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On the Man­tel piece

At last. An in­tel­li­gent and lu­cid piece about Diana. (“The princess myth”, 26 Au­gust). Hi­lary Man­tel’s writ­ing is as crys­tal clear and as pierc­ingly lethal as bro­ken glass. Mar­vel­lous. And hi­lar­i­ously funny as well.

Pam Otto From Face­book A pro­found ad­mix­ture of foren­sic his­tor­i­cal anal­y­sis and rich psy­cho­log­i­cal in­sight. Af­ter 35 years we have some sense about this sad woman and the cre­ation that she was. Thank you, Hi­lary Man­tel.

Neil Ryrie From Face­book

What an ex­cel­lent anal­y­sis. Do I sense a 20th-cen­tury novel emerg­ing from Man­tel? Please though, can we have the Cromwell tril­ogy com­pleted first!

Liz Coates From Face­book About time

Si­mon Garfield’s ex­cel­lent med­i­ta­tion on ac­cel­er­a­tion and re­sis­tance (Re­for­ma­tion 2017, 2 Septem­ber) is in­deed “timely”. He men­tions the ad­mirable deep time project, “the clock of the long now”, in west Texas, but read­ers might like to know that a sim­i­larly am­bi­tious, yet more melo­di­ous project is un­der way closer to home. Jem Finer’s re­mark­able Long­player is per­formed on a 66-ft-wide or­ches­tral in­stru­ment in a light­house in Lon­don’s dock­lands and can be heard on­line at long­player.org. It is cre­at­ing a 1,000-year long com­po­si­tion, with­out any use of rep­e­ti­tion. In the fre­netic scheme of life, it of­fers one of the more cre­ative ways in which to re­con­sider one’s pri­or­i­ties.

Gareth Evans Lon­don Pu­tin­ists and pri­mary sources Sheila Fitz­patrick may well be piqued (Re­view, 26 Au­gust) by the omis­sion of her own book from the bib­li­og­ra­phy of Anne Ap­ple­baum’s Red Famine, which de­scribes Stalin’s star­va­tion of the Ukrainian peas­antry in the 1930s. But her in­sin­u­a­tions about the au­thor’s schol­ar­ship are un­fair.

Pu­tin­ist pro­pa­gan­dists, like their Soviet pre­de­ces­sors, try to ob­scure crit­i­cism of Soviet crimes by claim­ing that the his­tor­i­cal record is am­bigu­ous. For that rea­son, Ap­ple­baum gives vo­lu­mi­nous ref­er­ences to all pri­mary sources, even when also quot­ing sec­ondary ones. This is not the be­hav­iour of an in­genue grad­u­ate stu­dent as Fitz­patrick so pa­tro­n­is­ingly as­serts. It is an at­tempt to make bul­let­proof an ac­count of mass mur­der that cost many mil­lions of lives but whose ex­is­tence – shock­ingly – is still con­tested by the Krem­lin.

More­over, con­trary to the re­viewer’s as­ser­tion that this is merely a work of “pop­u­lar his­tory” based on sec­ondary sources, it is clear that Ap­ple­baum and her re­searcher have scoured the archives for pri­mary doc­u­ments, which are quoted in sup­port of orig­i­nal ar­gu­ments.

Pro­fes­sor Fitz­patrick also mis­reads Ap­ple­baum’s ar­gu­ment that the ar­ti­fi­cial famine was an act of geno­cide. Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term, de­scribed it as a “clas­sic ex­am­ple” of the crime.

Ed­ward Lu­cas Lon­don Em­biggen bold

Bernard MacLaverty de­scribes “em­biggen” as “a com­puter word” (My work­ing day, 26 Au­gust). Per­haps it has been em­braced by the IT fra­ter­nity, but they prob­a­bly got it from a 1996 episode of The Simp­sons,

which quotes the motto of Spring­field as: “A noble spirit em­biggens the small­est man.” The word is thought to have been cre­ated by the show’s writ­ers, but it seems that it ap­peared as a ne­ol­o­gism in 1884, in a schol­arly jour­nal called Notes and Queries. At that time it ev­i­dently did not catch on.

Stu­art Handy­sides Ware, Herts

Comic book Cor­byn

Fur­ther to the news that Jeremy Cor­byn is go­ing to be the sub­ject of a new comic book an­thol­ogy (The week in books, 26 Au­gust). In fact there is a prece­dent for this. When he was Labour prime min­is­ter, James Cal­laghan fea­tured in Mar­vel UK’s Cap­tain Bri­tain series in the late 1970s, even ap­pear­ing in car­toon form on the cover of is­sue 23. The plot in­volved Cal­laghan be­ing cap­tured by the Red Skull and be­ing res­cued by Cap­tain Bri­tain with help from Cap­tain Amer­ica.

GrowlerRob From the web­site

IS PUB­LISHED BY CANON­GATE.

BAK­ING WITH KAFKA, ILLUSTRATION BY TOM GAULD. TOM GAULD’S NEW BOOK OF CAR­TOONS,

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