Sometimes in the London Review of Books I find the sort of review that grabs me by the throat: a review that bowls me over, staggers and stuns me, dazes and dumbfounds me, astounds and astonishes me - in short, exhausts the thesaurus to impress me no end (do wonders, work miracles, surpass belief, beggar all description and beat everything). Then again, in the New York Review of Books I sometimes discover this same dash and Úlan, this zest and vim, this fire and mettle, this fizz and verve, this pep and go, this vehemence and violence, this thrust and push and kick and punch. What livewire or quicksilver - dynamo or dynamite - can be responsible for such truly transatlantic triumphs? Is it a bird, is it a plane? Well, as often as not, it turns out to be David Cannadine - easily mistaken for a plane, of course, because, as he confides in this volume of collected reviews, 'not a few were pondered and drafted in mid-air.' Now that this brilliant brain has dramatically drained, from Christ's College, Cambridge to Columbia, and has lingeringly looked on the Last of England from the Heathrow departure lounge, he leaves us with a welcome reminder of what we have lost - and of the fact, too, that this is surely not the last of Cannadine.
LRB 18 May 1989 | PDF Download