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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 ...

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 ...

St Marilyn

Andrew O’Hagan: The Girl and Me, 6 January 2000

The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe 
Christie’s, 415 pp., $85, September 1999, 0 903432 64 1Show More
The Complete Marilyn Monroe 
by Adam Victor.
Thames and Hudson, 339 pp., £29.95, November 1999, 0 500 01978 9
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Marilyn Monroe 
by Barbara Leaming.
Orion, 474 pp., £8.99, October 1999, 0 7528 2692 1
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... containing the relics of St Theresa of Lisieux. A hundred years ago the Carmelite nun Thérèse Martin died, and she died, according to a woman I spoke to at the end of the queue, ‘with a heart as big as the world itself’. The last words of St Theresa are not open to doubt. ‘I am not dying,’ she said. ‘I am entering into Life.’ She was canonised ...

Backlash Blues

John Lahr, 16 June 2016

What Happened, Miss Simone? A Biography 
by Alan Light.
Canongate, 309 pp., £20, March 2016, 978 1 78211 871 8
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... or kill them later,’ she sang with unmistakeable emphasis. ‘I’m not non-violent!’ she told Martin Luther King, when they first met. In private and in public, she didn’t back down from her bow-wow position; her deracinated behaviour was in some way a barometer of the American madhouse. On 13 August 1967 in Detroit, two weeks after a five-day race riot ...


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 ...

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 ...


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 ...

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 ...

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 ...


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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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