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My Wicked Heart

Colin McGinn, 22 November 1990

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius 
by Ray Monk.
Cape, 654 pp., £20, October 1990, 0 224 02712 3
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Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Student’s Memoir 
by Theodore Redpath.
Duckworth, 109 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 9780715623299
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... Was Wittgenstein a spiritual as well as a philosophical genius? Ray Monk’s exceptionally fine and fat biography puts us in a better position to answer this question than we have been hitherto. Perhaps the best place to begin trying to understand Wittgenstein’s character is with the photographs that exist of his face ...

Looking for Imperfection

Gilberto Perez: John Cassavetes, 23 August 2001

John Cassavetes: Lifeworks 
by Tom Charity.
Omnibus, 257 pp., £10.95, March 2001, 0 7119 7544 2
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Cassavetes on Cassavetes 
edited by Ray Carney.
Faber, 526 pp., £17.99, March 2001, 0 571 20157 1
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... how to really feel again’. I’m quoting from Cassavetes on Cassavetes, edited by Ray Carney, who sees this as ‘a daring leap: lived experience could be as much a product of convention as dramatic experience, and in fact the one sort of convention could be the subject of the other. It was the first and most succinct statement of the subject ...

We Do Ron Ron Ron, We Do Ron Ron

James Meek: Welcome to McDonald’s, 24 May 2001

Fast-Food Nation 
by Eric Schlosser.
Allen Lane, 356 pp., £9.99, April 2001, 0 7139 9602 1
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... camp in Sound Beach, Connecticut. One of them was Walt Disney. The other, only 15 years old, was Ray Kroc, the man who later made McDonald’s an empire. When Kroc and his comrades went off to the nearest town on furlough to look for girls, Disney stayed in camp, drawing. Disney served in France and Germany, but the First World War ended before Kroc was sent ...

As If

Jonathan Romney: ‘Cahiers du cinéma’, 9 September 2010

A Short History of ‘Cahiers du cinéma’ 
by Emilie Bickerton.
Verso, 156 pp., £12.99, March 2010, 978 1 84467 232 5
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... so, these critics proved it was so. They wrote as if Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, Nicholas Ray et al were as sophisticated and as consistent in their styles, worldviews, personal ‘signatures’ as, say, William Faulkner – and thanks to Cahiers, few cinephiles would today think of disputing that. They ...

Mother

Wendy Steiner, 19 October 1995

Gertrude Stein in Words and Pictures 
by Renate Stendhal.
Thames and Hudson, 286 pp., £14.95, March 1995, 0 500 27832 6
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‘Favoured Strangers’: Gertrude Stein and Her Family 
by Linda Wagner-Martin.
Rutgers, 346 pp., $34.95, August 1995, 0 8135 2169 6
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... legend; she pleased herself, and others came round. When she wrote in a final exam for William James, ‘I am so sorry but really I do not feel a bit like an examination paper in philosophy today,’ James understood, and gave her the highest grade in the class. She eventually graduated from Radcliffe magna cum laude, published original ...

Diary

Tom Paulin: Ulster’s Long Sunday, 24 August 1995

... out for Belfast via the small Shropshire town of Wem. Why Wem? Well, I’m working on a book about William Hazlitt, and feel the need to walk some of the ground he trod. His father, the Reverend William Hazlitt, ministered to a small ‘decayed’ Presbyterian congregation here. Hazlitt spent part of his childhood and youth ...

Reaganism

Anthony Holden, 6 November 1980

The United States in the 1980s 
edited by Peter Duignan and Alvin Rabushka.
Croom Helm, 868 pp., £14.95, August 1980, 0 8179 7281 1
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... attacks of such doubters as the present writer. I was recently taken to task (in print) by William F. Buckley Jr, the renowned conservative, for ‘chuckling especially hard’ at one of Reagan’s more esoteric pronouncements: to wit, that ‘80 per cent of pollution is caused by plants and trees.’ By way of refutation, in a column syndicated across ...

Diary

Frank Kermode: Being in New York, 7 July 1983

... pay, and then neglected for three hours. A young doctor, sullen and swaggering, then ordered an X-ray and refused a painkiller. When we left it was midnight, and a black woman we had chatted with was still waiting, though she had been there before us. The bill came to $180, which must be about one hundred and fifteen pounds. As we walked out there was a ...

Very like Poole Harbour

Patricia Beer, 5 December 1991

With and Without Buttons 
by Mary Butts, edited by Nathalie Blondel.
Carcanet, 216 pp., £13.95, October 1991, 0 85635 944 0
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... in Paris. A list of her friends, lovers and associates during these two decades is impressive. Man Ray photographed her, Jean Cocteau sketched her, Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot praised her work, Aleister Crowley exploited it. In the Twenties Harold Acton came across her in Paris, not exactly among ‘the bevies of truculent women’ who surrounded Hemingway and ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... on Lee Harvey Oswald in Libra merited attention. There is at least one known case. In 2013 William Vollmann wrote about getting hold of his own FBI file and discovering that during the 1990s, following an anonymous tip, he was suspected of being the Unabomber. ‘UNABOMBER, not unlike VOLLMANN, has pride of authorship and insists his book be published ...

At the Centre Pompidou

Jeremy Harding: Beat Generation, 8 September 2016

... Allen Ginsberg’s star now shines more brightly than the rest. True, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs glowed on in the aftermath of On the Road (1957) and Naked Lunch (1959); Brion Gysin, inventor of the cut-up technique, is still visible on a clear night. But the beautiful Lucien Carr, an Alain Delon lookalike drawn into the Beat circle by a ...

Trollopiad

John Sutherland, 9 January 1992

The Chronicler of Barsetshire: A Life of Anthony Trollope 
by R.H. Super.
Manchester, 528 pp., £29.95, July 1990, 0 472 10102 1
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Anthony Trollope: A Victorian in his World 
by Richard Mullen.
Duckworth, 767 pp., £25, July 1990, 0 7156 2293 5
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Trollope: A Biography 
by N. John Hall.
Oxford, 581 pp., £25, October 1991, 0 19 812627 1
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... One of the clinching confirmations of Anthony’s account of his wretched schooldays came from Sir William Gregory, who was at Harrow with him. On reading An Autobiography, Gregory recalled that Trollope was a big boy, older than the rest of the form, and without exception the most slovenly and dirty boy I ever met. He was not only slovenly in person ...

Diary

Clive James, 19 August 1982

... conflict been called chess with balls. This year the final’s between two ex-champs. Veteran Ray Reardon’s cool, calm and collected, While Alex Higgins twitches and gets cramps Whenever from his headlong rush deflected. I’d like to keep a foot in both these camps, Believing the two styles, deep down, connected. They fight it to a finish frame by ...

More than one world

P.N. Furbank, 5 December 1991

D.H. Lawrence: The Early Years 1885-1912 
by John Worthen.
Cambridge, 624 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 521 25419 1
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The Letters of D.H. Lawrence. Vol. VI: 1927-28 
edited by James Boulton, Margaret Boulton and Gerald Lacy.
Cambridge, 645 pp., £50, September 1991, 0 521 23115 9
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... but managed to be so – and this without much reference to age. I come fresh from reading Ray Monk’s enthralling biography of Wittgenstein, a man who lived for change and through change and put all his genius into it. The matter is very much on the minds of the authors of the new three-volume biography of D.H. Lawrence, of which John ...

The Greatest Geek

Richard Barnett: Nikola Tesla, 5 February 2015

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age 
by W. Bernard Carlson.
Princeton, 520 pp., £19.95, April 2015, 978 0 691 05776 7
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... grandiose electrical experiments at Wardenclyffe Tower on Long Island. His proposal for a ‘death ray’ – a kind of anti-aircraft rail gun firing tungsten pellets, highly impractical and in any case hardly a weapon of mass destruction – didn’t appear for another 25 years. And on the day of the explosion Robert Peary’s crew were in New York, where ...

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