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A bout de Bogart

Jenny Diski, 19 May 2011

Tough without a Gun: The Extraordinary Life of Humphrey Bogart 
by Stefan Kanfer.
Faber, 288 pp., £14.99, February 2011, 978 0 571 26072 0
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... just freewheeling anarchists, like himself.’ Not so freewheeling, not so anarchistic; and surely Harry Morgan of To Have and Have Not wouldn’t have had an aghast moment in his life. Bogart signed an article entitled ‘I’m No Communist’ in Photoplay in which he (or a Warner Brothers publicist) explained that the trip to Washington was ...

The Matter of India

John Bayley, 19 March 1987

... the richly three-dimensional charm of Farrell’s earlier heroes: the Collector, the Magistrate, Harry and Fleury, and the Major in Troubles who presides distractedly over the numerous Anglo-Irish family and guests at the Majestic Hotel.Farrell’s three structures are all based on siege situations, which gave him the right setting, tempo and psychological ...

The Unrewarded End

V.G. Kiernan: Memories of the CP, 17 September 1998

The Death of Uncle Joe 
by Alison Macleod.
Merlin, 269 pp., £9.95, May 1997, 0 85036 467 1
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Enemy Within: The Rise and Fall of the British Communist Party 
by Francis Beckett.
Merlin, 253 pp., £9.95, August 1998, 0 85036 477 9
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... One of the strong points of Beckett’s book is its wealth of portraits of individuals, among them Harry Pollitt and Johnny Campbell; Willie Gallacher and Phil Piratin, two of the very few who found a way into Parliament; Palme Dutt the Swedish-Indian, more theologian than political thinker; and Bert Ramelson, a Ukrainian-Canadian, who became a very able and ...

In the Tart Shop

Murray Sayle: How Sydney got its Opera House, 5 October 2000

The Masterpiece: Jørn Utzon, a Secret Life 
by Philip Drew.
Hardie Grant, 574 pp., AUS $39.95, October 1999, 1 86498 047 8
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Jørn Utzon: The Sydney Opera House 
by Françoise Fromonot, translated by Christopher Thompson.
Electa/Gingko, 236 pp., £37.45, January 1998, 3 927258 72 5
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... were going to firms, like Ralph Symonds’s, favoured by Utzon. Australia’s foremost architect, Harry Seidler, himself an unsuccessful entrant, had cabled Utzon on his win: ‘Pure poetry. It is magnificent!’ But the great Frank Lloyd Wright, nearing ninety, had scoffed, ‘A whim, that’s all it is, a whim!’ and some of the 119 disappointed Australian ...

Who to Be

Colm Tóibín: Beckett’s Letters, 6 August 2009

The Letters of Samuel Beckett 1929-40 
edited by Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck.
Cambridge, 782 pp., £30, February 2009, 978 0 521 86793 1
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... morbid in myself … It was with a specific fear & a specific complaint that I went to Geoffrey [Thompson, a shrink], then to Bion [Wilfred, also a shrink] to learn that the ‘specific fear & complaint’ was the least important symptom of a diseased condition that began in a time which I could not remember, in my ‘pre-history’. In other words, it was ...

You’ve got it or you haven’t

Iain Sinclair, 25 February 1993

Inside the Firm: The Untold Story of the Krays’ Reign of Terror 
by Tony Lambrianou and Carol Clerk.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.99, October 1992, 0 330 32284 2
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Gangland: London’s Underworld 
by James Morton.
Little, Brown, 349 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 356 20889 3
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Nipper: The Story of Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read 
by Leonard Read and James Morton.
Warner, 318 pp., £5.99, September 1992, 0 7515 0001 1
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Smash and Grab: Gangsters in the London Underworld 
by Robert Murphy.
Faber, 182 pp., £15.99, February 1993, 0 571 15442 5
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... tags the metaphor: violence expressed by choice of wardrobe. He describes his street-wise ponce, Harry Fabian. ‘He dressed far too well. There was a quality of savagery about his clothes – hatred in the relentless grip of his collar, malice in the vicious little knot of his tie, defiant acquisitiveness in the skin-tight fit of his coat.’ Published ...

Divinely Ordained

Jackson Lears: God loves America, 19 May 2011

A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided 
by Amanda Foreman.
Penguin, 988 pp., £12.99, June 2011, 978 0 14 104058 5
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... Since the 1980s this self-congratulatory mode has remained dominant. With few exceptions (notably Harry Stout’s brilliant ‘moral history’, Upon the Altar of the Nation), popular big-picture accounts of the Civil War continue to create an atmosphere of moral clarity and inevitable progress. To be sure, the historiography of slavery has exploded: dozens ...

In the Potato Patch

Jenny Turner: Penelope Fitzgerald, 19 December 2013

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 508 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 7011 8495 7
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... we left, they all turned out waving their red scarves & shouting “Goodbye, Aunt and Uncle Thompson” as the blue dusk fell, which touched the heart, & how I wish D was alive to hear this tribute to Thompsons travel.’ Five years later, At Freddie’s, with its horrible final image of the stage-school pupil ‘climbing and jumping, again and again ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1998, 21 January 1999

... interests them isn’t the rood loft or the pews carved and dated 1641. They are on the trail of Thompson, the woodworker of Kilburn who always carved a mouse on his handiwork. Some of the pews are his, done in the Forties or Fifties, so somewhere here will be a mouse and they scuffle along the pews looking for it. Rather a silly quest, I ...

Who do you think you are?

Jacqueline Rose: Trans Narratives, 5 May 2016

... attempt suicide. The report singles out the recent deaths in custody of two trans women, Vicky Thompson and Joanne Latham, and the case of Tara Hudson, a trans woman who was placed in a men’s prison, as ‘particularly stark illustrations’ (after public pressure, Hudson was moved to a women’s jail). ‘I saw,’ Jacques writes in Trans, ‘that for ...

The Tower

Andrew O’Hagan, 7 June 2018

... were on him, the breakfast shows seeing him as a symbol of desperation as the inferno raged. Neil Thompson, the editor of ITV’s Good Morning Britain, ordered that the cameras be kept on him. ‘At the point at which Elpie started to cry,’ he said later, ‘there was smoke billowing out from behind him, and I told them to cut off him. Anybody watching ...

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