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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘A Serious Man’, 17 December 2009

A Serious Man 
directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.
November 2009
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... the way we imagined the 1960s when we thought they were still the 1950s. Larry Gopnik, played by Michael Stuhlbarg with a fine capacity for recurring surprise, as if he were Clark Kent who kept forgetting he had another identity, is an assistant professor of physics at the local university. He is just coming up for tenure, and one form of the petering-out ...

Sexual Politics

Michael Neve, 5 February 1981

Edward Carpenter, 1844-1929: Prophet of Human Fellowship 
by Chushichi Tsuzuki.
Cambridge, 237 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 521 23371 2
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... to Prince Albert Victor (‘Eddy’, Duke of Clarence and implicated in the scandal) and to Prince George, later George V. Carpenter visited Windsor in 1875 to refuse the offer, but ‘retained autographed photographs of the two princes’. The ambiguities abound. Carpenter’s socialism, and his work in activist politics in ...

Sweet Porn

Michael Irwin, 1 October 1981

George’s Marvellous Medicine 
by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake.
Cape, 96 pp., £3.95, April 1981, 0 224 01901 5
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... The publisher’s note on the jacket of George’s Marvellous Medicine says that ‘Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was voted No 1 (above Winnie the Pooh, Lord of the Rings and Alice in Wonderland) in a Sunday Times survey to find the best ten children’s books.’ Even if the word ‘best’ is translated into reasonable terms (‘currently most popular’?), the claim remains impressive, and implies classic status ...


Inigo Thomas: Michael Wolff’s Book Party, 8 February 2018

... to understand for himself – and so do the journalists who write about him. Or most of them. Michael Wolff never planned to write a book about the president just as Trump never planned to become president. Wolff remained uncertain about his book’s prospects in the days leading to its publication in mid-January, though things began to look up when he ...

Rough Wooing

Michael Brown: Flodden, 23 January 2014

Fatal Rivalry: Flodden 1513 
by George Goodwin.
Weidenfeld, 288 pp., £20, July 2013, 978 0 297 86739 5
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... Fatal Rivalry: Flodden 1513 provides a welcome antidote to the usual run of work on the period. George Goodwin places the events of 9 September 1513 in the context of the two kingdoms and their interrelated royal dynasties over the quarter-century leading up to the battle. He follows most Scottish historians in being impressed with James IV’s qualities as ...

Questions of Chic

Michael Mason, 19 August 1993

City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late Victorian London 
by Judith Walkowitz.
Virago, 353 pp., £16.99, November 1992, 1 85381 517 9
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Cruelty and Companionship: Conflict in 19th-century Married Life 
by James Hammerton.
Routledge, 236 pp., £37.50, November 1992, 0 415 03622 4
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Victorian Scandals: Representations of Gender and Class 
edited by Kristine Ottersen Garrigan.
Ohio, 337 pp., $34.99, August 1992, 0 8214 1019 9
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... the odds this burly two-volume compilation of essays, brought together by Jim Dyos in England and Michael Wolff in America, became a classic. Against the odds, because these essays were, in origin, conference proceedings, and there were nearly forty of them. Conventional publishing wisdom would hope for only a modest success from such a formula, but The ...

One, Two, Three, Eyes on Me!

George Duoblys, 5 October 2017

... in 1995. Mossbourne’s first head, or ‘principal’ as they are often called in academies, was Michael Wilshaw, who subsequently became chief inspector at Ofsted.Both City and Mossbourne began with a single cohort of Year 7s (11 and 12-year-olds) before building up to a full school and sixth form after seven years, which gave their heads time to decide how ...

Hanging out with Higgins

Michael Wood, 7 December 1989

Silent Partner 
by Jonathan Kellerman.
Macdonald, 506 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 356 17598 7
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‘Murder will out’: The Detective in Fiction 
by T.J. Binyon.
Oxford, 166 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780192192233
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Devices and Desires 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 408 pp., £11.99, October 1989, 0 571 14178 1
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by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 287 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 670 82258 2
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by George V. Higgins.
Deutsch, 213 pp., £11.95, November 1989, 0 233 98513 1
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Polar Star 
by Martin Cruz Smith.
Collins Harvill, 373 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 00 271269 5
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... stories he may mean, but wouldn’t that be pretty much tautological? Certainly readers of George V. Higgins and Elmore Leonard would be surprised by the claim as it stands. Binyon also accepts without questioning the distinction between detective fiction and thrillers, or what he sometimes calls adventure stories. This is a familiar distinction, and ...

Sucking up

Michael Rogin, 12 May 1994

Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War 
by John MacArthur.
California, 274 pp., £10, January 1994, 0 520 08398 9
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Live from the Battlefield: From Vietnam to Baghdad – 35 Years in the World’s War Zones 
by Peter Arnett.
Bloomsbury, 463 pp., £17.99, March 1994, 0 7475 1680 4
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... Peter Arnett won a Pulitzer Prize for Hollywood-on-the-Mekong. Twenty-five years later, President George Bush introduced an ABC docudrama, The Heroes of Desert Storm, which, according to the network disclaimer, ‘interweaves news footage and dramatisations with actors and actual participants. To achieve realism, no distinction is made among these ...

Peine forte et dure

Hazel V. Carby: Punishment by Pressing, 30 July 2020

... The​ city of Minneapolis, in which George Floyd lived and died, has been plagued not only by Covid-19 but also by an epidemic of police violence. As Mike Griffin, a community organiser, put it, he was ‘just as likely to die from a cop as from Covid’. Major news outlets, including the New York Times and Washington Post, seemed astonished at the scale of structural and environmental racism exposed by the pandemic ...

The World according to Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld

Michael Byers: American isolationism, 21 February 2002

... bombing in 1986 of a Berlin discotheque frequented by American servicemen, the Secretary of State George Shultz said that it was ‘absurd to argue that international law prohibits us from capturing terrorists in international waters or airspace; from attacking them on the soil of other nations, even for the purpose of rescuing hostages; or from using force ...

Whitehall Farces

Patrick Parrinder, 8 October 1992

Now you know 
by Michael Frayn.
Viking, 282 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 9780670845545
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... In its attitude towards Dickens,’ George Orwell wrote, ‘the English public has always been a little like the elephant which feels a blow with a walking-stick as a delightful tickling ... One knows without needing to be told that lawyers delight in Sergeant Buzfuz and that Little Dorrit is a favourite in the Home Office ...

Aunts and Uncles

Michael Hofmann, 19 November 1992

A Feast in the Garden 
by George Konrad, translated by Imre Goldstein.
Faber, 394 pp., £14.99, October 1992, 0 571 16623 7
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Wartime Lies 
by Louis Begley.
Picador, 198 pp., £5.99, August 1992, 0 330 32099 8
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by Carmelo Samona, translated by Linda Lappin.
Carcanet, 131 pp., £13.95, August 1992, 0 85635 990 4
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by Thomas Healy.
Polygon, 161 pp., £7.95, July 1992, 0 7486 6121 2
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... Ruritanias, as indeed we are all Ruritanians now. These fears weren’t formulated in response to George Konrad’s hefty new book, but they might have been. I don’t know when I last felt so mutinous while reading a book. A Feast in the Garden is an absolutely dire novel, misconceived, opportunistic, inflated, poorly written, cynical and floundering. Little ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Once upon a Time in Anatolia’, 10 May 2012

Once upon a Time in Anatolia 
directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan.
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... modern world where the ordinariness of crime and unhappiness, or the fact of their frequency, in George Eliot’s phrase, is their most telling feature. We have to guess at a lot of this, since this stately, beautiful film keeps indulging in the favourite temptation of real movie-makers: excessive trust in the image. The police chief dominates the early part ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Journey to Italy’, 6 June 2013

Journey to Italy 
directed by Roberto Rossellini.
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... seem deluded, trapped in a happy end they can’t want. The characters are Alex and Katherine, George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman. They have come to Italy to sell a property they have inherited from the person they call Uncle Homer, a man who appears to have had the gift for enjoying himself that they so conspicuously lack. The property is a house near ...

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