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A Turn of Events

Frank Kermode, 14 November 1996

Reality and Dreams 
by Muriel Spark.
Constable, 160 pp., £14.95, September 1996, 0 09 469670 5
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... these characters are well-heeled, one of the book’s main themes is redundancy. Many people in Tom’s circle have become redundant, either because they have lost their jobs or because they simply are, as persons, superfluous; and now he himself is a redundant movie director. Film, however spurious, is life: acting, however talented, is a form of ...

Dry-Cleaned

Tom Vanderbilt: ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, 21 August 2003

The Manchurian Candidate: BFI Film Classics 
by Greil Marcus.
BFI, 75 pp., £8.99, July 2002, 0 85170 931 1
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... and self-conscious personality. All we can safely predict is that, if exposed long enough to the tom-toms and the singing, every one of our philosophers would end by capering and howling with the savages.’ In The Manchurian Candidate it takes the diabolical Yen Lo (played winningly by Khigh Dheigh), the wisecracking savant of the Pavlov Institute, only one ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘No Country for Old Men’, 21 February 2008

No Country for Old Men 
directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.
January 2008
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... else could have driven them to their 2004 remake of the Ealing comedy The Ladykillers? Even if Tom Hanks is funnier in that film than our idea of Tom Hanks ought to allow, he’s not Alec Guinness. And what about Intolerable Cruelty (2003), with George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones, which doesn’t look like a Coen ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Football and Currie, 17 October 2002

... 1991 may not have fundamentally altered the character of the sport – a quarter of a century ago, Tom Stoppard was making a character in his play Professional Foul complain about the ‘yob ethics’ of the game – but they have made it worse. The players are richer, greedier and nastier, and almost mystically free from any sense of wider perspectives and ...

There isn’t any inside!

Adam Mars-Jones: William Gaddis, 23 September 2021

The Recognitions 
by William Gaddis.
NYRB, 992 pp., £24, November 2020, 978 1 68137 466 6
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JR 
by William Gaddis.
NYRB, 784 pp., £20, October 2020, 978 1 68137 468 0
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... in his 1993 afterword mentions Malcolm Lowry, Proust, Finnegans Wake and Moby-Dick; Tom McCarthy in his new introduction invokes Döblin, Laforgue, Plato, Shakespeare, Derrida, Bataille and Adorno. Sensibly neither makes reference to Gide’s The Counterfeiters, published in 1925, whose handling of the themes of originality and authenticity ...

All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides, 24 October 2019

Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... the closest model for a belletrist sans merci was the critic, novelist, and wickedest of wits Mary McCarthy, who told Susan she smiled too much, the telltale mark of a provincial. McCarthy was also reputed to have said to Sontag, ‘I hear you’re the new me,’ and, to others, ‘She’s the imitation me,’ digs that made ...

Orwellspeak

Julian Symons, 9 November 1989

The Politics of Literary Reputation: The Making and Claiming of ‘St George’ Orwell 
by John Rodden.
Oxford, 478 pp., £22.50, October 1989, 0 19 503954 8
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... the US, with the essays, novels and Homage to Catalonia carried along in their wake. The publisher Tom Rosenthal, totting up the royalties earned during six months by a backlist of Seeker foreign authors including Mishima, Moravia, Svevo, Gide, Colette, Kafka, Thomas Mann, Grass, Böll and half a dozen others, found that the whole lot added up to half ...

Hey, Mister, you want dirty book?

Edward Said: The CIA, 30 September 1999

Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War 
by Frances Stonor Saunders.
Granta, 509 pp., £20, July 1999, 1 86207 029 6
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... characters at social events on Morningside Heights: Diana and Lionel Trilling, Daniel Bell, Mary McCarthy, Dwight Macdonald – all of them brilliant, feisty, friendly and endlessly voluble. Some of their hangers-on were third-rate intellectual goons like Arnold Beichmann (former Communist, rabid anti-Communist, now an aged relic of the Hoover ...
From Bauhaus to Our House 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 143 pp., £6.95, March 1982, 0 224 02030 7
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... Tom Wolfe’s earlier squib against Modernism, The Painted Word, was a reasonable succès de scandale among those with enough interest in the New York School of painting to want to defend it, but went little further than that. From Bauhaus to Our House, on the other hand, has achieved the unprecedented feat (in architectural publishing) of making its way, albeit briefly, into the American best-seller lists, along with all those diets, cats and Barbara Cartland ...

At the Crime Scene

Adam Shatz: Robbe-Grillet’s Bad Thoughts, 31 July 2014

A Sentimental Novel 
by Alain Robbe-Grillet, translated by D.E. Brooke.
Dalkey Archive, 142 pp., £9.50, April 2014, 978 1 62897 006 7
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... Night a Traveller), Paul Auster (The New York Trilogy) and, later, Jean-Philippe Toussaint and Tom McCarthy.† In 2001 he published a sort of spy-thriller, a nouveau nouveau roman set in a ravaged postwar Berlin, but its title, La Reprise – ‘resumption’, ‘repetition’, even ‘rerun’ – captured all too well the experience of reading ...

Journos de nos jours

Anthony Howard, 8 March 1990

Alan Moorehead 
by Tom Pocock.
Bodley Head, 311 pp., £16.95, February 1990, 0 370 31261 9
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Loyalties: A Son’s Memoir 
by Carl Bernstein.
Macmillan, 254 pp., £15.95, January 1990, 0 333 52135 8
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Downstart 
by Brian Inglis.
Chatto, 298 pp., £15.95, January 1990, 0 7011 3390 2
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... age of the war correspondent as buccaneer. Although he was not at all his way inclined, it was Tom Driberg who described him (perhaps unguardedly) as ‘a trim, slight figure, dark and jaunty, with steady eyes, a scornful passionate lip and a certain ruthless charm’. Interestingly, his appeal was not universal, even among newspapermen. When he worked ...

Holding all the strings

Ian Gilmour, 27 July 1989

Macmillan. Vol. II: 1957-1986 
by Alistair Horne.
Macmillan, 741 pp., £18.95, June 1989, 0 333 49621 3
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... a brilliant article in the Spectator (which I then owned), Anthony West, after depicting Senator McCarthy’s activities in America and exposing the potentialities for nonsense (still with us) in the concept of security risks, showed that it was ‘this game’ that Harold Wilson, George Wigg (‘that industrious garbage collector’), Dick Crossman and ...

Artovsky Millensky

Andrew O’Hagan: The Misfit, 1 January 2009

Arthur Miller, 1915-62 
by Christopher Bigsby.
Weidenfeld, 739 pp., £30, November 2008, 978 0 297 85441 8
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... lies deep in their understanding of what is personal in America. Willy Loman is a grandson of Tom Sawyer, just as John Proctor is a kinsman of the upholders of the Scarlet Letter: they are each sons of the singer of himself in Walt Whitman, or of the powerful American addressee, Ishmael. Loman bears a relation to the figment and self-projection that is ...

Look over your shoulder

Christopher Hitchens, 25 May 1995

... Costa-Gavras made a film on the subject about ten years ago (Betrayed, starring Debra Winger and Tom Berenger) he was laughed to scorn by the mainstream critics, who diagnosed a bad case of Euro-Marxist condescension towards the nightmare side of the American dream. There were no big funds available to law-enforcement agencies to track down the violent ...

Vermin Correspondence

Iain Sinclair, 20 October 1994

Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play 
by Ben Watson.
Quartet, 597 pp., £25, May 1994, 0 7043 7066 2
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Her Weasels Wild Returning 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 12 pp., £2, May 1994
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... to keep David Gascoyne’s Collected Poems in print. Faber and Faber get along very nicely on Tom Eliot’s singing and dancing pussy-cats. The Cambridge Festival (don’t tell them) is nowhere, it isn’t happening. What’s the story? Even the participants don’t know. Irony is currently unfashionable. An outsider couldn’t begin to grasp the ...

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