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Vlad the Impaler

Inga Clendinnen: Hairy Humbert, 10 August 2000

Nabokov’s Butterflies: Unpublished and Uncollected Writings 
edited by Brian Boyd and Michael Pyle.
Allen Lane, 783 pp., £25, March 2000, 0 7139 9380 4
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Nabokov’s Blues: The Scientific Odyssey of a Literary Genius 
by Kurt Johnson and Steve Coates.
Zoland, 372 pp., £18, October 1999, 1 58195 009 8
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... We are immediately confronted by Philippe Halsman’s photograph of the most-famous-butterfly-hunter-in-the-world ready to swipe, the gaze for once directed straight at us, the chubby knees beaming ingenuously; and we know the quarry is no palpitating ‘lep’, as he called them, but palpitating us. This bit of calculated charm appears in most books ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1990, 24 January 1991

... again. George Fenton, who is co-ordinating the music, also chips in, but he’s a musician. David Hunter, the director, chips in too, but he isn’t a musician, just knows what atmosphere he wants at various points in the film. In the finish, even I chip in just because I know what I like. And the musicians just nod and listen, try out a few bars here and ...

Loving Dracula

Michael Wood, 25 February 1993

Bram Stoker’s Dracula 
directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
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Suckers: Bleeding London Dry 
by Anne Billson.
Pan, 315 pp., £4.99, January 1993, 0 330 32806 9
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... or not, confirms the mental tilt, the sense of fantasy. Anthony Hopkins as the vampire-hunter Van Helsing is allowed to over-act to his heart’s content and looks like Hannibal Lecter in an earlier life – a quick cut (the word we need) from a sliced-off head to a plate of meat actually points us to The Silence of the Lambs. The American actors ...

Powers of Darkness

Michael Taylor: Made by Free Hands, 21 October 2021

Not Made by Slaves: Ethical Capitalism in the Age of Abolition 
by Bronwen Everill.
Harvard, 318 pp., £31.95, September 2020, 978 0 674 24098 8
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... Enlightenment theory of stadial progress, which held that all peoples progressed in stages from hunter-gatherers to pastoral farmers, to arable farmers and then to commercial, urban-dwelling traders. The West Indians bastardised this theory by claiming that enslavement to Caribbean planters was an engine of improvement: were not enslaved Africans being ...

Momentary Substances

Nicholas Penny, 21 November 1985

Patterns of Intention 
by Michael Baxandall.
Yale, 148 pp., £12.50, September 1985, 0 300 03465 2
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The Enigma of Piero 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by Martin Ryle and Kate Soper.
Verso, 164 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 86091 116 0
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... In the middle of his new book Michael Baxandall wonders whether the ‘complex Newtonian-Lockean sense of how we see’, which he has just expertly expounded, provides any ‘purchase’ on Chardin’s painting, A Lady Taking Tea, to which ‘our primary explanatory duty is due.’ It is bracing to discover that we have this duty but I am puzzled by what exactly needs explanation ...

End of the Century

John Sutherland, 13 October 1988

Worlds Apart 
by David Holbrook.
Hale, 205 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 9780709033639
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Story of My Life 
by Jay McInerney.
Bloomsbury, 188 pp., £11.95, August 1988, 0 7475 0180 7
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Forgotten Life 
by Brian Aldiss.
Gollancz, 284 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 575 04369 5
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Incline Our hearts 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £11.95, August 1988, 0 241 12256 2
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... came the film version of Bright Lights, Big City, an appalling adaptation with wholesome munchkin Michael J. Fox in the lead. Like the film of Less than Zero, it was neutered by Hollywood’s supine acquiescence in Nancy Reagan’s demand that movies and television should not ‘glorify’ drug-taking. The jagged blackness of the original text was ...

Tortoises with Zips

David Craig: The Snow Geese by William Fiennes, 4 April 2002

The Snow Geese 
by William Fiennes.
Picador, 250 pp., £14.99, March 2002, 0 330 37578 4
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... cattail’. Then he has to stay put, from mid-March to the first week in April, hanging out with Michael, the Fish and Wildlife Warden, and Rollin the 82-year-old twitcher, just watching, feeling homesick, writing down Rollin’s reminiscences, leafing through the Gideon Bible in his motel room. If that is what some phases of the journey were like, well ...

Just one of those ends

Michael Wood: Apocalypse Regained, 13 December 2001

Apocalypse Now Redux 
directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
August 2001
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Marlon Brando 
by Patricia Bosworth.
Weidenfeld, 216 pp., £12.99, October 2001, 0 297 84284 6
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... The continuing American blindness to Vietnam itself, in this and many other instances, notably Michael Cimino’s film The Deer Hunter (1978), can be astonishing, but the myth also shows some genuine self-understanding. Apocalypse Now, in particular, is full of the sense that Americans exported whole chunks of their ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... there are snitches. What did the local liquor store owner in Woody Creek, Colorado, know about Hunter Thompson? The make of his car and that he was going to appear on the Today show. The main snitch in Ray Bradbury’s file was the actor and screenwriter Martin Berkeley, a former Communist Party member who gave around 160 names to the House Committee on ...

My Granny

Patrick Wall, 20 May 1982

The Monkey Puzzle 
by John Gribbin and Jeremy Cherfas.
Bodley Head, 279 pp., £8.50, April 1982, 0 370 30469 1
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Darwinism Defended: A Guide to the Evolution Controversies 
by Michael Ruse.
Addison-Wesley, 356 pp., £6.95, April 1982, 0 201 06273 9
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The Aquatic Ape: A Theory of Human Evolution 
by Elaine Morgan.
Souvenir, 168 pp., £7.95, March 1982, 0 285 62509 8
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The Neck of the Giraffe, or Where Darwin went wrong 
by Francis Hitching.
Pan, 288 pp., £2.50, April 1982, 0 330 26643 8
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... If the reader prefers a sober consideration of these issues, he should read Darwin Defended by Michael Ruse, a professor of the history and philosophy of biology. We can now move to a section of the library which could be called ‘The Descent of Authors who write on the Descent of Man’. Ms Elaine Morgan is a fe-fi-fo-fuminist who writes books on the ...


Chris Mullin: The Birmingham Bombers, 21 February 2019

... name him. Within four hours of the explosions on 21 November five Irishmen – Paddy Hill, Gerry Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, Billy Power and Johnny Walker – were arrested at Heysham in Lancashire as they got off a train from Birmingham New Street which connected with the ferry to Belfast. A sixth man, Hughie Callaghan, was arrested the next day in ...

Bob Hawke’s Australia

Michael Davie, 6 October 1983

... drawing-rooms of the middle class Labor intelligentsia, sipping, and commenting on, the Hunter Valley claret. Nor was he ill at ease with capitalists. He used to lunch once a month with Sir Roderick Carnegie, the head of the big mining firm CRA that is the Australian offshoot of the giant British conglomerate RTZ. Both men were at Oxford. Thus, as ...

Upright Ends

Vincent Newey, 1 October 1987

The Origins of the English Novel, 1660-1740 
by Michael McKeon.
Johns Hopkins, 530 pp., £21.25, April 1987, 0 8018 3291 8
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... Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel,* which Michael McKeon energetically bids to transcend, gave us, whatever else, the clear image and serviceable concept: ‘formal realism’, the growth of ‘the middle class’, secularised Protestant Man proudly bearing the standard of an aggressive ‘individualism’ – on Crusoe’s hard-won island as in the socioeconomic landscape of contemporary England ...

How much meat is too much?

Bee Wilson, 20 March 2014

Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat 
by Philip Lymbery, with Isabel Oakeshott.
Bloomsbury, 426 pp., £12.99, January 2014, 978 1 4088 4644 5
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Planet Carnivore 
by Alex Renton.
Guardian, 78 pp., £1.99, August 2013
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... dinner party; that they are crazy not to eat bacon/lamb shanks/pepperoni because we evolved as hunter-gatherers; that their food smells horrible, and by implication, so do they; that it’s cruel to bring up a child vegetarian; that they are hypocrites, because how can they pretend to care about animal suffering when they still buy clothes from normal ...

Burning Witches

Michael Rogin, 4 September 1997

Raymond Chandler: A Biography 
by Tom Hiney.
Chatto, 310 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 0 7011 6310 0
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Raymond Chandler Speaking 
edited by Dorothy Gardiner and Kathrine Sorley Walker.
California, 288 pp., £10.95, May 1997, 0 520 20835 8
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... noir founders, John Huston and Humphrey Bogart, shifted audience identification from hunted to hunter. Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon made Bogart a star, although the refugee Peter Lorre provides the film’s only moment of genuine fright Wilder, the German refugee screenwriter, and Chandler, the Hammett heir, brought the two ...

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