de Morgan tiles for a song, but it is altogether otherwise with his novels. Almost nobody seems to have picked them up for at least half a century The best-known, or anyway the only one that ever gets mentioned, is Joseph Vance, the first of them, which was published in 1906; the best, or at any rate the most interesting, is Alice-for-Short, which followed, in spite of its great length, only a year later ...


Anthony Holden, 6 November 1980

The United States in the 1980s 
edited by Peter Duignan and Alvin Rabushka.
Croom Helm, 868 pp., £14.95, August 1980, 0 8179 7281 1
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... attacks of such doubters as the present writer. I was recently taken to task (in print) by William F. Buckley Jr, the renowned conservative, for ‘chuckling especially hard’ at one of Reagan’s more esoteric pronouncements: to wit, that ‘80 per cent of pollution is caused by plants and trees.’ By way of refutation, in a column syndicated across ...

Van der Posture

J.D.F. Jones, 3 February 1983

Yet Being Someone Other 
by Laurens van der Post.
Hogarth, 352 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 7012 1900 9
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... knighted in 1980 for mysterious services to Britain, and is now revealed as Godfather to Prince William. Laurens van der Post has been many things: journalist, farmer, soldier, prisoner, author, traveller, film-maker. It appears he has now become the sage behind the throne. Sir Laurens was born in 1906, in the South African hinterland, of a Dutch father and ...

Hey, Mister, you want dirty book?

Edward Said: The CIA, 30 September 1999

Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War 
by Frances Stonor Saunders.
Granta, 509 pp., £20, July 1999, 1 86207 029 6
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... in the Eighties. Saunders’s account of Partisan and its editor, the insufferably pretentious William Phillips – in a chapter she calls ‘Cultural Nato’ – is devastating. Far from being independent, PR was on the CIA payroll via front organisations like the Farfield Foundation. Before that, it had been carried financially by none other than Henry ...

America and Israel

Ian Gilmour, 18 February 1982

The Struggle for Peace in the Middle East 
by Mahmoud Riad.
Quartet, 365 pp., £11.95, October 1981, 0 7043 2297 8
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Palestinian Self-Determination 
by Hassan Bin Talal.
Quartet, 138 pp., £6.95, July 1981, 0 7043 2312 5
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This Year in Jerusalem 
by Kenneth Cragg.
Darton, Longman and Todd, 192 pp., £5.95, February 1982, 0 232 51524 7
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... to the Zionist takeover of their territory. Now things are better. Few columnists, of whom Mr William Safire is one, are as crude in their partisanship as was most of the American press until recently. The serious newspapers, whose education has been furthered by the activities of Menachim Begin, do at least make their readers aware that there are two ...

X marks the snob

W.G. Runciman, 17 May 1984

Caste Marks: Style and Status in the USA 
by Paul Fussell.
Heinemann, 202 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 9780434275007
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... you were born Howe or changed it from Horowitz and whether you have been brought up, like one of William Buckley’s Texan interviewees, to think that pro-mis'-kitty is the word for the evil habit of indiscriminate sex. Any American who pretends that he or she is totally unaware of what this paragraph is all about might as well pretend to believe that God ...


Tom Vanderbilt: ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, 21 August 2003

The Manchurian Candidate: BFI Film Classics 
by Greil Marcus.
BFI, 75 pp., £8.99, July 2002, 0 85170 931 1
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... haunted the pages of Time, while in Battle for the Mind (1957), the British psychologist William Sargent noted the Third Reich’s penchant for mass brainwashing: ‘Hitler never concealed his method, which included deliberately producing such phenomena by organised excitement and mass hypnotism, and even boasted how easy it was to impose “the lie ...

How did she get those feet?

Alice Spawls: The Female Detective, 20 February 2014

The Notting Hill Mystery: The First Detective Novel 
by Charles Warren Adams.
British Library, 312 pp., £8.99, February 2012, 978 0 7123 5859 0
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The Female Detective: The Original Lady Detective 
by Andrew Forrester.
British Library, 328 pp., £8.99, October 2012, 978 0 7123 5878 1
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Revelations of a Lady Detective 
by William Stephens Hayward.
British Library, 278 pp., £8.99, February 2013, 978 0 7123 5896 5
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... cleverly arranged clues and psycho-social unravelling. In 1928 S.S. Van Dine, the creator of Philo Vance, the American gentleman amateur, laid down Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories for the American Magazine. ‘The reader must have equal opportunity with the detective for solving the mystery’ was the first rule. The Detection Club, whose members ...


Adam Shatz, 6 May 2021

Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said 
by Timothy Brennan.
Bloomsbury, 437 pp., £20, March, 978 1 5266 1465 0
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... against the concealment and silence that the loss of Palestine had imposed, and that his father, William Said, had accepted, leaving behind not only the family’s past in Jerusalem but also his Arab name, Wadie. After 1967, Said embraced the Palestinian struggle – an act of ‘affiliation’, as he put it, a commitment based on belief, rather than ...

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