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Thunder in the Mountains

J. Hoberman: Orson Welles, 6 September 2007

Orson Welles: Hello Americans 
by Simon Callow.
Vintage, 507 pp., £8.99, May 2007, 978 0 09 946261 3
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What Ever Happened to Orson Welles? A Portrait of an Independent Career 
by Joseph McBride.
Kentucky, 344 pp., $29.95, October 2006, 0 8131 2410 7
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... quotes an excoriation of institutionalised racism, given at a 1943 New York rally on a bill with Paul Robeson and Vice-President Henry Wallace. Welles’s debut as a political orator was as sensational in its way as his first forays into theatre and the movies. ‘Until the other day,’ the New Yorker noted, ‘we regarded Orson Welles as simply an ...

Mr Trendy Sicko

James Wolcott, 23 May 2019

White 
by Brett Easton Ellis.
Picador, 261 pp., £16.99, May 2019, 978 1 5290 1239 2
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... Brat Pack, Manhattan’s bohemian answer to Hollywood’s Brat Pack (Emilio Estevez, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald – almost any actor who appeared in a John Hughes teen film qualified). The Literary Brat Pack was a journalistic readymade, roping together a number of writers who may have scarcely known each other and ...

All your walkmans fizz in tune

Adam Mars-Jones: Eimear McBride, 8 August 2013

A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing 
by Eimear McBride.
Galley Beggar, 203 pp., £11, June 2013, 978 0 9571853 2 6
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... as A Void) or telling Ophelia’s side of the story using only the words Shakespeare allots her (Paul Griffiths’s Let Me Tell You). McBride compensates by scattering full stops with a liberal, raisin-loaf-making hand, but her avoidance of commas is enough to shake up other conventions. Commas bred freely in the favourable conditions of proto and early ...

Who Runs Britain?

Christopher Hitchens, 8 December 1994

The Enemy Within: MI5, Maxwell and the Scargill Affair 
by Seumas Milne.
Verso, 352 pp., £18.95, November 1994, 0 86091 461 5
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... their politics militant. I claim this to be the first piece about the salience of Scargill, though Paul Routledge of the Times had, it turned out, done a decent report on the election results as they occurred. In a few months such claims were moot. Scargill led a mass picket of miners to the Saltley coke depot outside Birmingham, recruited the support of the ...

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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... 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 written in a sort of Finneganese, and long thought to have been the work of Joyce himself, or ‘Germ’s Choice’, as the writer calls him. It ...

Her Body or the Sea

Ian Patterson: Ann Quin, 21 June 2018

The Unmapped Country: Stories and Fragments 
by Ann Quin.
And Other Stories, 192 pp., £10, January 2018, 978 1 911508 14 4
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... of realism which still dominate the English novel. Heralded by commendatory quotes from Tom McCarthy and Lee Rourke on the cover of this new gathering of previously uncollected or unpublished writings, Ann Quin now seems to be emerging as their best ancestor. She has all the biographical qualifications for the job of precursor, as well as being famously ...

Driving through a Postcard

Christian Lorentzen: In New Hampshire, 3 March 2016

... attacks on Sanders from the Clintonite centre tend to either dismiss his ideas as ‘fantasies’ (Paul Krugman’s word) or evacuate the content of his politics and then tear him down in symbolic terms. Sanders’s callow millennial supporters are attracted to his purity and authenticity and are due for a wising up: his socialism would make him unelectable in ...

Enemies For Ever

James Wolcott: ‘Making It’, 18 May 2017

Making It 
by Norman Podhoretz.
NYRB, 368 pp., £13.98, May 2017, 978 1 68137 080 4
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... philosopher-doyenne Hannah Arendt’s New Year’s Eve party, attends a small dinner party at Mary McCarthy’s ‘meticulously furnished apartment’, and receives his ‘first summons’ to a posh Park Avenue salon stocked with ‘titled European ladies’ and similar barracuda. He doesn’t divulge any gossip or glean any Tom Wolfe-ish observations from ...

Here was a plague

Tom Crewe, 27 September 2018

How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed Aids 
by David France.
Picador, 624 pp., £12.99, September 2017, 978 1 5098 3940 7
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Patient Zero and the Making of the Aids Epidemic 
by Richard A. McKay.
Chicago, 432 pp., £26.50, November 2017, 978 0 226 06395 9
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Modern Nature: The Journals of Derek Jarman, 1989-90 
by Derek Jarman.
Vintage, 314 pp., £9.99, May 2018, 978 1 78487 387 5
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Smiling in Slow Motion: The Journals of Derek Jarman, 1991-94 
by Derek Jarman.
Vintage, 388 pp., £9.99, August 2018, 978 1 78487 516 9
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The Ward 
by Gideon Mendel.
Trolley, 88 pp., £25, December 2017, 978 1 907112 56 0
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... off a cold: ‘One Thursday,’ David France writes in How to Survive a Plague, ‘sexy Tommy McCarthy from the classifieds department stayed out late at an Yma Sumac concert. Friday he had a fever. Sunday he was hospitalised. Wednesday he was dead.’ Later, there were tests. A virus detectable in the blood. You were ill, but you might not feel it ...

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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... as a major writer, the poète maudit of black America. Like his mentor Faulkner (and later Cormac McCarthy), Himes appealed to a Parisian readership convinced of the essential savagery of American life. ‘What the great body of Americans most disliked’ about his work, Himes believed, ‘was the fact that I came too close to the truth.’ He wasn’t wrong ...

Train Loads of Ammunition

Philip Horne, 1 August 1985

Immoral Memories 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Herbert Marshall.
Peter Owen, 292 pp., £20, June 1985, 0 7206 0650 0
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A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema: 1930-1980 
by Robert Ray.
Princeton, 409 pp., £48.50, June 1985, 0 691 04727 8
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Suspects 
by David Thomson.
Secker, 274 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 436 52014 1
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Cahiers du Cinéma. Vol. I: The 1950s. Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave 
edited by Jim Hillier.
Routledge with the British Film Institute, 312 pp., £16.95, March 1985, 0 7100 9620 8
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... Ross’s Picture. Mayer’s colourful words come from a more embattled epoch; at the time of McCarthy it’s inconceivable that any Soviet director should have been given a Hollywood contract in the first place; but we might note Eisenstein wanted to make it an exemplary American tragedy by ‘depicting the society and the morals that impelled Clyde to ...

Self-Deceptions of Empire

David Bromwich: Reinhold Niebuhr, 23 October 2008

The Irony of American History 
by Reinhold Niebuhr.
Chicago, 174 pp., £8.50, June 2008, 978 0 226 58398 3
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... Protestant intellectual circles in the 1930s; a teacher of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and an associate of Paul Tillich, he worked with as single a mind as theirs to draw the German people away from Hitler’s party. By the spring of 1940, when the lend-lease policy for Britain was first discussed by President Roosevelt and his advisers, Niebuhr was a firm supporter ...

Get over it!

Corey Robin: Antonin Scalia, 10 June 2010

American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia 
by Joan Biskupic.
Farrar, Straus, 434 pp., $28, November 2009, 978 0 374 20289 7
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... Elena Kagan, Barack Obama’s nominee to replace the retiring Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens, is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee in late June. Before she is confirmed by the committee, she will have to answer questions about her views on the constitution and her lack of judicial experience ...

American Breakdown

David Bromwich, 2 August 2018

... about the same feat as the two drunken men. In the early 1950s, the demagogue-brawler Senator Joe McCarthy pronounced the doom of New Deal bureaucrats and lawmakers to requite ‘twenty years of treason’. Today, Congressman Adam Schiff of California – a quiet, lucid, methodical prosecutor in command of a flawless monotone – prophesies the destruction of ...

The Last Witness

Colm Tóibín: The career of James Baldwin, 20 September 2001

... said, was ‘just a shade too young to have any legally recognisable political history’ when McCarthy was on the rampage. For the editors in New York who published his early work, he was ‘politically nearly a blank slate’, as Carol Polsgrove says in Divided Minds: Intellectuals and the Civil Rights Movement.* Baldwin’s passionate involvement in the ...

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