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Massive Egg

Hal Foster: Skies over Magritte, 7 July 2022

Magritte: A Life 
by Alex Danchev with Sarah Whitfield.
Profile, 420 pp., £30, November 2021, 978 1 78125 077 8
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... but unexplained; this play with a revealing-that-conceals is everywhere in Magritte. Of the apple that blocks the face of the bowler-hatted man in The Great War (1964), he commented: ‘Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see … The interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of ...

Competition is for losers

David Runciman: Silicon Valley Vampire, 23 September 2021

The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power 
by Max Chafkin.
Bloomsbury, 400 pp., £25, September 2021, 978 1 5266 1955 6
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... not a vampire.’Is there a guiding philosophy that connects this bewildering range of activities? Max Chafkin looks for one in his new account of Thiel’s life and career, but to be honest he doesn’t look very hard. Instead, he does an excellent job of unpicking the disparate elements of the Thiel mythology. Nothing is quite what it seems. Take Thiel’s ...

The Great Accumulator

John Sturrock: W.G. Grace, 20 August 1998

W.G. Grace: A Life 
by Simon Rae.
Faber, 548 pp., £20, July 1998, 0 571 17855 3
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W.G.’s Birthday Party 
by David Kynaston.
Night Watchman, 154 pp., £13, May 1998, 0 9532360 0 5
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... Testimonial Fund raised the equivalent of quarter of a million of our contemporary pounds, Max Beerbohm drew what was for him an unusually mordant cartoon, in which (I quote from Rae) a ‘huge Grace with bulging biceps stands in the foreground with a minuscule cricket bat in one hand and a large cheque in the other, while behind him the funeral ...

F.R. Leavis, Politics and Religion

Roger Poole, 20 December 1979

The Moment of ‘Scrutiny’ 
by Francis Mulhern.
New Left Books, 354 pp., £11.75
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The Literary Criticism of F.R. Leavis 
by R.P. Bilan.
Cambridge, 338 pp., £12.50
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... it analysed as loss. The Salvation Army does, so to speak, a great job, even if Eve never bit an apple in her life. Undoubtedly the most valuable part of Francis Mulhern’s book is its conscientious cataloguing and listing. He describes very well, for instance, the struggles and infighting attendant upon the founding of the English School at Cambridge just ...

Unrenounceable Core

David Nirenberg: Who were the Marranos?, 23 July 2009

The Other Within The Marranos: Split Identity and Emerging Modernity 
by Yirmiyahu Yovel.
Princeton, 490 pp., £24.95, February 2009, 978 0 691 13571 7
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... The origins of this worldly modernity can be found in the events of 1391 and not – as works like Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism would have it – in the Reformation. Marranism provides the best genealogy for our ‘modern selves’, one that makes sense both of our early modern origins and our postmodern ends. Despite the ...

One’s Self-Washed Drawers

Rosemary Hill: Ida John, 29 June 2017

The Good Bohemian: The Letters of Ida John 
edited by Rebecca John and Michael Holroyd.
Bloomsbury, 352 pp., £25, May 2017, 978 1 4088 7362 5
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... a garret, many of them might as well have done. In the 1890s, when the ‘new woman’ sprang, as Max Beerbohm put it, ‘fully armed from Ibsen’s brain’, their cases tended to follow a pattern. Attracted by the idea of freedom from social and sexual convention and the chance to live among artists, even to be artists, they found themselves not in a new ...

I want to howl

John Lahr: Eugene O’Neill, 5 February 2015

Eugene O’Neill: A Life in Four Acts 
by Robert Dowling.
Yale, 569 pp., £20, October 2014, 978 0 300 17033 7
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... 1888 turned his mother into a morphine addict; that his father was a touring matinée idol and the apple of his own beady immigrant Irish eye; that he’d been sent away to a Catholic boarding school at seven; and, after all the other bruising losses of his peripatetic childhood, managed to lose his faith too, and you have a connoisseur of ...

The Only Alphabet

August Kleinzahler: Ashbery’s Early Life, 21 September 2017

The Songs We Know Best: John Ashbery’s Early Life 
by Karin Roffman.
Farrar, Straus, 316 pp., £25.50, June 2017, 978 0 374 29384 0
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... from a distance, perhaps at a reading, the last place you’d imagine him to be from would be an apple and cherry farm in western New York State, hard by the shores of Lake Ontario. He was rather patrician in bearing and had beautiful manners, soft-spoken, with a droll, sometimes wicked sense of humour: he would seem at home at all the vernissages and salons ...

Who had the most fun?

David Bromwich: The Marx Brothers, 10 May 2001

Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx 
by Stefan Kanfer.
Penguin, 480 pp., £7.99, April 2001, 0 14 029426 0
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The Essential Groucho 
by Groucho Marx, edited by Stefan Kanfer.
Penguin, 254 pp., £6.99, September 2000, 0 14 029425 2
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... of Chico, whom they had long since written off. Harpo, wearing a fruit-covered hat, plucked an apple and an orange, Chico dodged and hurled them back, somebody lowered the curtain and the three Marx Brothers were four. Show business is full of incongruities. Gummo, drafted into the Army and told by Minnie that they could do without him, would withdraw ...

Oh God, what have we done?

Jackson Lears: The Strange Career of Robert Oppenheimer, 20 December 2012

Inside the Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer 
by Ray Monk.
Cape, 818 pp., £30, November 2012, 978 0 224 06262 6
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... everything from carpentry to glassblowing to calculation. At his wits’ end, he left a poisoned apple on Blackett’s desk. What could have been a nasty incident turned out to be a narrow escape. His father, in town on a visit, worked out a deal with the dean. Instead of being sent down (or sent to prison), Oppenheimer was sent to an analyst. Apparently ...


Seamus Perry: Ted Hughes, 29 August 2013

Poet and Critic: The Letters of Ted Hughes and Keith Sagar 
edited by Keith Sagar.
British Library, 340 pp., £25, May 2013, 978 0 7123 5862 0
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Ted and I: A Brother’s Memoir 
by Gerald Hughes.
Robson, 240 pp., £16.99, October 2012, 978 1 84954 389 7
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... the mind exiled from Nature is the story of Western Man,’ Hughes wrote in a rollicking review of Max Nicholson’s The Environmental Revolution in 1970: ‘Our Civilisation is an evolutionary error.’ It’s a sorry story of decline, but the temper of Hughes’s poems is rarely elegiac: nature puts up a good fight. It’s not surprising to learn that Hughes ...

The Candidates

Chris Lehmann: Scott, Rick, Ted, Marco and Jeb, 18 June 2015

... trips to a neighbourhood wine store and movie theatre, a $134 haircut, a $765 visit to an Apple store and $4000 for a new floor in his home. More than $5000 for a Rubio family getaway to the luxury Melhana Plantation in Georgia was charged to the credit card of Rubio’s chief of staff, who evidently let himself get swept up in the spending spree. In ...

Walk on by

Andrew O’Hagan, 18 November 1993

... sat on a bleached-out walkway near London Bridge, staring into a gigantic billboard: ‘Pepsi Max: Max the Taste, Axe the Sugar.’ The concrete walkway sloped down from a modern block of offices labelled Colechurch House. It was the middle of the morning, cold, with hardly anyone around. I sat cross-legged with a torn ...

He had it all

Alex Harvey: Fitzgerald’s Decade, 5 July 2018

Paradise Lost: A Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald 
by David S. Brown.
Harvard, 424 pp., £21.95, May 2017, 978 0 674 50482 0
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‘I’d Die for You’ and Other Lost Stories 
by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Scribner, 384 pp., £9.99, April 2018, 978 1 4711 6473 6
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... of being the author of This Side of Paradise and I want to start over,’ he told his editor, Max Perkins, frustrated that his public wanted his writing to be a simple reproduction of his life with Zelda. But it’s impossible to separate Fitzgerald’s life from his literary output: fact and fiction repeatedly inform each other. He told Charles Scribner ...

Assault on Freud

Arnold Davidson, 5 July 1984

Freud: The Assault on Truth 
by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson.
Faber, 308 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 0 571 13240 5
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... but let me just say that anyone interested in the Emma Eckstein case would do better to read Max Shur’s article that first unearthed the case,1 which discusses some important historical and theoretical questions virtually ignored by Masson, such as the relation of the Emma Eckstein case to the Irma dream of The Interpretation of Dreams and Freud’s ...

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