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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, 17 April 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel 
directed by Wes Anderson.
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... but it didn’t make any difference. They were very rich and they had terrific furniture. Many of them were waiting for a bit part in La Ronde. And of course these people, when they were not at home, stayed at the best hotels, where in the words of the leading character in Wes ...

Snarling

Frank Kermode: Angry Young Men, 28 November 2002

The Angry Young Men: A Literary Comedy of the 1950s 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Allen Lane, 244 pp., £18.99, September 2002, 0 7139 9532 7
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... The Movement (a rather localised, mostly Oxford affair) and the Angry Young Men (more London, more of the theatre) were certainly the inventions of journalists, but they took on a kind of reality when the public was induced to view the young men in terms ...

A Conversation with Gore Vidal

Thomas Powers: Meeting Gore Vidal, 31 July 2014

... He lamented the fact no one keeps diaries anymore, implying that all the awful, fascinating detail of life is going to be lost. I suppressed an urge to tell him not to worry – I’d pay him special attention so at least one of his evenings would be recorded. He said he had kept a diary himself for a while when young, but ...

Well, was he?

A.N. Wilson, 20 June 1996

Bernard Shaw: The Ascent of the Superman 
by Sally Peters.
Yale, 328 pp., £18.95, April 1996, 0 300 06097 1
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... What do we make of Shaw, the most ephemeral Great Man of early 20th-century literature? Naturally, he received the Nobel Prize, and he made himself very rich twice over, partly by writing perky, harmless plays, partly by marrying money. His outstanding virtue as a man was that he could be immensely kind: he was generous to spongers and – a big plus on anyone’s marksheet because it was so rare – was prepared to stick up for Wilde at the time of Oscar’s fall from grace ...

That Old Thing

A.N. Wilson, 30 January 1992

God’s Politician: John Paul at the Vatican 
by David Willey.
Faber, 249 pp., £14.99, January 1992, 0 571 16180 4
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... because, among all the presidents and premiers who exercise power from Washington to the borders of the old Russian Empire, he seems to be the only figure guided by a sense of history. The Euro-ideals of Kohl, Mitterrand, Major and the rest are based ...

Against Whales

Paul Keegan, 20 July 1995

The Moon by Whale Light 
by Diane Ackerman.
Phoenix, 260 pp., £6.99, May 1994, 1 85799 087 0
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The Last Panda 
by George Schaller.
Chicago, 292 pp., $13.95, May 1993, 0 226 73629 6
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The Great Ape Project 
edited by Paola Cavalieri and Peter Singer.
Fourth Estate, 312 pp., £9.99, June 1993, 1 85702 126 6
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... For Sir Thomas Browne it was a commonplace that ‘the number of the dead long exceedeth all that shall live.’ But this is no longer necessarily true, as has been pointed out in these pages before now: there may be more people living now than all the people who have ever died. With over 5.4 billion of us alive today, on course to become 8 ...

Look Me in the Eye

Julian Bell: Art and the Brain, 8 October 2009

Splendours and Miseries of the Brain: Love, Creativity and the Quest for Human Happiness 
by Semir Zeki.
Wiley-Blackwell, 234 pp., £16.99, November 2008, 978 1 4051 8557 8
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Neuroarthistory: From Aristotle and Pliny to Baxandall and Zeki 
by John Onians.
Yale, 225 pp., £18.99, February 2008, 978 0 300 12677 8
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Echo Objects: The Cognitive Work of Images 
by Barbara Maria Stafford.
Chicago, 281 pp., £20.50, November 2008, 978 0 226 77052 9
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... it’s real’: Arthur Aron is a psychologist who has discovered that blood-flows in the brains of people claiming to be in love after decades of marriage resemble those of new lovers. Romance may authentically survive: ‘That’s what the brain scans are telling us. People can’t ...

The Road to West Egg

Thomas Powers, 4 July 2013

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of ‘The Great Gatsby’ 
by Sarah Churchwell.
Virago, 306 pp., £16.99, June 2013, 978 1 84408 766 2
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The Great Gatsby 
directed by Baz Luhrmann.
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... Preposterous dreams can seem reasonable when you’re young. ‘I want to be one of the greatest writers who have ever lived,’ Scott Fitzgerald said to his friend Edmund Wilson when they were just out of college, ‘don’t you?’ Wilson was the son of a lawyer, a bit chilly, a prodigious reader steeped in Plato and Dante ...

The Man in White

Edward Pearce, 11 October 1990

The Golden Warrior: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia 
by Lawrence James.
Weidenfeld, 404 pp., £19.50, August 1990, 0 297 81087 1
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... How does one write the biography of a legend, a legend who is also a controversy, a writer of some distinction, a commander of irregular troops whose effectiveness is still argued about, a sexual question mark, a film hero, an object of debate and a participant in that running Middle East crisis which has proceeded from imbroglio to mess to prospective calamity; how does one satisfactorily tackle a subject variously seen as gallant paladin, pathological liar and career oddity? Mr James, in this sensible, not too long life, answers with as much moderation and dispassion as can be asked for ...

High Priest of Mumbo-Jumbo

R.W. Johnson, 13 November 1997

Lord Hailsham: A Life 
by Geoffrey Lewis.
Cape, 403 pp., £25, October 1997, 0 224 04252 1
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... On the face of it, Quintin Hogg ought to be a great historic figure. He comes into the history books as the victorious pro-Munich candidate at the famous Oxford by-election of 1938, is Under-Secretary for Air in Churchill’s Government by 1945, First Lord of the Admiralty at the time of Suez, the head of various other ministries, Tory Party Chairman and, for a record 12 years, Lord Chancellor, formally the country’s highest office ...

Italianizzati

Hugh Honour, 13 November 1997

A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800 
compiled by John Ingamells.
Yale, 1070 pp., £50, May 1997, 0 300 07165 5
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... There is no near equivalent to A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800 apart from Friedrich Noack’s three volumes (1907-27) listing all the Germans in Rome, from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. The Dictionary is the brain-child of Sir Brinsley Ford, a collector of 17th and 18th-century art, a patron of living British painters, and in many ways a reincarnation of the ideal virtuoso and Grand Tourist ...

Secret Meetings

Arthur Marwick, 20 May 1982

Battered Cherub 
by Joe Gormley.
Hamish Hamilton, 216 pp., £7.95, April 1982, 0 241 10754 7
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... If you saw pictures of female miners carting coal around, or loading trucks, would you exclaim ‘How appallingly Victorian!’ or ‘How fantastically modern!’? It was not till some years after the Second World War that ‘pitbrew girls’ ceased to do the heavy and dirty work of separating out dross from coal; many of them became canteen workers instead ...

Diary

Susan McKay: Pro-­Union Non­-Unionists, 4 March 2021

... the DUP had been done over, and everyone could see that it was entirely the party’s own fault. On 11 February, Gove spoke from the House of Commons while Paisley Junior sat at his computer in Ballymena. Over video link, he asked Gove to use his upcoming meeting with the vice president ...

Lincoln, Illinois

William Fiennes, 6 March 1997

All the Days and Nights: The Collected Stories 
by William Maxwell.
Harvill, 415 pp., £10.99, January 1997, 1 86046 308 8
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So Long, See You Tomorrow 
by William Maxwell.
Harvill, 135 pp., £8.99, January 1997, 9781860463075
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... In America, William Maxwell is something of a Grand Old Man. He has been president of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He has won the American Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award. For forty years, as a fiction editor on the New Yorker, he advised and goaded Nabokov, Eudora Welty, John Cheever and John Updike ...

Make the music mute

John Barrell, 9 July 1992

English Music 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 241 12501 4
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... Peter Ackroyd’s new novel is partly a narrative, partly a series of rhapsodies and meditations on the nature of English culture, written in the styles of various great authors. It is an important and a depressing book, its importance more or less in direct proportion to the depth of the gloom it sheds ...

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