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Hitting the buffers

Peter Wollen, 8 September 1994

Early Modernism: Literature, Music and Painting in Europe 1900-1916 
by Christopher Butler.
Oxford, 318 pp., £27.50, April 1994, 0 19 811746 9
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... painted water-colours which he then gave, as it they were musical scores, to his composer friend, Thomas von Hartmann, who selected one and, so to speak, played it. Then a third friend, the dancer, Alexander Sacharoff, joined them and improvised a dance to the music, concluding by pointing to that painting which he felt best expressed what he had just ...


Alan Bennett: What I Didn’t Do in 2007, 3 January 2008

... an ex-Cluniac monastery that was among the properties (they included Kirkstall Abbey) granted to Thomas Cranmer on the death of Henry VIII. It wasn’t actually included in the royal will but was part of the general share-out that occurred then to fulfil the wishes supposedly expressed by Henry VIII on his deathbed. Not far away is Harewood House (where I do ...

Like water in water

Susan Rubin Suleiman, 12 July 1990

Theory of Religion 
by Georges Bataille, translated by Robert Hurley.
Zone, 126 pp., £16.25, April 1989, 0 942299 08 6
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My Mother, Madame Edwarda, The Dead Man 
by Georges Bataille, translated by Austryn Wainhouse.
Boyars, 222 pp., £13.95, October 1989, 0 7145 2886 2
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... of Expenditure’, an essay published in 1933, Bataille, basing himself freely on the ethnologist Marcel Mauss’s description of ‘potlatch’ in primitive societies, sketches out a theory for a social and psychological economy of ‘waste’ rather than an economy of production. The same argument is amplified in the much later book La Part Maudite (1949 ...

‘Tiens! Une madeleine?’

Michael Wood: The Comic-Strip Proust, 26 November 1998

À la recherche du temps perdu: Combray 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Stéphane Heuet.
Delcourt, 72 pp., €10.95, October 1998, 2 84055 218 3
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Proust among the Stars 
by Malcolm Bowie.
HarperCollins, 348 pp., £19.99, August 1998, 0 00 255622 7
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... looking at Rothko. How many other high-powered critical works, I wonder, have Buñuel next to Sir Thomas Browne in the index, or Stan Getz, next to Giotto? Bowie is also something of a barometer for the Proust climate. In an inaugural lecture given in London in 1978, he urged his hearers to read Proust. In an inaugural lecture given in Oxford 15 years ...

Forty Thousand Kilocupids

Marina Warner: The Femfatalatron, 31 July 2014

The Erotic Doll: A Modern Fetish 
by Marquard Smith.
Yale, 376 pp., £35, January 2014, 978 0 300 15202 9
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... effect on the reader, and the many pages that follow about Surrealist exhibitions, fetishism and Marcel Duchamp’s overpraised and over-expounded peepshow Etant donnés give the lie to his bold rejection of the movement. Somewhere along the slow descent into the mine a different book was left behind. Smith admits confusion about i-doll-atry – is it a ...


Kevin Kopelson: Confessions of a Plagiarist, 22 May 2008

... neither here nor there but I may as well admit that too. And then I read The White Hotel by D.M. Thomas, an anti-Freudian Holocaust novel. My parents had it. I remember the passage on the letter scene in Eugene Onegin. (The heroine performs Tatiana.) I also remember the horrifying passage on Babi Yar, where the heroine dies, and where in reality many of my ...

Quashed Quotatoes

Michael Wood: Finnegans Wake, 16 December 2010

Finnegans Wake 
by James Joyce, edited by Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon.
Houyhnhnm, 493 pp., £250, March 2010, 978 0 9547710 1 0
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Joyce’s Disciples Disciplined 
edited by Tim Conley.
University College Dublin, 185 pp., £42.50, May 2010, 978 1 906359 46 1
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... Beckett and others’, and read now mainly for Beckett’s contribution. The other essays are by Marcel Brion, Frank Budgen, Stuart Gilbert, Eugene Jolas, Victor Llona, Robert McAlmon, Thomas McGreevy, Elliot Paul, John Rodker, Robert Sage and William Carlos Williams, and there are two ‘letters of protest’, the second ...

‘I’m not racist, but …’

Daniel Trilling, 18 April 2019

Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities 
by Eric Kaufman.
Allen Lane, 617 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 0 241 31710 5
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National Populism: The Revolt against Liberal Democracy 
by Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin.
Pelican, 384 pp., £9.99, October 2018, 978 0 241 31200 1
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... dare criticise the black American writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. That would come as news to Cornel West, Thomas Chatterton Williams and Pankaj Mishra, all of whom have publicly criticised Coates’s ideas, from a variety of positions.* He treats Marcel Duchamp, New Labour, Herbert Marcuse and US affirmative action policies as if ...


Colm Tóibín: Sex Lives of the Castrati, 8 October 2015

The Castrato: Reflections on Natures and Kinds 
by Martha Feldman.
California, 454 pp., £40, March 2015, 978 0 520 27949 0
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Portrait of a Castrato: Politics, Patronage and Music in the Life of Atto Melani 
by Roger Freitas.
Cambridge, 452 pp., £22.99, May 2014, 978 1 107 69610 5
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... making a living. She writes rather well about this notion of sacrifice, quoting Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss, two late 19th-century writers on the general subject of sacrifice. They wrote, according to Feldman, that the victim ‘somehow has to be ravaged in a solemn but devastating way … The end goal is to sanction the victim so as to authorise him for a ...


Alan Bennett: My 2006, 4 January 2007

... on some sort of thesis, her ideal mode of transport I suppose a cork-lined carriage. The ‘Marcel Proust’ might be a good name for a train. 16 May. Philip Roth’s face in a photograph by Nancy Crampton on the jacket of his new novel, Everyman, is as stern and ungiving as a self-portrait by Rembrandt. 30 May, Yorkshire. Not one in fifty people knows ...

Writing Absurdity

Adam Shatz: Chester Himes, 26 April 2018

Chester B. Himes: A Biography 
by Lawrence P. Jackson.
Norton, 606 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 393 06389 9
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... him as little more than an ex-con with a pen, joked that Himes must have been the model for Bigger Thomas, the murderous anti-hero of Wright’s 1940 novel, Native Son; Baldwin wrote that ‘Mr Himes seems capable of some of the worst writing this side of the Atlantic.’ Jackson, whose previous book, The Indignant Generation, was a formidable history of black ...

Thoughts on Late Style

Edward Said, 5 August 2004

... symbol to Adorno was the figure of the ageing, deaf and isolated composer that it turns up in Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus – Adorno gave Mann a great deal of help with the novel – in the form of a lecture on Beethoven’s final period given by Adrian Leverkühn’s composition teacher, Wendell Kretschmar: Beethoven’s art had overgrown ...

Summarising Oneself

Julian Barnes: Degas’s Vanity, 19 November 2020

The Letters of Edgar Degas 
edited by Theodore Reff.
Wildenstein Plattner Institute, 1464 pp., £150, June, 978 0 9988175 1 4
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... market, as he understood it. In 1873, he tells Tissot he is working on a picture specifically for Thomas Agnew; he also thinks that the firm might like to handle his early masterpiece Portraits dans un bureau, since it depicted the New Orleans cotton exchange; he presumed that Agnew’s, which had started in Manchester, would easily find a ...

Get a Real Degree

Elif Batuman, 23 September 2010

The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing 
by Mark McGurl.
Harvard, 480 pp., £25.95, April 2009, 978 0 674 03319 1
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... graduates and/or instructors), divided into three main groups: ‘technomodernism’ (John Barth, Thomas Pynchon), ‘high cultural pluralism’ (Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros) and ‘lower-middle-class modernism’ (Raymond Carver, Joyce Carol Oates), with Venn diagrams illustrating the overlap between these groups, and their polarisation by aesthetic ...

Kafka at Las Vegas

Alan Bennett, 23 July 1987

... Proust both begin on the frontiers of dreams. It is in the gap between sleeping and waking where Marcel is trying to place his surroundings that Gregor Samsa finds himself transformed into a beetle and Joseph K finds himself under arrest. ‘Metamorphosis’ and The Trial are the two works of Kafka that are best-known, are, if you like, classics. Classics ...

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