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His Own Private Armenia

Anne Hollander: Arshile Gorky, 1 April 2004

Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work 
by Hayden Herrera.
Bloomsbury, 767 pp., £35, October 2003, 9780747566472
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Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective of Drawings 
edited by Janie Lee and Melvin Lader.
Abrams, 272 pp., £30, December 2003, 0 87427 135 5
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... Boston, devouring and copying the treasures in the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, even getting a little basic training at night from the New School of Design. Later he would promulgate more lies about having studied at the more prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, or graduated from Brown University. Daily life remained ...

A bout de Bogart

Jenny Diski, 19 May 2011

Tough without a Gun: The Extraordinary Life of Humphrey Bogart 
by Stefan Kanfer.
Faber, 288 pp., £14.99, February 2011, 978 0 571 26072 0
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... noir, so I came to Bogart (as to Cagney, Raft, Edward G., Stanwyck, Hayworth, Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, Gloria Grahame) retrospectively and as a ready-made – I think I need to use the word – icon. They were vast beings moving across the screen, on prints patinated with the time that had passed. The women were beautiful in a glamorously dated way, but ...

Cradles in the Portego

Nicholas Penny: Renaissance Venice, 5 January 2006

The New Palaces of Medieval Venice 
by Juergen Schulz.
Pennsylvania State, 368 pp., £61.50, July 2004, 0 271 02351 1
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Private Lives in Renaissance Venice 
by Patricia Fortini Brown.
Yale, 312 pp., £35, October 2004, 0 300 10236 4
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... Layard, helped to establish a collection of historic Venetian glass on Murano; and above all when John Charles Robinson bought ceramics, metalwork, glass and textiles from Venice for South Kensington, the ‘products of the artisan’ were receiving plenty of ‘serious scholarly attention’. As for the ‘full social and historical context’, that was ...

A Particular Way of Looking

J. Hoberman: NeoRealismo, 21 November 2019

NeoRealismo: The New Image in Italy 1932-60 
edited by Enrica Viganò.
Prestel, 349 pp., £49.99, September 2018, 978 3 7913 5769 0
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... first feature, Pather Panchali (1955), is a masterpiece of non-Italian Italian Neorealism. So is John Cassavetes’s first movie, Shadows (1959), populated by underemployed jazz musicians and shot in and around Times Square. Neorealism was the inspiration for British ‘free cinema’ and kitchen-sink realism. Jean Rouch’s ethnographic features made in ...


Ian Penman, 2 July 2015

Sinatra: London 
Universal, 3 CDs and 1 DVD, £40, November 2014Show More
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... name was often linked with. Consider the following, from Cosa Nostra (2004), John Dickie’s history of the Sicilian Mafia: ‘Anyone who was worthy of being described as mafioso therefore had a certain something, an attribute called “mafia”. “Cool” is about the closest modern English equivalent.’ Discourse among ‘men of ...

Sexual Tories

Angus Calder, 17 May 1984

The Common People: A History from the Norman Conquest to the Present 
by J.F.C. Harrison.
Croom Helm and Flamingo, 445 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 7099 0125 9
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British Society 1914-45 
by John Stevenson.
Allen Lane/Penguin, 503 pp., £16.95, March 1984, 0 7139 1390 8
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The World We Left Behind: A Chronicle of the Year 1939 
by Robert Kee.
Weidenfeld, 369 pp., £11.95, April 1984, 0 297 78287 8
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Wigan Pier Revisited: Poverty and Politics in the Eighties 
by Beatrix Campbell.
Virago, 272 pp., £4.50, April 1984, 0 86068 417 2
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... Harrison’s subversive, utterly anti-Whiggish suggestion, drawing on recent research by Dr Philip Gardner, that the working-class private-venture schools of the mid-19th century, the notorious ‘dame schools’ denounced by middle-class reformers, were better institutions (if we take the common person’s point of view as our standard of ‘good’) than the ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1995, 4 January 1996

... Smith Institute for the Criminally Insane, banging the same drum in the Independent. Not long ago John Bird and John Fortune did a sketch about the privatisation of air. These days it scarcely seems unthinkable. 28 February. There have been football riots in Bruges, where Chelsea have been playing, with, responsible for ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1999, 20 January 2000

... military and the armaments manufacturers and it is not new. I am reading Alabaster Tombs by Arthur Gardner who, discussing the representations of 15th-century armour on church monuments, writes: ‘It is recorded that after a battle the squires and armourers held a sort of inquest over the bodies of the slain in order to discuss how best to prevent or ward off ...

Art of Embarrassment

A.D. Nuttall, 18 August 1994

Essays, Mainly Shakespearean 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 386 pp., £40, March 1994, 0 521 40444 4
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English Comedy 
edited by Michael Cordner, Peter Holland and John Kerrigan.
Cambridge, 323 pp., £35, March 1994, 0 521 41917 4
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... have written a more guarded sentence. A similar abrupt confidence (which reminds me of Dame Helen Gardner) marks her observation that Miranda’s strangely violent language to Caliban in The Tempest has nothing to do with sexual repression on the island but is, in fact, detached from the character of Miranda, mere impersonal poetic affirmation of the theme of ...

What makes a waif?

Joanne O’Leary, 13 September 2018

The Long-Winded Lady: Tales from the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 215 pp., £10.99, January 2017, 978 1 906539 59 7
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Maeve Brennan: Homesick at the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Angela Bourke.
Counterpoint, 360 pp., $16.95, February 2016, 978 1 61902 715 2
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The Springs of Affection: Stories 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 368 pp., £8.99, May 2016, 978 1 906539 54 2
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... the difference between ‘beige’ and ‘bone’ at fifty yards that made her a natural diarist. John Updike said her ‘Talk of the Town’ pieces ‘helped put New York back into the New Yorker’. Her first column, in January 1954, was about a careless dry cleaner, and began the dispatches from ‘a rather long-winded lady’ whom the New Yorker heard ...

On a Chinese Mountain

Frank Kermode, 20 November 1986

The Royal Beasts 
by William Empson.
Chatto, 201 pp., £12.95, November 1986, 0 7011 3084 9
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Essays on Shakespeare 
by William Empson.
Cambridge, 246 pp., £25, May 1986, 0 521 25577 5
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... in interest. The volume has a valuable seventy-page introduction and some useful notes by John Haffenden, who arranges the material as far as possible in chronological order. The play or melodrama, Three Stories, was written when the poet was 20, and performed, with him in the cast, by the Cambridge ADC. Long supposed to have been lost as Empson ...

Grandma at home

Lorna Sage, 4 November 1993

... so enthusiastically that she swept aside the dimension of fiction altogether. The latest Ava Gardner movie was just the latest report on what promiscuous Ava had been up to since you saw her last: the changes of costume and setting and name were feeble disguises, and didn’t fool grandma for a minute. She was there to witness when Joan Fontaine, for all ...


Gavin Millar, 13 September 1990

Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles 
by Frank Brady.
Hodder, 655 pp., £18.95, January 1990, 0 340 51389 6
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If this was happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth 
by Barbara Leaming.
Weidenfeld, 312 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 297 79630 5
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Norma Shearer 
by Gavin Lambert.
Hodder, 381 pp., £17.95, August 1990, 0 340 52947 4
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Ava’s Men: The Private Life of Ava Gardner 
by Jane Ellen Wayne.
Robson, 268 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 86051 636 9
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Goldwyn: A Biography 
by Scott Berg.
Hamish Hamilton, 579 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 241 12832 3
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The Genius of the System: Hollywood Film-Making in the Studio Era 
by Thomas Schatz.
Simon and Schuster, 514 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 671 69708 0
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... seen Marie Antoinette six times by the time she married Juan Peron. It’s a relief to turn to Ava Gardner, who was not impressed by Hollywood, and fully expected them not to be impressed by her. Of MGM, she said: ‘They never took much interest in me. I can’t say I blame them.’ She was spotted by a talent scout and used to say she cursed the day her ...

Hyacinth Boy

Mark Ford: T.S. Eliot, 21 September 2006

T.S. Eliot: The Making of an American Poet 
by James E. Miller.
Pennsylvania State, 468 pp., £29.95, August 2005, 0 271 02681 2
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The Annotated ‘Waste Land’ with Eliot’s Contemporary Prose 
by T.S. Eliot, edited by Lawrence Rainey.
Yale, 270 pp., $35, April 2005, 0 300 09743 3
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Revisiting ‘The Waste Land’ 
by Lawrence Rainey.
Yale, 203 pp., £22.50, May 2005, 0 300 10707 2
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... was homosexual.’ Thirty years later, when Eliot’s prestige and influence were at their zenith, John Peter, a Canadian academic, published an article in Essays in Criticism called ‘A New Interpretation of The Waste Land’. Peter argued that the poem was at heart an elegy that might be compared to Tennyson’s In Memoriam: ‘At some previous time the ...

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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... won admirers among the black writers who emerged during the Black Power era, such as LeRoi Jones, John A. Williams and Ishmael Reed. And his legacy now? As Jackson writes, ‘history has borne out some of his vinegary judgments.’ Today, Himes’s belief in the implacable force of white supremacism – what is now called Afro-pessimism – enjoys a growing ...

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