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Kinks on the Kinks

Michael Wood: Plots, 5 May 2016

by Robert Belknap.
Columbia, 165 pp., £22, May 2016, 978 0 231 17782 5
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... regarded books on Dostoevsky. Plots is a version of a series of lectures he gave in 2011, and Robin Feuer Miller, in a witty and affectionate introduction, describes the printed book as a last work of a special kind: ‘How typical of Belknap to produce a magnum opus that is particular, profound, original and short.’ This is a magnum opus with no ...

At Maison Empereur

Inigo Thomas, 10 May 2018

... or Venus, who used it to put her husband to sleep. Rascasse, a scorpion fish also known as a sea robin, is a typical ingredient of bouillabaisse: the venom in the spines of its dorsal fin becomes inert when cooked. I had several questions for that friend the night before I drove to Marseille. How, for example, to get to the Château d’If, where enemies of ...

Bin the bric-à-brac

Joanne O’Leary: Sara Baume, 4 January 2018

A Line Made by Walking 
by Sara Baume.
Heinemann, 320 pp., £12.99, February 2017, 978 1 78515 041 8
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... her period of seclusion, she begins a grotesque photo-essay: a series of stills of dead animals (robin, rabbit, rat, mouse, rook, fox, frog, hare, hedgehog, badger), each of which provides the title for one of the novel’s ten chapters. Many of these grainy photographs are reproduced in the book; Frankie knows they’re not very good. Even the ...

A Kind of Slither

Michael Wood: Woody Allen, 27 April 2000

The Unruly Life of Woody Allen 
by Marion Meade.
Weidenfeld, 384 pp., £20, February 2000, 0 297 81868 6
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... gag in the otherwise rather desultory Deconstructing Harry (1997). A character, played by Robin Williams, has blurred features and soft edges, which are at first attributed to a faulty lens, but then turn out to be just the way he is. A temporary condition, he hopes. His initial response is to get some rest. Later his wife and children equip ...

Wayne on a Warm Day

Duncan Campbell, 20 June 1996

Bad Business 
by Dick Hobbs.
Oxford, 140 pp., £14.99, November 1995, 0 19 825848 8
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... of Hobbs’s previous books, Doing the Business, contained the helpful observation that the only Robin Hoods in East London were pubs and he brings the same sardonic approach to this account of ne’er-do-wells and worse. He opens with perhaps the most inviting come-on line of any recent book about crime: ‘The idea for this book began when several people ...

Two Hares and a Priest

Patricia Beer: Pushkin, 13 May 1999

by Elizabeth Feinstein.
Weidenfeld, 309 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 297 81826 0
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... she recommends has important implications: in his biography, Pushkin: The Man and His Age (1994), Robin Edmonds strong-mindedly refrains from even attempting to introduce Pushkin’s poetry to readers who have no Russian, and helpfully fobs us off with the diplomatic and historical background of Pushkin’s life. Feinstein also mentions David Magarshack’s ...

At the Allenby Bridge

Jeremy Harding: Crossing the Jordan, 25 June 2009

... come from ancient pictures of the Palestine that died long ago’. The original bridge, built in wood and iron, is a part of that vanished past. It was completed in 1918 by the Royal Engineers (Allenby had conquered Palestine in 1917) and destroyed in 1946 by a few well-trained Palmach men laying explosives. The Night of the Bridges was a Haganah exercise ...

Keller’s Causes

Robin Holloway, 3 August 1995

Essays on Music 
by Hans Keller, edited by Christopher Wintle, Bayan Northcott and Irene Samuel.
Cambridge, 269 pp., £30, October 1994, 0 521 46216 9
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... country that had taken in the refugee from Nazi Austria. Someone had to counter the flab and dead wood, and there was at that time no denunciation from within. Nevertheless, it’s possible to feel that the energy of aggression, the sheer blood-lust, was in excess of the necessary. There is a parallel with Leavis: an outsider (though native-born) equally ...


James Wood, 20 June 1996

The Redress of Poetry: Oxford Lectures 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 213 pp., £15.99, September 1995, 0 571 17562 7
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The Spirit Level 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 71 pp., £14.99, May 1996, 0 571 17760 3
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... airA high stream-roof that moved in silence overRhododendrons in full bloom, foxglovesAnd hemlock, robin-run-the-hedge, the hedgeWith its deckled ivy and thick shadows ...This new verse has got beyond proving things, and is just a sweet engine for the propulsion of its lines. Heaney has never sounded quite like this before – his syncopated repetition of ...

Cry Treedom

Jonathan Bate, 4 November 1993

Forests: The shadow of Civilisation 
by Robert Pogue Harrison.
Chicago, 288 pp., £19.95, May 1992, 0 226 31806 0
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... who might have understood it was Rousseau, who stands Janus-faced at the edge of the Enlightenment wood. As author of the ‘Project for the Constitution of Corsica’, which proposes an ‘exact policemanship of the forests’, he is the incarnation of his age; in the Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, and the Bois de Boulogne passage of the Confessions ...

Walking through Walls

Graham Robb: The world’s first anti-hero rogue cop, 18 March 2004

Memoirs of Vidocq: Master of Crime 
AK Press, 370 pp., £14, July 2003, 1 902593 71 5Show More
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... Lecoq and Sherlock Holmes. However, this Master of Crime edition also casts him in a new role. Robin Walz’s introduction puts paid to the notion that Vidocq was a Victorian Robin Hood: ‘In Vidocq the criminal and detective are one. He was the world’s first anti-hero rogue cop.’ The editor’s preface ...

Not Altogether Lost

James Hamilton-Paterson: The Tasaday, 19 June 2003

Invented Eden: The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday 
by Robin Hemley.
Farrar, Straus, 352 pp., $25, May 2003, 0 374 17716 3
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... offshoot of Cotabato Manobo, a language unrelated to T’boli, the tongue of the surrounding area. Robin Hemley’s book is a brave and wholly convincing attempt to find the truth concerning the ‘anthropological fraud of the century’. These days, and certainly in the Philippines, the received opinion is that the Tasaday were unquestionably a hoax ...

Shameless, Lucifer and Pug-Nose

David A. Bell: Louis Mandrin, 8 January 2015

Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of a Global Underground 
by Michael Kwass.
Harvard, 457 pp., £35, April 2014, 978 0 674 72683 3
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... although, as Kwass points out, Farm agents themselves often adulterated their product with wood shavings, ashes, pulverised brick or even plain dirt. But Mandrin was selling his tobacco at a steep discount, and it went quickly. The gang carried out a military review of sorts in the square before leaving town. Mandrin was on his way to becoming a folk ...


Mary Beard: Set in Tunisia, 14 December 2006

... variety). An unexpected addition was a vicious belt of torturing metal sticking out of the wood a little above waist height. This was both a better and a worse encounter than you might be imagining. Better, because this particular instrument of execution was only a prop on a film set of ancient Rome, (re-)built near Hammamet in Tunisia. It had been ...

Not Saluting, but Waving

Michael Wood, 20 February 1997

directed by Alan Parker.
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The Making of ‘Evita’ 
by Alan Parker.
Boxtree, 127 pp., £12.99, December 1996, 0 7522 2264 3
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In My Own Words 
by Eva Perón, translated by Laura Dail.
New Press, 120 pp., $8.95, November 1996, 1 56584 353 3
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Santa Evita 
by Tomás Eloy Martínez, translated by Helen Lane.
Doubleday, 371 pp., £15.99, January 1997, 0 385 40875 7
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... of the Evita myth as he sees them: 1. She rose like a meteor. 2. She died young. 3. She was the Robin Hood of the Forties. 4. Perón loved her madly. 5. For many people, touching Evita was touching the stars. 6. What could be called ‘the story of the gifts’. 7. The unfinished monument. The story of the gifts is the legend ‘every Peronist ...

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