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One French City

Lydia Davis, 12 August 2021

... the obelisk once stood.The MarshesIn earlier times, the Abbey of Montmajour, on a hill about five miles away from Arles, appeared to be an island, rising up out of the marshes (marécages) that surrounded it.The Mosquitoes of ArlesJohn Murray’s Handbook for Travellers in France, the standard 19th-century guide, warns that Arles is unhealthy ‘at certain ...

Why Goldwyn Wore Jodhpurs

David Thomson, 22 June 2000

The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper 
by Dominick Dunne.
Crown, 218 pp., £17.99, October 1999, 0 609 60388 4
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Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers 
by Maria Cooper Janis.
Abrams, 176 pp., £22, November 1999, 0 8109 4130 9
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... repeating his classic 1936 role, Henry Fonda doing Leslie Howard, and Lauren Bacall as Bette Davis. The show went well. Bogart, always a bit of a snob, and once chucked out of Andover, was impressed that Dunne had been to Williams College. He invited the nobody kid to a party at his home in the Holmby Hills. Dunne knew he was out of his element ...

Nature made the house

William Fiennes: Barry Topez, 29 July 1999

Arctic Dreams 
by Barry Lopez.
Harvill, 464 pp., £7.99, January 1999, 1 86046 583 8
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About This Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory 
by Barry Lopez.
Harvill, 275 pp., £12, January 1999, 9781860465659
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... journeys of the Irish abbot Saint Brendan; the later expeditions of Martin Frobisher, John Davis, Henry Hudson (who became a bay), William Baffin (who became an island) and Vitus Bering (who became a strait). He describes Robert Peary claiming the North Pole for America, and how, to keep up the morale of his men, Richard Collinson erected a billiard ...


Neal Ascherson: Among the icebergs, 18 October 2007

... to one of the world’s most powerful glaciers, the Sermeq Kujalleq. Its cliff-like face is three miles wide and, counting its hidden underwater bulk, nearly a mile high. The bergs we saw were its children, calving off and then moving imperceptibly out into the ocean, to turn south in the current and then, diminishing and shedding their fresh water mass, to ...

Mmmm, chicken nuggets

Bee Wilson: The Victorian Restaurant Scene, 15 August 2019

The London Restaurant: 1840-1914 
by Brenda Assael.
Oxford, 239 pp., £60, July 2018, 978 0 19 881760 4
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... day, Woollan wrote, ‘there are nearly a million people lunching in restaurants within a few miles of the Strand.’ In the evenings, thousands dined in swanky West End restaurants, where a meal with wine might cost an average of a sovereign. But, as Woollan noted, ‘far more Londoners … live each day – and live not at all badly either – on a ...
... They included a gold star on the steps of the state capitol, to mark the spot where Jefferson Davis – the president of the Confederate States between 1861 and 1865 – was inaugurated and the slave nation was formed. There were no reminders of the city’s role as one of the most important centres of the Southern slave trade. In late 2013 the EJI ...


Thomas Powers: Stephen Crane, 17 July 2014

Stephen Crane: A Life of Fire 
by Paul Sorrentino.
Harvard, 476 pp., £25, June 2014, 978 0 674 04953 6
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... correspondents Crane met in Cuba such as Charles Michelson, Ernest McCready and Richard Harding Davis. These are rich materials but at the same time they are incomplete and sparse. Crane was not a prolific letter-writer and he left no diaries or memoir. Further confusing matters was Crane’s first biographer, Thomas Beer, whose Stephen Crane: A Study in ...

The Question of U

Ian Penman: Prince, 20 June 2019

Prince: Life and Times 
by Jason Draper.
Chartwell, 216 pp., £15.99, February 2017, 978 0 7858 3497 7
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The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince 
by Mayte Garcia.
Trapeze, 304 pp., £9.99, April 2018, 978 1 4091 7121 8
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... yourself to your public in character and at your very best. As with his heroes James Brown and Miles Davis, it’s hard to picture Prince outside a certain rigorously maintained ‘look’. But in Garcia’s anecdote Prince’s touchiness about image feels less like showbiz corn and something closer to undiagnosed pathology. You have the impression of ...

The Man in the Clearing

Iain Sinclair: Meeting Gary Snyder, 24 May 2012

... Sierra reinhabitation, as Snyder saw it, he took on reading tours and an academic position at UC Davis, fifty miles down the road near the state capital, Sacramento. He called his land Kitkitdizze, after the Wintu Indian name for the aromatic shrub known as bear clover. Sliding down the electric window of the Chevrolet, to ...

The Leveller

Ben Ehrenreich: Famine in East Africa, 17 August 2017

... what little flesh remained. A few metres away a warthog lay rotting, and beyond that a camel. For miles outside the village – and outside every village I passed through in Somaliland, the self-proclaimed but unrecognised state that comprises the northern part of Somalia – thousands of sheep and goats lay strewn in varying states of decay. The contents of ...

Among the Graves

Thomas Laqueur: Naming the Dead, 18 December 2008

The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction 
by Mark Neely.
Harvard, 277 pp., £20.95, November 2007, 978 0 674 02658 2
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This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War 
by Drew Gilpin Faust.
Knopf, 346 pp., $27.95, January 2008, 978 0 375 40404 7
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... in an epic struggle for the enemy’s capital. A century and a half later one can still see the miles of ramparts at Petersburg and Richmond; the crater blasted by Union miners in an attempt to breach Confederate defences is still there. Casualties of this final battle were more than 60,000. Jackson was right about the destructiveness. Whole libraries have ...


Elaine Showalter: On the Phi Beta Kappa Tour, 10 March 1994

... an enviable joie de vivre. When my husband and I first moved to the University of California at Davis in the early Sixties, we were dazzled to find that our colleagues owned stock in the Napa Valley vineyards, and drove out on the weekends to look at their grapes. In the ascetic East at the time, a penchant for anything more lowbrow than The Seventh Seal ...


Iain Sinclair: Eccentric Pilgrims, 30 June 2016

... show off the scars of major surgery. The towpath was his lifeline as he upped his daily quota of miles, returning to health and strength and Pickett’s Lock. Within the fugitive stretches of the Lea Valley, from which the travellers who used to dive for scrap metal have been expelled, along with a number of camps of economic migrants and rough sleepers, our ...

Do I like it?

Terry Castle: Outsider Art, 28 July 2011

... artists don’t have the opposite tendency. Some, like the contemporary San Francisco artist Jimmy Miles, incline to a dry, coolly minimalist practice, in which white space is not only tolerated, but an essential, if seriously off-kilter aesthetic feature in its own right: I’m not sure what to call Miles’s austere and ...

In the Tart Shop

Murray Sayle: How Sydney got its Opera House, 5 October 2000

The Masterpiece: Jørn Utzon, a Secret Life 
by Philip Drew.
Hardie Grant, 574 pp., AUS $39.95, October 1999, 1 86498 047 8
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Jørn Utzon: The Sydney Opera House 
by Françoise Fromonot, translated by Christopher Thompson.
Electa/Gingko, 236 pp., £37.45, January 1998, 3 927258 72 5
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... a tall façade and an anonymous rear. The Sydney site, a peninsula overlooked on all sides across miles of blue water, or by a nearby high-rise city, ruled out this camouflage. All but one of the contestants began with the most obvious difficulty: how to squeeze two opera houses onto a site barely 250 feet wide by 350 feet deep, with deep water on three ...

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