On books.

RDN on books, fiction and non-fiction, old and new. I have often also reviewed at the Social Affairs Unit website.

500 years of businesswomen

Royal and aristocratic women often wielded considerable power as mothers and widows. It is curious how other women, formally unable to own or control assets in their own right, did often inherit their late husband’s stake in the wider world, and run it. They had other routes to control as well. Read more...

Published

19 May 2019

Anne Lister & “Shirley” in business

There is a long tradition of women being successfull in farming, landowning and business. Here I look at Anne Lister (Gentleman Jack) and Charlotte Brontë's Shirley in that light. Read more...

Published

19 May 2019

Edith Stein: A first look & some leads

This is a premature account of my attempts to discover and understand Edith Stein. It includes (listed below) what I hope are fruitful leads (those I intend to follow-up myself). It is impertinent of me to write this without (at the very least) having bought and read the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre's short intellectual biography of the saint and philosopher, not least because his journey to and within Catholicism parallels Stein's. What's more, I have only glanced at her most obviously pertinent philosophical book, The Problem of Empathy, and know even less of her spiritual and theological writing. However, writing these preparatory words cleared my head, and they may be useful to other newcomers to this martyr, hero and thinker - and the culture of her world. Read more...

Published

01 March 2018

Jack Reacher: Mythic hero who travels by bus

This has been been the sunny season when I lay on a lounger and read something like three-quarters of the 20-some Jack Reacher thrillers produced by the Englishman in New York, Lee Child. I think Reacher is a rare - possibly unique - type in the detective thriller, though it is quite common in Marvel comics and movies. In written form it is a story from over 3,000 years ago. It deploys the epic manner in telling stories about a mythic, and partly divine, figure. Read more...

Published

17 September 2017

Polite Modernism: Eric Parry & the Other Tradition

What Colin St John Wilson called "The Architecture of Invitation" or "The Other Tradition", I call "Polite Modernism". Its finest living exponent is Eric Parry, who is firmly in the CSJW tradition, both academic and creative. And now he has delivered what looks like an excellent successor to CSJW's British Library, and Denys Lasdun's Royal College of Physicians. Actually, his headquarters for the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers has a decent claim to be the ultimate in the genre so far. After the fold, there's an account of what Polite Modernism is, and how it fits into Brutalism and Modernism, and even post-modernism. Read more...

Published

28 June 2017

Hobo’s 79th Armoured Division insignia

This is the famous insignia of the 79th Armoured Division. It seems very likely that, like the 79th itself, it was designed by General Percy Hobart (Sir Percy, as he became). If so, he was as creative with a pencil as with his military planning. He was certainly close friends with writers and artists, including Eric Kennington, one of the best war artists of WW1 and WW2. The Bull's Head insignia of the 79th Armoured Division For more on this story, see below... Read more...

Published

28 August 2014

Stanley Kennedy North folk dance book, 1921

Stanley North, by then calling himself Stanley Kennedy North, in recognition of his marriage to Helen Kennedy, illustrated and (presumably) produced this marvellous little book, Mr North’s Maggot (so called after a folk dance formulation). It is dedicated to Helen and has a foreword by Cecil Sharp, the great revivalist… Read more...

Published

27 August 2014

Stanley North WW1 “Child’s ABC”, 1914

Sometime during the autumn of 1914 (I am presuming), my grandfather, Stanley North produced these marvellous images to illustrate Geoffrey Whitworth’s “Child’s ABC of the War”. It was in the spirit of much of the artistic and literary response to the declaration of war. Here is a gallery of the… Read more...

Published

25 August 2014

Bernardine Bishop’s “Unexpected Lessons In Love”

This is a very fine book, and well merits the comparison with the writing of Penelope Fitzgerald, which Adam Mars-Jones drew in his Observer review. It's a comparison as to both classiness and type, and I hadn't made it, which was dumb of me, since I have been reading and loving Fitzgerald.. Read more...

Published

10 June 2014

RDN on Michael J Sandel

I meant ages ago to write a note about Michael J Sandel's What Money Can't Buy. I read it with mounting irritation and wanted just to mark people's cards as best I could as to what to watch out for when they come to it.... Read more...

Published

01 May 2014
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