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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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Qui êtes-vous, Sir Moses?

C.R. Whittaker, 6 March 1986

Ancient History: Evidence and Models 
by M.I. Finley.
Chatto, 131 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 7011 3003 2
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... to be his natural allies we have to understand something of Finley’s background. Whether or not Martin Jay is correct in The Dialectical Imagination in crediting the Frankfurt Institut für Sozialforschung with such an influential part in the revitalisation of Marxism in the Thirties and Forties through the development of what they called Critical Theory ...

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 ...

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 ...

Eat butterflies with me?

Patricia Lockwood, 5 November 2020

Think, Write, Speak: Uncollected Essays, Reviews, Interviews and Letters to the Editor 
by Vladimir Nabokov, edited by Brian Boyd and Anastasia Tolstoy.
Penguin, 576 pp., £12.99, November, 978 0 14 139838 9
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... dark. The rubies move: they are better, they are beetles.When he entered the university it took Martin a long time to decide on a field of study. There were so many, and all were fascinating. He procrastinated on their outskirts, finding everywhere the same magical spring of vital elixir. He was excited by the viaduct suspended over an alpine precipice, by ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

There are some limits Marlowes just won’t cross

Christopher Tayler: Banville’s Marlowe, 3 April 2014

The Black-Eyed Blonde 
by Benjamin Black.
Mantle, 320 pp., £16.99, February 2014, 978 1 4472 3668 9
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... in detective fiction’, and on some level that’s probably the point. (‘I’m not Sherlock Holmes or Philo Vance,’ Marlowe says later on.) Even so, it’s surprising that Marlowe doesn’t know who Proust is: he’s usually more knowingly dismissive when it comes to cultural matters, especially when they touch, as they often seem to do, on his ...

Metropolitan Miscreants

Matthew Bevis: Victorian Bloomsbury, 4 July 2013

Victorian Bloomsbury 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Yale, 380 pp., £25, July 2012, 978 0 300 15447 4
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Metropolitan Art and Literature, 1810-40: Cockney Adventures 
by Gregory Dart.
Cambridge, 297 pp., £55, July 2012, 978 1 107 02492 2
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... of the March of Mind come to lecture others on how to get on in life, where Mrs Filmer’s doctor, Holmes, briskly informs her neighbour Septimus that he has ‘nothing whatever seriously the matter with him’. ‘There remained only the window, the large Bloomsbury lodging-house window, the tiresome, the troublesome, and rather melodramatic business of ...

Shtum

John Lanchester: Alastair Campbell’s Diaries, 16 August 2007

The Blair Years: Extracts from the Alastair Campbell Diaries 
edited by Alastair Campbell and Richard Stott.
Hutchinson, 794 pp., £25, July 2007, 978 0 09 179629 7
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... joked in the Mail on Sunday, it is as if, instead of turning to Doctor Watson for advice, Sherlock Holmes had instead consulted the Hound of the Baskervilles. Campbell is a political journalist who, as part of a not-all-that-complex self-loathing, despises political journalists, a recovering drunk of the type that is angry with everybody all the time, a ...

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 ...

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 ...

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