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Much more than a sporting event

The Ancient Olympicsby Nigel SpiveyOUP, £17.99, pp. 264, ISBN 0192804332Olympics in Athens 1896: The Invention of the Modern Olympic Gamesby Michael Llewellyn SmithProfile, £16.99, pp. 290, ISBN 186197342X So politics should be kept out of sports? Tell that to the Greeks. Two absorbing new books about the ancient Olympic Games, each crammed with information about

Lost and found in lonely places

Patricia Tyrrell has self-published two novels, both of which were shortlisted for major prizes. The Promised Land was runner-up for the Sagittarius Prize for a first novel by someone over the age of 60, and The Reckoning was a contender for the Encore Award. I am happy to declare an interest here as, along with

Theirs not to reason why

Stanley Milgram was an academic psychologist at Yale who achieved a brief moment of fame in the early 1960s as the creator of ‘obedience experiments’. The idea was to discover how far people will act against their own most basic instincts if they are following someone else’s orders. A large sample of ordinary and superficially

Who is laughing at whom?

Doctor Johnson’s excellent recipe for cucumber: ‘a cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing.’ Some readers will doubtless cry, ‘But what about sandwiches?’ There is, as we are all aware, no accounting for taste. Taste is a moot point for readers of James

His own worst enemy | 12 June 2004

Jonathan Coe is a novelist — a very good novelist. He is not a biographer; indeed he dislikes biography, as he frequently tells us. Given that, he’s done a damn good job. Poor B. S. Johnson leaps off these pages: pathologically morbid and clinically depressed, wildly superstitious and self-dramatising. requiring perfect love and devotion from

Big is not therefore ugly

As in warfare and international relations, the Brits punch above their weight in the debate about globalisation and the onward march of the transnational market economy. The Guardian columnist George Monbiot, in The Age of Consent (Flamingo 2003), was the first anti-globalisation campaigner to offer a coherent manifesto for a movement which until then had

Back to the good old whodunnit

Long before the age of irony the novel meted out just punishment, or at least linked effect to cause. These functions have long since devolved to the murder mystery, which combines gruesome reality with superior logic, leaving logic the upper hand. The rules may have changed, but the stereotypes — the small town with its