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Short Cuts

Jenny Diski: Mary Whitehouse’s Letters, 20 December 2012

... national life’.The commentary on these infuriating and laughable letters by the book’s editor, Ben Thompson, is considered and witty. He conceives of Whitehouse, delightfully, as a constant background hum over her three decades of public life, like the presence of ‘John Cale’s viola in the Velvet Underground song “All Tomorrow’s ...

Total Solutions

Alan Brinkley, 18 July 1985

The Heavy Dancers 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin, 340 pp., £12.50, March 1985, 0 85036 328 4
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Star Wars: Self-Destruct Incorporated 
by E.P. Thompson and Ben Thompson.
Merlin, 71 pp., £1, May 1985, 0 85036 334 9
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... About ten years ago, I heard Edward Thompson give a public lecture at Harvard University. He was not then an internationally renowned spokesman for the peace movement: there was at that point no peace movement of any consequence to be a spokesman for. He was, however, one of the most influential historians of his time ...

Bad Books

Susannah Clapp, 4 August 1988

Criminal Justice: The True Story of Edith Thompson 
by René Weis.
Hamish Hamilton, 327 pp., £14.95, July 1988, 0 241 12263 5
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... On 3 October 1922 Percy Thompson, a shipping clerk and old member of the Stepney Elocution Class, was stabbed to death in the street near his home in Ilford. His wife, Edith, was with him; her lover and former lodger, Frederick Bywaters, was the attacker. These circumstances were not disputed when the couple were charged with Thompson’s murder ...

A Shyning and a Flashing

Marco Roth: Post-Apocalyptic Folklore, 27 January 2022

The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and the Lion of Jachin-Boaz 
by Russell Hoban.
Penguin, 182 pp., £9.99, April 2021, 978 0 241 48571 2
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Turtle Diary 
by Russell Hoban.
Penguin, 193 pp., £9.99, April 2021, 978 0 241 48576 7
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Riddley Walker 
by Russell Hoban.
Penguin, 252 pp., £9.99, April 2021, 978 0 241 48575 0
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... Kesey, Carlos Castaneda or Robert Bly; nor did he adopt the unhinged expressionism of Hunter S. Thompson. He never wanted to build a movement, evangelise for drug use or found a school. Instead, he leaves space for scepticism and the possibility that there’s more than one way of understanding ‘expanded consciousness’. Riddley Walker is where the New ...

Dykes, Drongs, Sarns, Snickets

David Craig: Walking England, 20 December 2012

The English Lakes: A History 
by Ian Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £16.99, March 2012, 978 1 4088 0958 7
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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot 
by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 432 pp., £20, June 2012, 978 0 241 14381 0
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... of the land – the ‘landscape’ – must overlap with more workmanlike uses of it. Ian Thompson’s history of the Lake District is grounded almost exclusively in the aesthetic. ‘Since the Lake District is an imaginative construction,’ he argues, ‘it has no real boundaries, physical or historical.’ So he is thinking of it as a region ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bob Dylan’s Tall Tales, 21 October 2004

... joins an unlikely coalition of Kerry campaigners, including a pair of Jennifer Lopez’s exes (Ben Affleck, Hollywood’s least charismatic leading man, and rap mogul Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs) and supporters who openly dislike their candidate (at you can download a bumper sticker that says: ‘He’ll Do’). In ...

The End of the Future

Jeff McMahan, 1 July 1982

The Fate of the Earth 
by Jonathan Schell.
Cape/Picador, 256 pp., £7.95, June 1982, 0 224 02064 1
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The Two-Edged Sword: Armed Force in the Modern World 
by Laurence Martin.
Weidenfeld, 108 pp., £5.95, March 1982, 0 297 78139 1
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Zero Option 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin, 198 pp., £10, June 1982, 0 85036 288 1
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Disarming Europe 
edited by Mary Kaldor and Dan Smith.
Merlin, 196 pp., £10, May 1982, 0 85036 277 6
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... his own efforts compared with the brilliantly satirical and justly celebrated review which E.P. Thompson published in New Society some months back. Although it is rather unpleasantly savage in its attacks on Martin himself, the piece is nevertheless immensely entertaining, and its reappearance in a new collection of ...

On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move, 13 September 2018

Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... manufactured look. (He had, in fact, changed it by deed poll from William Guinneach Gunn to Thompson William Gunn – Thompson was his mother’s maiden name.) It was clear, too, that he enjoyed his own style, his wit, his urge to dismiss what was dull and cautious, to celebrate what was dangerous and alive. This was ...

Through the Mill

Jane Humphries: The Industrial Revolution, 20 March 2014

Liberty’s Dawn: A People’s History of the Industrial Revolution 
by Emma Griffin.
Yale, 303 pp., £12.99, March 2014, 978 0 300 20525 1
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... therefore, that contributors to the first wave of ‘history from below’, including E.P. Thompson, used working-class memoirs so sparingly, cherry-picking from already known and accessible texts. But this soon changed. John Burnett used annotated extracts to illustrate various aspects of working-class life in Useful Toil and Destiny Obscure. By ...

The ‘R’ Word

Adam Smyth: For the Love of the Binding, 4 November 2021

Book Ownership in Stuart England 
by David Pearson.
Oxford, 352 pp., £69.99, January, 978 0 19 887012 8
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... not lik this.’ Across the start of Eastward Hoe, the very funny city comedy by George Chapman, Ben Jonson and John Marston, she wrote ‘prity one’, then crossed it out, substituting: ‘a resnabell prity one’.In her will Wolfreston bequeathed her books to her son Stanford, on the condition that ‘he shall carefully keepe them together,’ which he ...


Christian Lorentzen: Are books like nappies?, 2 August 2012

... the town where in the 1870s Lew Wallace sat under his favourite beech tree and wrote Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, the bestselling American novel until Gone with the Wind. Everyone seemed to be very Christian, more than half the books they printed were Bibles, and most of the press operators had served in the army. Liberals in town had started a ...

Watching Me Watching Them Watching You

Andrew O’Hagan: Surveillance, 9 October 2003

... there, but lives too, the life of a community and the failings of a welfare state. Venables and Thompson re-enacted something that day: they played out a fantasy of watching and being watched. Much of what they did – ‘let’s steal a kid,’ Thompson said – was based on a fantasy drawn from a home video they’d ...

Isle of Dogs

Iain Sinclair, 10 May 1990

Pit Bull 
by Scott Ely.
Penguin, 218 pp., £4.99, March 1990, 0 14 012033 5
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... I was left, at the finish, with a feeling of nostalgia for the psychopathic ‘humour’ of a Jim Thompson or the more exuberant culture spread of Charles Willeford’s Cockfighter. Fate should hurt, it should embrace more than a spoiled romance. The affair at the heart of this novel must be with ‘Alligator’, the stinking pit bull, the sunken mud ...

Prinney, Boney, Boot

Roy Porter, 20 March 1986

The English Satirical Print 1600-1832 
edited by Michael Duffy.
Chadwyck-Healey, February 1986
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... Henry Fox and labelled ‘Volpone’ could be appreciated by those who had never heard of Ben Jonson. Yet if cartoons assuredly were not ‘high art’, they certainly must not be seen as part of the ‘little tradition’. Cartoons were an expression of that alert middling urban culture so conspicuously neglected by 18th-century historians from ...

Paisley’s Progress

Tom Paulin, 1 April 1982

... his voice was gone, his throat husky and his powerful frame exhausted. It’s like a scene from Ben Jonson: a fairground world where that ex-boxer swinging his gold belt is a Herculean showman with a voice so powerful it might bring walls crashing down. The charismatic mountebank – or sincere preacher – must draw and play the crowd, amuse it, hector it ...

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