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A Broad Grin and a Handstand

E.S. Turner: ‘the fastest woman in the world’ and the wild early years of motor-racing, 24 June 2004

The Bugatti Queen: In Search of a Motor-Racing Legend 
by Miranda Seymour.
Simon and Schuster, 301 pp., £15.99, February 2004, 0 7432 3146 5
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... went down well with the crowd, but it was an insane feat. An errant scarf had already strangled Isadora Duncan in her Amilcar on the Promenade des Anglais at Nice. Then it was back to driving for Bugatti, or Alfa Romeo, or any other firm that showed interest in a driver ready to do handstands on the bonnets of its victorious cars. For her own ...

My wife brandishes circle and line

Anne Wagner: Sophie Taeuber-Arp, 6 December 2018

Sophie Taeuber-Arp and the Avant Garde: A Biography 
by Roswitha Mair, translated by Damion Searls.
Chicago, 222 pp., £41.50, September 2018, 978 0 226 31121 0
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... seem to have been less important to Taeuber than her encounters with contemporary dance. When Isadora Duncan performed in Munich, she was in the audience. After war broke out in 1914, she moved to Zurich, where she joined Rudolf von Laban’s dance school and became a key member of his troupe. In the early years of the war Zurich was home to a ...

Builder of Ruins

Mary Beard: Arthur Evans, 30 November 2000

Minotaur: Sir Arthur Evans and the Archaeology of the Minoan Myth 
by J.A. MacGillivray.
Cape, 313 pp., £20, August 2000, 0 224 04352 8
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... much to dent the popularity of Evans’s re-creations. Celebrity visitors trooped to see Knossos (Isadora Duncan was said to have performed an ‘impromptu’ dance on the grand staircase). And tourists more generally found it a sufficient reason to visit Crete. The 1888 edition of the Baedeker Guide to Greece had no entry for Crete: by 1904 it included ...

Adventures of the Black Box

Tom McCarthy, 18 November 2021

... of wealthy German immigrants to America, who attended Oakland High School in the 1890s alongside Isadora Duncan, Gertrude Stein and Jack London. With her husband, Frank, she developed the time-and-motion studies that would help perfect the workings of the assembly line, that ultimate form of capitalist machinery.Gilbreth’s method involved attaching a ...


Iain Sinclair: Ferlinghetti, 17 December 2015

I Greet You at the Beginning of a Great Career: The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, 1955–97 
edited by Bill Morgan.
City Lights, 284 pp., £11.83, July 2015, 978 0 87286 678 2
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Writing across the Landscape: Travel Journals 1960-2010 
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, edited by Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson.
Liveright, 464 pp., £22.99, October 2015, 978 1 63149 001 9
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... had once been a community art venture called King Ubu, operated by the Black Mountain poet Robert Duncan and his collagist partner Jess Collins. Duncan, removing his clothes at the conclusion of his verse play Faust Foutu, in order to demonstrate the meaning of nakedness, anticipated by a decade or so the Ginsberg party ...

Verbing a noun

Patrick Parrinder, 17 March 1988

Out of this World 
by Graham Swift.
Viking, 208 pp., £10.95, March 1988, 0 670 82084 9
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Three Farmers on their Way to a Dance 
by Richard Powers.
Weidenfeld, 352 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 297 79273 3
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The March Fence 
by Matthew Yorke.
Viking, 233 pp., £10.95, March 1988, 0 670 81848 8
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What is the matter with Mary Jane? 
by Daisy Waugh.
Heinemann, 182 pp., £10.95, February 1988, 0 434 84390 3
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... her Sarah Bernhardt impersonations, appears in quick succession as, among others, Gertrude Stein, Isadora Duncan, and Nurse Cavell waiting to be shot by the Germans. In Powers’s more strictly historical narrative, two of the three farmers – supposedly Germans from the Rhineland – turn out to be nothing of the sort. Hubert, of indeterminaté ...

You better not tell me you forgot

Terry Castle: How to Spot Members of the Tribe, 27 September 2012

All We Know: Three Lives 
by Lisa Cohen.
Farrar Straus, 429 pp., £22.50, July 2012, 978 0 374 17649 5
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... Hollywood screenwriter, memoirist and seductress extraordinaire (Garbo and Dietrich and Isadora Duncan were among her conquests); and the brittle yet pioneering British fashion editor and stylesetter Madge Garland (1898-1990). Cohen’s account of their richly oxymoronic erotic lives – lives at once hard to see and hard to miss, archly ...

Between centuries

Frank Kermode, 11 January 1990

In the Nineties 
by John Stokes.
Harvester, 199 pp., £17.50, September 1989, 0 7450 0604 3
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Olivia Shakespear and W.B. Yeats 
by John Harwood.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £35, January 1990, 0 333 42518 9
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Letters to the New Island 
by W.B. Yeats, edited by George Bornstein and Hugh Witemeyer.
Macmillan, 200 pp., £45, November 1989, 0 333 43878 7
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The Letters of Ezra Pound to Margaret Anderson: The ‘Little Review’ Correspondence 
edited by Thomas Scott, Melvin Friedman and Jackson Bryer.
Faber, 368 pp., £30, July 1989, 0 571 14099 8
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Ezra Pound and Margaret Cravens: A Tragic Friendship, 1910-1912 
edited by Omar Pound and Robert Spoo.
Duke, 181 pp., £20.75, January 1989, 0 8223 0862 2
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Postcards from the End of the World: An Investigation into the Mind of Fin-de-Siècle Vienna 
by Larry Wolff.
Collins, 275 pp., £15, January 1990, 0 00 215171 5
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Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age 
by Modris Eksteins.
Bantam, 396 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 593 01862 1
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Esprit de Corps: The Art of the Parisian Avant-Garde and the First World War, 1916-1925 
by Kenneth Silver.
Thames and Hudson, 506 pp., £32, October 1989, 0 500 23567 8
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... is a certain strain on many of Eksteins’s connections: Lindbergh arrives, Nijinsky goes mad, Isadora Duncan breaks her neck, the shocking Josephine Baker came from St Louis, like T.S. Eliot, the man who pronounced printemps to be cruel. The interest is in the detail, not the thesis. A chapter on Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, and ...

In a Pomegranate Chandelier

T.J. Clark: Benedict Anderson, 21 September 2006

Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism 
by Benedict Anderson.
Verso, 240 pp., £12.99, September 2006, 1 84467 086 4
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Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination 
by Benedict Anderson.
Verso, 224 pp., £14.99, January 2006, 1 84467 037 6
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... or anarcho-decadence or anarcho-martyrology. It was a necessary antidote to the previous Isadora-Duncan-with-blood. Isabelo’s Unión Obrera Democrática sounds to have been anarcho-syndicalist to the letter. This disagreement is shadowed, as I say, by the futilities of the present. Some of the points Anderson ...

You gu gu and I gu gu

Andrew O’Hagan: Vaslav Nijinsky, 20 July 2000

The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky 
edited by Joan Acocella and Kyril Fitzylon.
Allen Lane, 312 pp., £20, August 1999, 0 7139 9354 5
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Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age 
by Modris Eksteins.
Macmillan, 396 pp., £12, May 2000, 0 333 76622 9
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... an Egyptian, a Persian and a Russian ballet with the help of Bakst, Roerich and Golovine ... Like Isadora Duncan ten years earlier and like Martha Graham a quarter of a century later, Nijinsky had to put aside all he had learned and been in order to discover how to tell the truth in his own way. He was doing what Picasso had done when he painted his ...


Anne Stillman: Jean Cocteau, 13 July 2017

Jean Cocteau: A Life 
by Claude Arnaud, translated by Lauren Elkin and Charlotte Mandell.
Yale, 1024 pp., £30, September 2016, 978 0 300 17057 3
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... Cocteau stayed for extended periods, delivers another surprising sequence of real-life spectacles: Isadora Duncan wanders around barefoot looking for sailors, a basket of lobsters in her arms; Mary Butts is writing her books in a room upstairs; Cocteau moulds figurines of wax and pipe-cleaners in a room full of opium smoke. An American passing through ...

Speaking well

Christopher Ricks, 18 August 1983

Cyril Connolly: Journal and Memoir 
by David Pryce-Jones.
Collins, 304 pp., £12.50, July 1983, 0 333 32827 2
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J.B. Yeats: Letters to His Son W.B. Yeats and Others, 1869-1922 
edited with a memoir by Joseph Hone.
Secker, 296 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 436 59205 3
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... gesticulating his despair.’ He can observe himself and all observers, as when thinking about Isadora Duncan on stage: ‘Several people said: Is it not like watching a kitten playing for itself? We watched her as if we were each of us hidden in an ambush.’ He can turn a sentence which is itself ‘as real as the toothache and as terrible and ...

Lady Talky

Alison Light: Lydia Lopokova, 18 December 2008

Bloomsbury Ballerina: Lydia Lopokova, Imperial Dancer and Mrs John Maynard Keynes 
by Judith Mackrell.
Weidenfeld, 476 pp., £25, April 2008, 978 0 297 84908 7
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... bicycle-riding dogs’ and other novelty acts, billed with singers, comics and Isadora Duncan wannabees in clunky revue imitations of Diaghilev, she was increasingly adored by audiences and increasingly weary of being an Americanised ballerina. Her ebullience just about kept her afloat until finally, after performing yet another dying ...

Wear and Tear

Anne Hollander, 6 February 1997

Yves St Laurent: A Biography 
by Alice Rawsthorn.
HarperCollins, 405 pp., £20, November 1996, 0 00 255543 3
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... and unheard of in the middle of the Second. Poiret, too, posed provisionally as an artist, knew Isadora Duncan and many modern painters and was a radical innovator, creating trousers and young-boyish looks for women, mid-calf-length skirts and long, sleek, uncurved torsos, all well before the famous between-the-wars modernisation of women. And, of ...

Half Snake, Half Panther

James Davidson: Nijinsky, 26 September 2013

by Lucy Moore.
Profile, 324 pp., £25, May 2013, 978 1 84668 618 4
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... Nijinsky as the third element in a trinity of pioneers of modern dance, following Loie Fuller and Isadora Duncan. As a reward for his letting his signature be used Rodin was allowed to observe Nijinsky in the flesh, as a model for a sculpture. But then something inappropriate happened; either the two were found asleep by Diaghilev leaning on each ...

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