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What’s going on, Eric?

David Renton: Rock Against Racism, 22 November 2018

Walls Come Tumbling Down: The Music and Politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge 
by Daniel Rachel.
Picador, 589 pp., £12.99, May 2017, 978 1 4472 7268 7
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... to Victoria Park, led by giant papier-mâché models of Adolf Hitler and the National Front’s Martin Webster. The route passed Brick Lane, scene of recurring clashes between the Front and the local Bengali population. Red Saunders was the compère. He had grown enormous sideburns, and wore a hat covered in badges and a ‘Mr Oligarchy’ cape. The punk ...


Hal Foster: Dead to the World, 29 July 2021

Absentees: On Variously Missing Persons 
by Daniel Heller-Roazen.
Zone, 320 pp., £28, April, 978 1 942130 47 5
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... in the genre, whether it be the prototypical Odysseus, the 16th-century French peasant Martin Guerre, who has to displace an impostor, or Balzac’s Colonel Chabert, who is received so badly that he relinquishes all claims, including to his own name: ‘But now I am buried underneath the living, under papers, under acts, under the whole of ...

Do I like it?

Terry Castle: Outsider Art, 28 July 2011

... with train tunnels and trains coming through them), horse-riders, deer and madonnas. Estate of Martin Ramírez The critical milestone to which I refer was an exhilarating, even rhapsodic review of the 2007 exhibition of his work at the American Folk Art Museum, in which Roberta Smith, senior art critic at the New York Times, declared Ramírez ‘one of ...

Mon Pays

Michael Rogin: Josephine Baker, 22 February 2001

The Josephine Baker Story 
by Ean Wood.
Sanctuary, 327 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 1 86074 286 6
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Negrophilia: Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s 
by Petrine Archer-Straw.
Thames and Hudson, 200 pp., £14.95, September 2000, 0 500 28135 1
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... had her in mind when he included the verse ‘Look at that gal shake that thing./We can’t all be Martin Luther King’ in the second edition of his anthology, The Poetry of the Negro; the lines were originally written for the first issue, in June 1960, of the Student Voice, organ of the Student Non-Violent Co-Ordinating Committee, by its editor Julian ...

A Feeling for Ice

Jenny Diski, 2 January 1997

... she took me instead. I stood outside South Africa House waiting, while she disappeared into St Martin-in-the-Fields. I hadn’t the faintest idea what she was doing and she didn’t tell me. I used it as a key scene in my novel, The Dream Mistress. I remember it very clearly. Even so, It was a jolt to hear it being confirmed by someone else. Confirmed, but ...


Alan Bennett: A Shameful Year, 8 January 2004

... be ancient monuments. They’re actually part of an installation or a series of installations by Andy Goldsworthy, who put up a hundred or so similar folds as Cumbria’s Millennium Project. It was an expensive do, costing £500,000 or so, and involved shifting the boulders down from the fells with earthmovers besides building the folds that surround ...

Why did we not know?

Ian Jack: Who is hoarding the land?, 23 May 2019

The New Enclosure: The Appropriation of Public Land in Neoliberal Britain 
by Brett Christophers.
Verso, 394 pp., £20, November 2018, 978 1 78663 158 9
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... capitalism had become dominated to an extraordinary degree by what the Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf, writing in 2010, called a ‘ruinous trust in land speculation as the route to wealth’. Some effects of this are well known. London houses (mine and Wolf’s among them) rose ten and more times in value over twenty years. Here was an unearned ...

The Reviewer’s Song

Andrew O’Hagan: Mailer’s Last Punch, 7 November 2013

Norman Mailer: A Double Life 
by J. Michael Lennon.
Simon and Schuster, 947 pp., £30, November 2013, 978 1 84737 672 5
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... Girl, the movie about Edie Sedgwick, the ultimate 1960s poor little rich girl. The film opens with Andy Warhol (Guy Pearce) in a confessional box – always a good start – telling his priest how sad he is that someone else, not him, got to be punched at a party by Norman Mailer. ‘Why can’t I be punched by Norman Mailer?’ says the artist. Lennon is ...

Damn all

Scott Malcomson, 23 September 1993

Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America 
by Robert Hughes.
Oxford, 224 pp., £12.95, June 1993, 0 19 507676 1
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... I would only add that using words like ‘inversion’, ‘warped’ – or, in a piece on Andy Warhol, ‘abnormal’ – doesn’t help matters along. This type of bracketing, in which ‘minorities’ appear as footnotes (however long) to white male heterosexual experience, is surprising in view of Hughes’s frequently slated political ...

Sorry to be so vague

Hugh Haughton: Eugene Jolas and Samuel Beckett, 29 July 1999

Man from Babel 
by Eugene Jolas.
Yale, 352 pp., £20, January 1999, 0 300 07536 7
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No Author Better Served: The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider 
edited by Maurice Harmon.
Harvard, 486 pp., £21.95, October 1998, 0 674 62522 6
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... meum’; Joyce at a fancy-dress party where he managed to wangle first prize dressed as Handy Andy, Joyce reciting Yeats and saying, ‘No Surrealist poet can ever equal this for imagination’; Joyce commenting on a picture of the Christ-child, ‘Doesn’t he look as if he had just robbed the hen-house’; Joyce weeping over his beloved daughter ...

Still Superior

Mark Greif: Sex and Susan Sontag, 12 February 2009

Reborn: Early Diaries, 1947-64 
by Susan Sontag, edited by David Rieff.
Hamish Hamilton, 318 pp., £16.99, January 2009, 978 0 241 14431 2
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... as much as Les Misérables, which she had read before she was nine. She also read Jack London’s Martin Eden, a book about a self-taught writer which she later suspected had given her inspiration for her future life. A schoolteacher called Mr Starkie, recognising an unusual capacity in the girl, lent her The Sorrows of Young Werther. She started keeping a ...


Charles Nicholl: ‘The Shakespeare Circle’, 19 May 2016

The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography 
edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 107 69909 0
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... On 16 March 1810​ a Mrs Martin, a ‘labourer’s wife’, was working a field near Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon when she turned up an old gold signet ring bearing on its bezel the initials ‘W.S.’ It was bought for 36 shillings by Robert Bell Wheler, a local historian, and later donated to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, where it still resides ...

Not No Longer but Not Yet

Jenny Turner: Mark Fisher’s Ghosts, 9 May 2019

k-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher 
edited by Darren Ambrose.
Repeater, 817 pp., £25, November 2018, 978 1 912248 28 5
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... the not yet of the futures that popular modernism trained us to expect.’Fisher was a big fan of Andy Beckett’s histories of the 1970s and 1980s, which noted that British households were at their most equal economically, as measured by the Gini coefficient, in 1977. Just as importantly for Fisher’s purposes, Beckett also observed that the UK music papers ...

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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... picture cameras did it better justice. You can see it the moment she enters the Factory for her Andy Warhol Screen Test (1964), in the youthful footage of her in the documentary Regarding Susan Sontag (2014) and in the feminist fight club classic Town Bloody Hall (1979), where, from the audience, she takes Norman Mailer to task for his patronising use of ...


John Lanchester: A Month on the Sofa, 11 July 2002

... points out that ‘you’re not even Irish, you English cunt’ is like something out of Beckett. Andy wonders whether ‘you can stick it up your bollocks’ is an Irish expression or a stroke of inspiration on Keane’s part. Myself, I take a more Derridean/psychoanalytic view and think this is a classic example of an aporia: since it is physically ...

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