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The Grin without the Cat

David Sylvester: Jackson Pollock at the Tate, 1 April 1999

Jackson Pollock 
by Kirk Varnedoe and Pepe Karmel.
Tate Gallery, 336 pp., £50, March 1999, 1 85437 275 0
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Interpreting Pollock 
by Jeremy Lewison.
Tate Gallery, 84 pp., £9.99, March 1999, 1 85437 289 0
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... is chancy. They are tensile, they are wrought. The kind of jazz I have in mind is that of Charlie Parker. Going through the histories of all the arts it would be difficult to find a closer correspondence between two major artists working at the same time in different forms than that between Pollock and Parker. And the least ...

Blowing over the top of a bottle of San Pellegrino

Adam Mars-Jones: Protest Dance Pop, 15 December 2005

Plat du Jour 
by Matthew Herbert.
Accidental
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... compared with later examples. In 1983, Elvis Costello’s poignant ‘Shipbuilding’ (sung by Robert Wyatt) was so sidelong a comment on the human costs and economic benefits of the Falklands War that you had to be told that’s what it was. I even have a sneaking sympathy for the campaign agent who chose Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the ...

Diary

Hugh Pennington: Smallpox Scares, 5 September 2002

... more virus strains were cultured. But the bet failed, disastrously. On Friday, 11 August, Janet Parker, a medical photographer in the Anatomy Department, which was located directly above the poxvirus laboratory, developed a headache and muscular pains. Her husband had to drive her to work. On Saturday she felt better and went for a walk, and on Sunday she ...

Samuel Johnson goes abroad

Claude Rawson, 29 August 1991

A Voyage to Abyssinia 
by Samuel Johnson, edited by Joel Gold.
Yale, 350 pp., £39.50, July 1985, 0 300 03003 7
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Rasselas, and Other Tales 
by Samuel Johnson, edited by Gwin Kolb.
Yale, 290 pp., £24.50, March 1991, 0 300 04451 8
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A Dictionary of the English Language (1755) 
by Samuel Johnson.
Longman, 1160 pp., £195, September 1990, 0 582 07380 4
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The Making of Johnson’s Dictionary, 1746-1773 
by Allen Reddick.
Cambridge, 249 pp., £30, October 1990, 0 521 36160 5
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Samuel Johnson’s Attitude to the Arts 
by Morris Brownell.
Oxford, 195 pp., £30, March 1989, 0 19 812956 4
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Johnson’s Shakespeare 
by G.F. Parker.
Oxford, 204 pp., £25, April 1989, 0 19 812974 2
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... When Johnson first wrote to Hastings on 30 March 1774, recommending to him the future Sir Robert Chambers, one of his Majesty’s Judges in India, and enclosing a copy of Jones’s Persian Grammar (1771), he pressed Hastings to ‘examine nicely the Traditions and Histories of the East’, and use his ‘attention and patronage’ to add to knowledge ...

Scribblers and Assassins

Charles Nicholl: The Crimes of Thomas Drury, 31 October 2002

... Marlowe filled the air at this time. Hints had appeared in print, in the loquacious pamphlets of Robert Greene and Gabriel Harvey and Thomas Nashe, but more damagingly precise were the reports of Government informers – a flourishing trade in the police-state atmosphere of late Elizabethan London. There are two key documents, generally referred to as the ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... with more detailed contextualising narratives and a wider cast of tragic characters (Dorothy Parker, who was blacklisted in Hollywood; H.L. Mencken, who came under suspicion for his German background during both wars; John O’Hara, whose many failures included a job application to the fledgling CIA). The book’s editors, JPat Brown, B.C.D. Lipton and ...

Jungle Joys

Alfred Appel Jr: Wa-Wa-Wa with the Duke, 5 September 2002

... The postwar bebop jazzmen employed musical quotations even more often than Ellington. Charlie Parker frequently concludes fast-paced, hard-swinging numbers by stopping on a dime and gaily quoting – out of tempo, with leisurely elegance – from Percy Grainger’s Country Gardens, a Brancusi cartoon crown of musical notes that evokes an English ...
Genius in Disguise: Harold Ross of the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Thomas Kunkel.
Random House, 497 pp., $25, March 1995, 0 679 41837 7
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... Ross into contact with the then-embryo Algonquin network. In 1919, George Kaufman, Harpo Marx, Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker and the others were in their twenties and unknown. But they were wits, albeit at each other’s expense much of the time, and Ross watched with interest from the sidelines, every so often giving ...

Untouched by Eliot

Denis Donoghue: Jon Stallworthy, 4 March 1999

Rounding the Horn: Collected Poems 
by Jon Stallworthy.
Carcanet, 247 pp., £14.95, September 1998, 1 85754 163 4
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... his readers through a particular poem. Valéry, Allen Tate, William Empson, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren and Robert Lowell were instructive in that way. But it is rare for a poet to lead readers through a poem, draft by draft, or explain how he settled for one word rather than another. Yeats did not offer to ...

A Preference for Strenuous Ghosts

Michael Kammen: Theodore Roosevelt, 6 June 2002

Theodore Rex 
by Edmund Morris.
HarperCollins, 772 pp., £25, March 2002, 0 00 217708 0
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... better part of a year, and his John Adams (2001) is providing an astonishing repeat performance. Robert Caro’s dramatically detailed look at The Years of Lyndon Johnson has been unfolding since 1982, and large chunks of Volume Three have been serialised in the New Yorker. In the meantime, Robert Dallek scooped him with ...

What Life Says to Us

Stephanie Burt: Robert Creeley, 21 February 2008

The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley: 1945-75 
California, 681 pp., £12.55, October 2006, 0 520 24158 4Show More
The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley: 1975-2005 
California, 662 pp., £29.95, October 2006, 0 520 24159 2Show More
On Earth: Last Poems and an Essay 
by Robert Creeley.
California, 89 pp., £12.95, April 2006, 0 520 24791 4
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Selected Poems: 1945-2005 
by Robert Creeley, edited by Benjamin Friedlander.
California, 339 pp., $21.95, January 2008, 978 0 520 25196 0
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... For a spell during the 1960s, Robert Creeley’s ‘I Know a Man’ may have been the most often quoted, even the most widely known, short poem by a living American. Here is the poem: As I sd to my friend, because I am always talking, – John, I sd, which was not his name, the darkness sur- rounds us, what can we do against it, or else, shall we & why not, buy a goddamn big car, drive, he sd, for christ’s sake, look out where yr going ...

The Wickedest Woman in Paris

Colm Tóibín, 6 September 2007

Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins 
by Rupert Everett.
Abacus, 406 pp., £7.99, July 2007, 978 0 349 12058 4
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... not given Lord Snowdon’s number but the number he was actually calling from, which belonged to Robert Fox and his wife, Celestia. Fox was arrested. ‘Robert’s been arrested,’ his wife said when she rang Rupert and Min. ‘We were just going to bed, and the doorbell rang. Twelve policemen burst into the house and ...

Destined to Disappear

Susan Pedersen: ‘Race Studies’, 20 October 2016

White World Order, Black Power Politics: The Birth of American International Relations 
by Robert Vitalis.
Cornell, 272 pp., $29.95, November 2015, 978 0 8014 5397 7
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... Robert Vitalis​ tells a great story about how he came to write this book. Some years ago, sitting in the Clark University library avoiding grading his students’ final exams, he pulled an old history of the university off the shelf. Clark played a key role in the birth of the field of international relations in the two decades before the First World War, he read, especially by founding and supporting one of the new discipline’s flagship journals, the Journal of Race Development ...

Britishmen

Tom Paulin, 5 November 1981

Too Long a Sacrifice: Life and Death in Northern Ireland since 1969 
by Jack Holland.
Columbus, 217 pp., £7.95, July 1981, 0 396 07934 2
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A History of Northern Ireland 
by Patrick Buckland.
Gill and Macmillan, 195 pp., £3.95, April 1981, 0 7171 1069 9
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... since 1946. When these interrogation techniques were investigated by an inquiry headed by Lord Parker, two reports were issued. Parker’s majority report justified the use of sensory deprivation, claiming that it provided the authorities with ‘much-needed information about the terrorists’, while Lord Gardiner’s ...

Tea-Leafing

Duncan Campbell, 19 October 1995

The Autobiography of a Thief 
by Bruce Reynolds.
Bantam, 320 pp., £15.99, April 1995, 0 593 03779 0
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... to stay there because he liked the people and the atmosphere. He was the one who liked his Charlie Parker rather than his Matt Monroe and did not yearn, when on the run, for HP Sauce and Queen’s Park Rangers. And, as far as he was concerned, a thief is what he was. He stole other people’s things. ‘The younger element, brought up after the war and ...

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