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All passion still not spent

From her earliest years, one attribute dominated Bernice Rubens’s life: passion. It fuelled her impressive books, her personal relationships and her reactions to the world around her. It expressed her innate generosity of spirit, but could also deprive her of the ability to consider any viewpoint contrary to her own. Of such passion there is

Two sorts of ending up

By a fortunate coincidence these books treat the same subject: old age at the mercy of time, the ‘blind rider’ of Goytisolo’s title. Ageing is a matter of temporary victories and final defeats. At 75, you can succeed in getting on your horse by using a mounting block and shortening your nearside stirrup leather; at

Three star cooks

Going to Italy for his latest book, Jamie’s Italy, Jamie Oliver is, in a sense, coming home. Though he learnt to cook in his parents’ pub in Essex, all his early professional experience was in restaurants serving good, authentic Italian food. He worked for Gennaro Contaldi, Antonio Carluccio and, of course, at the River Café,

Scarcely a matter of honour

Early one morning in August 1826 two men stood facing each other 12 paces apart in a sodden field a few miles outside Kirkcaldy in Fife. One man was a linen merchant named David Landale, the other was George Morgan, his banker. At the words ‘Gentlemen are you ready? — Fire!’ two pistol shots went

Surprising literary ventures | 26 November 2005

James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution (1946)by George Orwell Managerial revolution? What next? The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Polem- icists? Luckily, no. This is the cover of a rare pamphlet by Orwell on the American political theorist James Burnham, who in 1940 wrote The Managerial Revolution, in which he speculated that the heirs to

A dose of the verbals

A light moment in the preliminary stages of learning Turkish is to discover that the word in that tongue for ‘talking nonsense’ is fart. Later on one finds that the Turkish for ‘violin bow’ is arse, though these facts alone are not always enough to carry the student chortling on to complete mastery of the

Recent crime books

The Stranger House by Reginald Hill (HarperCollins, £12.99) is not a Dalziel and Pascoe detective novel but a highly enjoyable gothic confection. Two strangers are brought reluctantly together in the village of Illthwaite in Cumbria. Sam Flood, a small, red-headed Australian woman of 24, is about to take up a post at Cambridge as a

Recent gardening books | 26 November 2005

Twenty years ago, gardening books never made it to the coffee table. The reader had to supply the glamorous illustrations. It was a bit like the difference between listening to the wireless and watching telly. I remember Mark Boxer, who was a publisher then, saying, ‘Once garden books start using pictures, they will sell in

Books of the Year II | 26 November 2005

Robert Salisbury It is difficult to look beyond three biographies this year: Jung Chang and Jon Halliday’s Mao (Cape, £25), William Hague’s Pitt the Younger (HarperCollins, £8.99) and Max Egremont’s Siegfried Sassoon (Picador, £25). Mao is a standing indictment not only of Mao himself but also of the self-hating Left of the Sixties and Seventies