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Unliterary, Unpolished, Unromantic

Charles Nicholl: ‘The Merchant of Prato’, 8 February 2018

The Merchant of Prato: Daily Life in a Medieval Italian City 
by Iris Origo.
Penguin, 400 pp., £10.99, May 2017, 978 0 241 29392 8
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... picked from the gardens of Newstead Abbey. ‘Iris Origo, like Byron, was soaked in Italy,’ said Michael Foot, who cited her book as the inspiration for his own writings about the poet. The comment is apposite also for The Merchant of Prato, which is steeped in the landscape and culture of Tuscany as much as in a particular period of its history. Though she ...

You can’t build a new society with a Stanley knife

Malcolm Bull: Hardt and Negri’s Empire, 4 October 2001

Empire 
by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri.
Harvard, 478 pp., £12.95, August 2001, 0 674 00671 2
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... where he had the support of Deleuze and Guattari, he continued his academic career in Paris (Michael Hardt was a student) until 1997, when he voluntarily returned to Italy to serve out the remainder of his sentence.Negri’s attempt to retheorise the autonomist strategy began during his first spell in prison, with a study of Spinoza. He found in Spinoza ...

Not Saluting, but Waving

Michael Wood, 20 February 1997

Evita 
directed by Alan Parker.
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The Making of ‘Evita’ 
by Alan Parker.
Boxtree, 127 pp., £12.99, December 1996, 0 7522 2264 3
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In My Own Words 
by Eva Perón, translated by Laura Dail.
New Press, 120 pp., $8.95, November 1996, 1 56584 353 3
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Santa Evita 
by Tomás Eloy Martínez, translated by Helen Lane.
Doubleday, 371 pp., £15.99, January 1997, 0 385 40875 7
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... Nothing became her life like the remaking of it, but there were so many remakes. The latest stars Madonna, but the earliest starred Eva María Duarte herself. Or was that María Eva Ibarguren? She was María Eva Duarte de Perón on her marriage certificate, but then she also took three years off her age on that occasion. Some of this is easily unravelled, and a number of the remakes are easy to name: country kid to city girl, dancer to actress, brunette to blonde, actress to politician, President’s wife to secular saint ...

Cold Front in Arden

Michael Dobson, 31 October 1996

Reading Shakespeare Historically 
by Lisa Jardine.
Routledge, 207 pp., £40, April 1996, 0 415 13490 0
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Purpose of Playing: Shakespeare and the Cultural Politics of the Elizabethan Theatre 
by Louis Montrose.
Chicago, 228 pp., £39.95, May 1996, 0 226 53482 0
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Shakespeare from the Margins: Language, Culture, Context 
by Patricia Parker.
Chicago, 392 pp., £41.50, April 1996, 0 226 64584 3
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Impersonations: Gender and Performance in Shakespear’s England 
by Stephen Orgel.
Cambridge, 179 pp., £30, February 1996, 0 521 56842 0
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... Does anyone still think Shakespeare’s comedies provide happy endings for their heroines? Come to that, does anyone still think Shakespeare’s comedies have either ‘happy endings’ or ‘heroines’? There certainly wasn’t much in the way of feminocentric festive renewal going on in Stratford this summer: Steven Pimlott’s unusually bleak As You Like It – which appeared to be set at midwinter in the hold of a container ship – gave the impression that the RSC has forgotten why marriage to either Orlando or Rosalind ever looked interesting, let alone a cause for rejoicing ...

Where am I in all this?

Michael Newton: Pola Negri, 19 February 2015

Pola Negri: Hollywood’s First Femme Fatale 
by Mariusz Kotowski.
Kentucky, 322 pp., £29.95, April 2014, 978 0 8131 4488 7
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... In​  Singin’ in the Rain (1952), the curtain rises on Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on the night of the premiere of The Royal Rascal (‘The Biggest Picture of 1927’). The crowd outside jostles and gawks at Monumental Pictures’ galaxy of stars. First to arrive, to cheers and wolf whistles, is Zelda Zanders, ‘darling of the flapper set’, an all-American feisty redhead ...

Bigness

Hal Foster: Rem Koolhaas, 29 November 2001

Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping 
by Rem Koolhaas et al.
Taschen, 800 pp., £30, December 2001, 3 8228 6047 6
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Great Leap Forward 
by Rem Koolhaas et al.
Taschen, 720 pp., £30, December 2001, 3 8228 6048 4
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... forum, temple etc) as a prototype for subsequent empire-building – including, in the idiom of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, our own Empire of supranational sovereignty and global capitalism. Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping is a compendium of 45 essays by 15 participants with the usual killer images and stats (for example, yearly sales at ...

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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... It is time for a change, even in the small world of historical epithets. For ages, philosophers and historians have been haunted by intellectual tags, such as Was ist Aufklärung? There have been a number of distinguished replies to this question of what the Enlightenment consisted in, but its resilience has appeared to be connected to its unanswerability ...

How long before Ofop steps in?

Patrick Carnegy, 16 March 2000

In House: Covent Garden, 50 Years of Opera and Ballet 
by John Tooley.
Faber, 318 pp., £25, November 1999, 9780571194155
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Never Mind the Moon: My Time at the Royal Opera House 
by Jeremy Isaacs.
Bantam, 356 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 593 04355 3
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... taste of his own, Haitink became the victim of those who had to decide things for him. In Michael Waldman’s unsparing television documentary The House, the hapless Haitink is seen to be flabbergasted as the head of the opera company, Nicholas Payne, tries to sell him the director Richard Jones’s scheme for the Ring. In Die Walküre Fricka would ...

Diary

Rosemary Dinnage: Evacuees, 14 October 1999

... The service was dignified, the Dean’s sermon well said, the lesson read by a former evacuee, Michael Aspel. ‘A voice was heard in Rama, sobbing in bitter grief; it was Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted.’ The music was magnificent, spoiled only by a soprano warbling something about ‘Sleepy little eyes in a sleepy little ...

Why Christ is playing with the Magdalene’s Hair

Nicholas Penny: Correggio, 2 July 1998

Correggio 
by David Ekserdjian.
Yale, 334 pp., £45, January 1997, 0 300 07299 6
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The ‘Divine’ Guido 
by Richard Spear.
Yale, 436 pp., £40, January 1997, 0 300 07035 7
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... explain what Hippomenes is doing in such a strange position. Reni was surely right to show Saint Michael and Samson in triumph rather than in combat: triumph is more easily reconciled with beauty. But Reni’s figures are beautiful because they are transfigured by heavenly grace, enraptured by some high ideal, or because it is essential to their pathos. The ...

Different under the Quill

Tom Johnson: On Paper, 12 May 2022

Paper in Medieval England: From Pulp to Fictions 
by Orietta Da Rold.
Cambridge, 270 pp., £75, October 2020, 978 1 108 84057 6
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... Such arduous processes were nonetheless used to produce vast quantities of text. The late Michael Clanchy estimated that the English royal government put out around thirty thousand documents a year as early as the second half of the 12th century. Using the ingenious method of calculating the expenditure on the wax used to seal documents, Clanchy found ...

Thank you, Disney

Jenny Diski: The Town that Disney Built, 24 August 2000

The Celebration Chronicles: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Property Value in Disney’s New Town 
by Andrew Ross.
Verso, 340 pp., £17, June 2000, 1 85984 772 2
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Celebration, USA: Living in Disney’s Brave New Town 
by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins.
Holt, 342 pp., £18.99, September 1999, 0 8050 5560 6
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... Celebration was concerned, modern ended in the 1930s. The future as defined by the brochure from Michael Eisner’s Disney Corporation was to be found not in Walt’s skyscrapers and monorails, but in a long-lost past of white picket fences and pastel dormer windows, so lost that perhaps it was entirely mythic: There was once a place where neighbours ...

Andy Paperbag

Hal Foster: Andy Warhol, 21 March 2002

Andy Warhol 
by Wayne Koestenbaum.
Weidenfeld, 196 pp., £12.99, November 2001, 0 297 64630 3
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... more than anyone else he acted out the strange mass subjectivity of the Pop image-world. As Michael Warner has argued, ‘to be public in the West means to have an iconicity . . . In the figures of Elvis, Liz, Michael, Oprah, Geraldo, Brando and the like, we witness and transact the bloating, slimming, wounding, and ...

For a Few Dollars More

Frank Kermode, 18 September 1997

Frozen Desire: An Inquiry into the Meaning of Money 
by James Buchan.
Picador, 320 pp., £17.99, September 1997, 0 330 35527 9
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... of all Scots’, so there is some excuse for me. On the other hand most of us have heard of Michael Miliken, of whose Law-like career Buchan offers a vivid sketch. He could ‘create money with a single sentence’, his salary in 1986 was $550 million, which, on the Buchan-approved capitalisation model of Sir William Petty (20 times one’s annual ...

The Lie that Empire Tells Itself

Eric Foner: America’s bad wars, 19 May 2005

The Dominion of War: Empire and conflict in North America 1500-2000 
by Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton.
Atlantic, 520 pp., £19.99, July 2005, 1 903809 73 8
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... forthrightly defend American empire as an exercise of raw power, while traditional liberals like Michael Ignatieff promote it as a way of protecting human rights against tyrannical regimes. Perhaps the leading current populariser of the idea is Niall Ferguson. Only an American empire, he insists, can secure order in a dangerous, unruly world. He does not ...

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