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4 July 1985
Shah of Shahs 
by Ryszard Kapuściński, translated by William​ Brand.
Quartet, 152 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 7043 2473 3
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The Pride and the Fall: Iran 1974-1979 
by Anthony Parsons.
Cape, 160 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 224 02196 6
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Iran under the Ayatollahs 
by Dilip Hiro.
Routledge, 416 pp., £20, January 1985, 9780710099242
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Obbligato: Notes on a Foreign Service Career 
by William Sullivan.
Norton, 279 pp., £13.95, October 1984, 0 393 01809 1
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Envoy to the Middle World: Adventures in Diplomacy 
by George McGhee.
Harper and Row, 458 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 06 039025 5
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The Persians amongst the English 
by Denis Wright.
Tauris, 273 pp., £17.95, February 1985, 1 85043 002 0
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... throughout the revolutionary period. It is astonishing that the Embassy appears to have had no Farsi expert sufficiently aware of the intellectual currents to provide Parsons with accurate briefings. WilliamSullivan, US Ambassador to Iran during the crucial two years of the revolution, seems to have been better-informed in this respect, even if his understanding was superficial. ‘Shariati,’ he says ...

Respectful Perversion

John Pemble: Gilbert and Sullivan

16 June 2011
Gilbert and SullivanGender, Genre, Parody 
by Carolyn Williams.
Columbia, 454 pp., £24, January 2011, 978 0 231 14804 7
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... melancholy! Taradiddle, taradiddle, tol lol lay! the man sitting next to Maurice Baring turned to him and said: ‘That’s what I call poetry!’ He then predicted that the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan would be the most enduring achievement of the Victorian age. The incident is remarkable because the man was Lytton Strachey and he wasn’t joking. No Bloomsbury raspberry here. The famous debunker ...

Rug Time

Jonathan Steinberg

20 October 1983
Kissinger: The Price of Power 
by Seymour Hersh.
Faber, 699 pp., £15, October 1983, 0 571 13175 1
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... book is not easy reading. Mr Hersh’s prose creaks under the weight of the information he has collected. Here is a typical sentence: ‘The revived interest in the White House wiretaps also prompted WilliamSullivan, who was then in the midst of a power struggle with J. Edgar Hoover, to visit Robert Mardian, head of the Justice Department’s Internal Security Division, and warn him, as Mardian later ...

Snarly Glitters

August Kleinzahler: Roy Fisher

20 April 2006
The Long and the Short of It: Poems 1955-2005 
by Roy Fisher.
Bloodaxe, 400 pp., £12, June 2005, 1 85224 701 0
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... In a 1979 review of Roy Fisher’s collection of poems The Thing about Joe Sullivan, probably the most likeable collection by a not always likeable poet, John Ash wrote: ‘In a better world, he would be as widely known and highly praised as Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.’ This ...

Public Enemy

R.W. Johnson

26 November 1987
Secrecy and Power: The Life of J. Edgar Hoover 
by Richard Gid Powers.
Hutchinson, 624 pp., £16.95, August 1987, 0 02 925060 9
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... was tenuous indeed. Allen Pinkerton, the most famous detective of the 19th century, was almost an enormous best-seller, publishing 18 volumes of ‘true crime stories’. The first head of the FBI, William Flynn, edited a popular crime magazine, Flynn’s Weekly. His successor, William Burns, was a national celebrity and the subject of countless feature articles. Like Flynn, Burns was an affable ...

Ministry of Apparitions

Malcolm Gaskill: Magical Thinking in 1918

4 July 2019
A Supernatural War: Magic, Divination and Faith during the First World War 
by Owen Davies.
Oxford, 284 pp., £20, October 2018, 978 0 19 879455 4
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... In​ 2001 an architect called Danny Sullivan claimed to have found cine film of an angel while rooting around in a Monmouth junk shop. This was, unsurprisingly, a hoax, as were claims that Marlon Brando had paid £350,000 for the footage. But ...

The Ugly Revolution

Michael Rogin: Martin Luther King Jr

10 May 2001
I May Not Get there with You: The True Martin Luther King Jr 
by Michael Eric Dyson.
Free Press, 404 pp., £15.99, May 2000, 0 684 86776 1
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The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr. Vol. IV: Symbol of the Movement January 1957-December 1958 
edited by Clayborne Carson et al.
California, 637 pp., £31.50, May 2000, 0 520 22231 8
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... that, instead of protecting Southern civil rights workers, the FBI (with the collusion of the Kennedy brothers) conducted a campaign to discredit King. The organisation’s assistant director, WilliamSullivan, compiled from the Bureau’s wiretaps and bugs a tape of the noises of the civil rights leader’s extramarital activities. He sent it to King with a letter threatening to expose him ...

‘A Little Feu de Joie’

Adam Shatz: Khomeini rises

25 April 2013
Days of God: The Revolution in Iran and Its Consequences 
by James Buchan.
John Murray, 482 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 1 84854 066 8
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... satisfied most Iranians – but even before he reached Tehran, Khomeini insisted on his resignation. The American government was divided between those in favour of a military coup, and those, like WilliamSullivan, the American ambassador in Tehran, who saw Khomeini as a Gandhi-like figure and a potential ally in the fight against communism. The Soviets assumed that America’s loss would be their ...

Must they twinkle?

John Sutherland

1 August 1985
British Literary Magazines. Vol. III: The Victorian and Edwardian Age 1837-1913 
edited by Alvin Sullivan.
Greenwood, 560 pp., £88.50, December 1984, 0 313 24335 2
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The Book Book 
by Anthony Blond.
Cape, 226 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 224 02074 9
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... crowd-pleasing and puffery the editor’s role as the guarantor of a paper’s independence became crucial. The Gazette set the scene for the first of literary journalism’s battles between editor (William Jerdan) and proprietor and main advertiser (Colburn). Having lost control of the Literary Gazette, Colburn was instrumental in setting up the Athenaeum (1828), the weekly which was to become the top ...

The Darth Vader Option

Colin Kidd: The Tories

24 January 2013
The Conservatives since 1945: The Drivers of Party Change 
by Tim Bale.
Oxford, 372 pp., £55, September 2012, 978 0 19 923437 0
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The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron 
by Tim Bale.
Polity, 471 pp., £14.99, January 2011, 978 0 7456 4858 3
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Reconstructing Conservatism? The Conservative Party in Opposition, 1997-2010 
by Richard Hayton.
Manchester, 166 pp., £60, September 2012, 978 0 7190 8316 7
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... its support’? Why were the free-market champions of unremitting competition so unfitted themselves for the Darwinian challenges facing their party? For all their failings in the role of leader, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith did try at first to court the elusive middle ground in British politics; but the far from fanciful fear of electoral oblivion prompted a hurried succession of leaders ...

Summer Simmer

Tom Vanderbilt: Chicago heatwaves

22 August 2002
Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago 
by Eric Klinenberg.
Chicago, 305 pp., £19.50, August 2002, 0 226 44321 3
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... of thinking that made Chicago what it was: the somewhat masochistic booster spirit that heaved the city out of the prairie grass. It was ‘all magnificent and wild’, the skyscraper pioneer Louis Sullivan wrote in the 1870s of this former frontier fort, a ‘crude extravaganza’. The city was wresting itself from its surroundings, ‘the primal power assuming self-expression amid nature’s impelling ...

Utopia Limited

David Cannadine

15 July 1982
Fabianism and Culture: A Study in British Socialism and the Arts, 1884-1918 
by Ian Britain.
Cambridge, 344 pp., £19.50, June 1982, 0 521 23563 4
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The Elmhirsts of Dartington: The Creation of an Utopian Community 
by Michael Young.
Routledge, 381 pp., £15, June 1982, 9780710090515
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... while more usually anticipating hell. Mighty prophets like Gerrard Winstanley (a bankrupt cloth merchant turned cattle herdsman), Sir Richard Bulkeley (an early 18th-century hunchback virtuoso), William Blake (‘I see so little of Mr Blake now,’ his wife once complained: ‘He is always in Paradise’), and James Pierrepont Greaves (damned by Carlyle as a ‘blockhead’ and an ‘imbecile ...

Shapeshifter

Ian Penman: Elvis looks for meaning

24 September 2014
Elvis Has Left the Building: The Day the King Died 
by Dylan Jones.
Duckworth, 307 pp., £16.99, July 2014, 978 0 7156 4856 8
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Elvis Presley: A Southern Life 
by Joel Williamson.
Oxford, 384 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 19 986317 4
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... Elvis Aaron Presley​ was born on 8 January 1935 at around 4.30 in the morning, at home in East Tupelo. His older twin, Jesse Garon, was stillborn. (There was ugly gossip later that the doctor, William Robert Hunt, might have had a drink; that he might have saved Jesse if he hadn’t been so preoccupied with the surprise appearance of a second child. But the Presleys were satisfied with his work ...

A Glorious Thing

Julie Peters: Piracy

4 November 2010
Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates 
by Adrian Johns.
Chicago, 626 pp., £24, February 2010, 978 0 226 40118 8
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... to steam-printed periodicals, and to keep up with these required one to live in London – a place that was death to genius. The engineer, arms manufacturer, inventor and industrial ‘wizard’ Sir William Armstrong, who fought for abolition of the patent regime (exploiting others’ inventions when he could get away with it and fiercely protecting his own), explained his view in 1863 in Darwinian ...

All Together Now

Richard Jenkyns

11 December 1997
Abide with Me: The World of Victorian Hymns 
by Ian Bradley.
SCM, 299 pp., £30, June 1997, 9780334026921
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The English Hymn: A Critical and Historical Study 
by J.R. Watson.
Oxford, 552 pp., £65, July 1997, 0 19 826762 2
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... few hymnodists who have been accepted or half-accepted into the literary canon – George Herbert, Thomas Ken, Watts, Charles Wesley – but many less celebrated names, such as Sir Robert Grant, William Walsham How, William Chatterton Dix: Grant (‘O worship the King, all glorious above’), the Scottish-born English MP who ended his life as Governor of Bombay; Thomas Olivers (‘The God of Abraham ...

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