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Into the Eisenshpritz

Elif Batuman: Superheroes, 10 April 2008

Life, in Pictures: Autobiographical Stories 
by Will Eisner.
Norton, 493 pp., £18.99, November 2007, 978 0 393 06107 9
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Epileptic 
by David B..
Cape, 368 pp., £12.99, March 2006, 0 224 07920 4
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Shortcomings 
by Adrian Tomine.
Faber, 108 pp., £12.99, September 2007, 978 0 571 23329 8
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Misery Loves Comedy 
by Ivan Brunetti.
Fantagraphics, 172 pp., £15.99, April 2007, 978 1 56097 792 6
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... The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, The X-Men and Doctor Strange, was born Stanley Martin Lieber. And the first issue of Superman was published, in 1938, by two young American Jews, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. As Michael Chabon wrote in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), whose protagonists are loosely based on Siegel and ...

Public Enemy

R.W. Johnson, 26 November 1987

Secrecy and Power: The Life of J. Edgar Hoover 
by Richard Gid Powers.
Hutchinson, 624 pp., £16.95, August 1987, 0 02 925060 9
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... his career, which ended under Richard Nixon, began under Woodrow Wilson. That Hoover persecuted Martin Luther King is notorious, but Hoover was also the man who drove Marcus Garvey out of America. Similarly, the Hoover who turned his malign attention upon the anti-Vietnam War movement was the same man who had, half a century before, hounded Emma Goldman and ...

Skipwith and Anktill

David Wootton: Tudor Microhistory, 10 August 2000

Travesties and Transgressions in Tudor and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Oxford, 351 pp., £25, November 1999, 0 19 820781 6
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A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the Second Earl of Castlehaven 
by Cynthia Herrup.
Oxford, 216 pp., £18.99, December 1999, 0 19 512518 5
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... coined by Italians, but used to describe above all the work of Natalie Zemon Davis (The Return of Martin Guerre, 1983) and Robert Darnton (The Great Cat Massacre, 1984). Microhistorians have turned to the verbatim records of interrogations kept in the law courts of early modern Europe (or at least those parts of Europe where Roman law procedures were ...

Wolfish

John Sutherland: The pushiness of young men in a hurry, 5 May 2005

Publisher 
by Tom Maschler.
Picador, 294 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 330 48420 6
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British Book Publishing as a Business since the 1960s 
by Eric de Bellaigue.
British Library, 238 pp., £19.95, January 2004, 0 7123 4836 0
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Penguin Special: The Life and Times of Allen Lane 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Viking, 484 pp., £25, May 2005, 0 670 91485 1
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... Hemingway shot himself. His death is the only regret of my magnificent career.’ The cartoonist Martin Rowson got the last laugh in the Independent on Sunday, with a riff on the ‘body of literature’: ‘And yet where are Publishers in this Corporeal Plan?/You’ll see them as a TAPEWORM if you do a CT scan.’ Alongside these lines was a caricature of ...

On the Salieri Express

John Sutherland, 24 September 1992

Doctor Criminale 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 343 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 436 20115 1
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The Promise of Light 
by Paul Watkins.
Faber, 217 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 571 16715 2
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The Absolution Game 
by Paul Sayer.
Constable, 204 pp., £13.99, June 1992, 0 09 471460 6
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The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman 
by Louis de Bernières.
Secker, 388 pp., £14.99, August 1992, 0 436 20114 3
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Written on the Body 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Cape, 190 pp., £13.99, September 1992, 0 224 03587 8
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... after the Cold War’. In addition to Bradbury’s invented personages the conferees include Martin Amis, Günter Grass and Susan Sontag (she skips one of the later conferences in the narrative, on the grounds that there is something more interesting going on in Northern Italy). Bradbury’s Villa Barolo is funded by the American Magno Foundation ...

Roaming the Greenwood

Colm Tóibín: A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition by Gregory Woods, 21 January 1999

A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition 
by Gregory Woods.
Yale, 448 pp., £24.95, February 1998, 0 300 07201 5
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... Novick gives an oddly convincing account of an affair that James may have had with Oliver Wendell Holmes, the future Supreme Court judge, in 1865 when he was 22 and Holmes 24. Novick goes on to show how James strove to match Holmes with his cousin Minny Temple: echoes of Kate Croy and ...

Give or take a dead Scotsman

Liam McIlvanney: James Kelman’s witterings, 22 July 2004

You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free 
by James Kelman.
Hamish Hamilton, 437 pp., £12.99, June 2004, 0 241 14233 4
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... Kelman’s tactic is to apply the procedures of detective fiction to refractory material. Where Holmes or Maigret are faced with specific instrumental problems (who poisoned the old vicar? what was the time of death?), Jerry’s conundrums (‘What distinguishes one life from another?’; ‘What do I mean "hame"’?; ‘Where do thoughts originate?’) are ...

Walking in high places

Michael Neve, 21 October 1982

The Ferment of Knowledge: Studies in the Historiography of 18th-Century Science 
edited by G.S. Rousseau and R.S. Porter.
Cambridge, 500 pp., £25, November 1980, 9780521225991
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Romanticism and the Forms of Ruin 
by Thomas McFarland.
Princeton, 432 pp., £24.60, February 1981, 0 691 06437 7
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Poetry realised in Nature: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Early 19th-Century Science 
by Trevor Levere.
Cambridge, 271 pp., £22.50, October 1981, 0 521 23920 6
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Coleridge 
by Richard Holmes.
Oxford, 102 pp., £1.25, March 1982, 0 19 287591 4
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Young Charles Lamb 1775-1802 
by Winifred Courtney.
Macmillan, 411 pp., £25, July 1982, 0 333 31534 0
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... insist on his greatness? Because Coleridge isn’t in this book, in the way that he isin Richard Holmes’s recent, sensitive profile in the Oxford ‘Past Masters’ series. Does a study like Levere’s miss some point, or is one merely making an obvious remark about the difference between ‘biography’ and ‘intellectual history’? Authors and critics ...

An Ugly Baby

Andrew Berry: Alfred Russel Wallace, 18 May 2000

Footsteps in the Forest: Alfred Russel Wallace in the Amazon 
by Sandra Knapp.
Natural History Museum, 96 pp., £16.95, November 1999, 0 565 09143 3
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... with Darwin, but not as an equal; he has been condemned always to play Watson to Darwin’s Holmes. Even Wallace’s biographers have been sucked into the vortex – a 1966 biography was called Darwin’s Moon. Despite the obvious overlaps between their careers – formative years spent immersed in the natural history of distant regions, later years in ...

Hanging out with Higgins

Michael Wood, 7 December 1989

Silent Partner 
by Jonathan Kellerman.
Macdonald, 506 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 356 17598 7
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‘Murder will out’: The Detective in Fiction 
by T.J. Binyon.
Oxford, 166 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780192192233
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Devices and Desires 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 408 pp., £11.99, October 1989, 0 571 14178 1
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Killshot 
by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 287 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 670 82258 2
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Trust 
by George V. Higgins.
Deutsch, 213 pp., £11.95, November 1989, 0 233 98513 1
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Polar Star 
by Martin Cruz Smith.
Collins Harvill, 373 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 00 271269 5
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... an arrangement of names and dates. Binyon looks at ‘professional amateurs’ from Dupin and Holmes to a whole assortment of private eyes – I’m not quite sure how they get amateur status, by being underpaid maybe; ‘amateur amateurs’ from various academics to Lovejoy; and a whole run of policemen: plodders, aristocrats, Maigret, the guys at the ...

Thinking Persons

John Ellis, 14 May 1992

Addressing Frank Kermode: Essays in Criticism and Interpretation 
edited by Margaret Tudeau-Clayton and Martin Warner.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £40, July 1991, 9780333531372
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The Poverty of Structuralism: Literature and Structuralist Theory 
by Leonard Jackson.
Longman, 317 pp., £24, July 1991, 0 582 06697 2
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Inconvenient Fictions: Literature and the Limits of Theory 
by Bernard Harrison.
Yale, 293 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 300 05057 7
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Reading Minds: The Study of English in the Age of Cognitive Science 
by Mark Turner.
Princeton, 298 pp., £18.99, January 1992, 0 691 06897 6
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Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics 
by Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson.
Stanford, 530 pp., $49.50, December 1990, 0 8047 1821 0
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... understand it, and that its founder said what he plainly did say? The political theorist Stephen Holmes gives an interesting possible answer for the analogous case of anti-liberal political thought. At first, extreme claims are made, but under challenge there is a retreat to watered-down versions so ordinary that they can not be objected to. This shift from ...

A Common Playhouse

Charles Nicholl: The Globe Theatre, 8 January 2015

Shakespeare and the Countess: The Battle That Gave Birth to the Globe 
by Chris Laoutaris.
Fig Tree, 528 pp., £20, April 2015, 978 1 905490 96 7
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... like other areas with old religious or monastic connections (the Whitefriars, the Minories, St Martin le Grand, St Katherine by the Tower), was one of London’s quasi-autonomous ‘liberties’, and so not governed by the lord mayor. The second was that there had already been a theatre in the area, immediately adjacent to the building on which Burbage’s ...

Time Lords

Anthony Grafton: In the Catacombs, 30 July 2014

Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs 
by Paul Koudounaris.
Thames and Hudson, 189 pp., £18.95, September 2013, 978 0 500 25195 9
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... in the Cloaca Maxima and other sewers. But the Via Salaria discovery was made in a new era. Martin Luther and other Protestants had mounted a challenge to the traditions of the church. Efforts to rebut their ideas had failed, and the support of rulers who converted had enabled some of the Reformers to build new churches of their own. At the Council of ...

Phut-Phut

James Wood: The ‘TLS’, 27 June 2002

Critical Times: The History of the ‘Times Literary Supplement’ 
by Derwent May.
HarperCollins, 606 pp., £25, November 2001, 0 00 711449 4
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... their characters by listing their clothes, incomes, houses. Bennett thought that the man Sherlock Holmes was full of life; Woolf that he was a sack stuffed with straw. Her realism – fragmentary, inward, fluid – was an attempt to notarise consciousness itself. But then Woolf’s whole endeavour reminds us of the difference between reviewing and ...

Into the Alley

Daniel Soar: Dashiell Hammett, 3 January 2002

Nightmare Town: Stories 
by Dashiell Hammett, edited by Kirby McCauley and Martin Greenberg et al.
Picador, 396 pp., £16.99, March 2001, 0 330 48109 6
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Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett 1921-60 
edited by Richard Layman and Julie Rivett.
Counterpoint, 650 pp., £28.99, June 2001, 1 58243 081 0
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... of the Blue Carbuncle’, which opens with a diamond found in the craw of a Christmas goose. Holmes begins at the end and works towards the beginning, following in reverse the steps the goose and its prize must have taken, all the way back to the original theft. It’s very plodding. But the peculiarity of the hard-boiled detective thriller is that it ...

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