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Yearning for Polar Seas

James Hamilton-Paterson: North, 1 September 2005

The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule 
by Joanna Kavenna.
Viking, 334 pp., £16.99, February 2005, 0 670 91395 2
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The Idea of North 
by Peter Davidson.
Reaktion, 271 pp., £16.95, January 2005, 1 86189 230 6
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... My father was born in China and no doubt I caught from him his own boyhood tingle at the idea of ships and their Empire routes, especially long ocean voyages by P&O liner. Excitement, homesickness, the magic of the word ‘Orient’: to a child growing up in South-East England in the 1940s and 1950s, such elements blended early into a near-poetry of longing for a vertical sun ...

Forget the Klingons

James Hamilton-Paterson: Is there anybody out there?, 6 March 2003

Evolving the Alien: The Science of Extraterrestrial Life 
by Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart.
Ebury, 369 pp., £17.99, September 2002, 0 09 187927 2
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XTL: Extraterrestrial Life and How to Find It 
by Simon Goodwin and John Gribbin.
Weidenfeld, 191 pp., £12.99, August 2002, 1 84188 193 7
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... In the middle of the 19th century the prevailing scientific view of the abyssal ocean held that it was a vast body of water with a uniform temperature of 4 °C. With no variation of temperature there could be no convection currents, hence no circulation of dissolved oxygen and suspended food particles. The abyss was stagnant, a body of water under massive pressure, barely warmer than freezing and utterly without light ...

With Only Passing Reference to the Earth

James Hamilton-Paterson: The Martian Enterprise, 22 August 2002

Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination and the Birth of a World 
by Oliver Morton.
Fourth Estate, 351 pp., £18.99, June 2002, 9781841156682
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... In his introduction to this remarkable book, Oliver Morton writes that it is ‘about how ideas from our full and complex planet are projected onto the rocks of that simpler, empty one’. Projection, Morton believes, has determined our thinking about Mars from the outset. The planet had attracted its complement of myth well before the Milanese astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli made his new map of Mars in 1877, and its features, dimly discernible through inadequate telescopes and often obscured by dust storms, had already acquired fanciful names ...

Not Altogether Lost

James Hamilton-Paterson: The Tasaday, 19 June 2003

Invented Eden: The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday 
by Robin Hemley.
Farrar, Straus, 352 pp., $25, May 2003, 0 374 17716 3
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... In June 1971 it was learned that a hitherto unknown tribe had been found living in the dense rainforest of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. Reportedly, the group consisted of 27 members, spoke an unknown tongue and wore only leaves. Tentatively named Tasaday after a nearby mountain, they seemed to be exclusively hunter-gatherers who knew nothing of agriculture and used stone tools to dig for wild yams ...

Diary

James Hamilton-Paterson: What’s happened to the sea, 23 September 2004

... Early one morning two Februaries ago, I stood in shirtsleeves in the tiny bay of Crinan in the extreme west of Argyll. The sun was brilliant in a rinsed blue sky. On a nearby islet an unmoving white heron might have been a plaster model. Behind it shores and islands widened to the horizon. Everything was still. Before long the first clouds had appeared, and within fifteen minutes the islands had vanished ...

Blooming Symbols

Adam Lively, 27 May 1993

Dr Haggard’s Disease 
by Patrick McGrath.
Viking, 180 pp., £14.99, May 1993, 0 670 85195 7
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Griefwork 
by James Hamilton-Paterson.
Cape, 238 pp., £14.99, May 1993, 9780224037174
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... his work with the kind of vulgar solecisms that McGrath deploys, one need look no further than James Hamilton-Paterson. It is a measure of Griefwork’s self-consciousness that it luxuriates with potential artistic mottoes and self-descriptions: ‘stylishness starts in the heart and may, nurtured, expand outwards into fantasy, intrigue and powerful ...

As the toffs began to retreat

Neal Ascherson: Declinism, 22 November 2018

What We Have Lost: The Dismantling of Great Britain 
by James Hamilton-Paterson.
Head of Zeus, 360 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 1 78497 235 6
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The Rise and Fall of the British Nation: A 20th-Century History 
by David Edgerton.
Allen Lane, 681 pp., £30, June 2018, 978 1 84614 775 3
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... That bloody woman!’ James Hamilton-Paterson’s mother was not given to outbursts. Then in her eighties, she had worked in the National Health Service for most of her life. But when she came across the three teenage girls (they might have been her own granddaughters) sitting on cardboard and begging in Victoria Station, something gave way ...

Interesting Fellows

Walter Nash, 4 May 1989

The Book of Evidence 
by John Banville.
Secker, 220 pp., £10.95, March 1989, 0 436 03267 8
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Carn 
by Patrick McCabe.
Aidan Ellis, 252 pp., £11.50, March 1989, 0 85628 180 8
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The Tryst 
by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 168 pp., £10.99, April 1989, 0 571 15450 6
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Gerontius 
by James Hamilton-Paterson.
Macmillan, 264 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 333 45194 5
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... his memorial plaque, but Carn has lost its railway and might have sunk into dereliction had not James Cooney returned to his native place in the Fifties, to revive its fortunes with a meat-processing plant, a dance hall and a select tavern-cum-roadhouse. Thereafter Carn has done well enough. The lawn-mowers whirr regularly like gossips, the regular gossips ...

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