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Cheerfully Chopping up the World

Michael Wood: Film theory, 2 July 1998

The Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium 
by Gilberto Perez.
Johns Hopkins, 466 pp., £25, April 1998, 0 8018 5673 6
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On the History of Film Style 
by David Bordwell.
Harvard, 322 pp., £39.95, February 1998, 0 674 63428 4
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Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine 
by D.N. Rodowick.
Duke, 260 pp., £46.95, October 1997, 0 8223 1962 4
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The Aesthetics and Psychology of the Cinema 
by Jean Mitry, translated by Christopher King.
Athlone, 405 pp., £45, February 1998, 0 485 30084 2
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Signs and Meaning in the Cinema 
by Peter Wollen.
BFI, 188 pp., £40, May 1998, 0 85170 646 0
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... to stay and look. ‘Why do you think we have suddenly become so interested in early cinema?’ Peter Wollen asks at the end of the new edition of his Signs and Meaning in the Cinema. ‘It’s more than archaeology. It is to regain a sense of cinema as potential, not yet frozen into the world spectacle. It is to imagine a renaissance.’ Bordwell, I ...

Hollow-Headed Angels

Nicholas Penny, 4 January 1996

Art and Power: Europe under the Dictators 1930-1945 
edited by David Britt.
Hayward Gallery, 360 pp., £19.95, October 1995, 1 85332 148 6
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... the Spirit of Ecstasy, a juvenile descendant of the Winged Victory, also closely related to Loie Fuller and Peter Pan, first perched upon the bonnet of a Rolls-Royce. By the Thirties architecture had begun to envy the sleek and aggressive forms employed in modern cars and ocean liners especially. We can see this from the ...

Year of the Viking

Patrick Wormald, 17 July 1980

The Vikings 
by James Graham-Campbell and D. Kidd.
British Museum, 192 pp., £8.95, February 1980, 0 7141 1352 2
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The Viking World 
edited by James Graham-Campbell.
Weidenfeld, 220 pp., £11.95, March 1980, 0 906459 04 4
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The Northern World 
edited by David Wilson.
Thames and Hudson, 248 pp., £15, February 1980, 0 500 25070 7
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Vikings! 
by Magnus Magnusson.
Bodley Head, 320 pp., £10, May 1980, 0 370 30272 9
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The Vikings 
by Johannes Bronsted.
Penguin, 347 pp., £1.95, April 1980, 0 14 020459 8
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Viking Age Sculpture 
by Richard Bailey.
Collins, 288 pp., £10.95, February 1980, 0 00 216228 8
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The Viking Age in Denmark 
by Klaus Randsborg.
Duckworth, 206 pp., £7.95, February 1980, 0 7156 1466 5
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... made of Norse myth and history. Christine Fell’s chapter on gods and heroes is not only fuller and more balanced than her other essay on this theme, but is also among the best short introductions in English. Finally, Magnus Magnusson’s Vikings! contains much that was not, if my memory serves me correctly, ‘seen on TV’, and thus avoids the ...

Beyond the Human

Jamie McKendrick: Dante’s Paradiso, 26 March 2009

Paradiso 
by Dante, translated by Robin Kirkpatrick.
Penguin, 480 pp., £12.99, October 2007, 978 0 14 044897 9
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Paradiso 
by Dante, translated by Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander.
Anchor, 915 pp., $19.95, September 2008, 978 1 4000 3115 3
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... isn’t mistaken, for Dante himself undergoes an intense viva on the Christian virtues by Saints Peter, James and John. Beatrice begins one typical lesson by saying ‘secondo mio infallibile avviso’ (‘in my infallible opinion’) but her teaching is not only administered with smiles: she puts on a whole firework display of inner glowing. The words for ...

Global Style

Hal Foster: Renzo Piano, 20 September 2007

Piano: Renzo Piano Building Workshop 1966-2005 
by Philip Jodidio.
Taschen, 528 pp., £79.99, February 2005, 3 8228 5768 8
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Renzo Piano Building Workshop Vol. IV 
by Peter Buchanan.
Phaidon, 240 pp., £22.95, January 2005, 0 7148 4287 7
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... that Piano first worked closely with another influential figure, the brilliant Irish engineer Peter Rice of Ove Arup. In fact, after Piano and Rogers separated in 1978, Piano teamed with Rice, and, though they parted in 1981, Rice consulted for the office until his death in 1992. With such influences and interests Piano was in the thick of progressive ...

Salons

William Thomas, 16 October 1980

Holland House 
by Leslie Mitchell.
Duckworth, 320 pp., £18, May 1980, 9780715611166
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Genius in the Drawing-Room 
edited by Peter Quennell.
Weidenfeld, 188 pp., £8.50, May 1980, 9780297777700
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... in Madame de Lieven’s autumnal love for Guizot. Joanna Richardson on Madame de Girardin is much fuller and captures something of the fascination of a famous literary coterie: but as its hostess, she ‘chose to talk her Lettres Parisiennes before she wrote them’, so even her talk comes to us (with who knows what other people’s contributions) refracted ...

Exceptionally Wonderful Book

John Sutherland, 6 October 1994

Knowledge of Angels 
by Jill Paton Walsh.
Green Bay in association with Colt, 268 pp., £14.99, July 1994, 0 948845 05 8
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... and its language flat and banal.’ That wasn’t the view of the veteran American editor Peter Davison, who liked the book enough to publish it under the Houghton Mifflin imprint some months before a thousand copies of the same printing were imported (at Walsh’s cost) for subsequent publication in the United Kingdom. This order of events raises ...

Interdisciplinarity

Dinah Birch, 27 June 1991

The Desire of My Eyes: A Life of John Ruskin 
by Wolfgang Kemp, translated by Jan Van Huerck.
HarperCollins, 526 pp., £20, March 1991, 0 00 215166 9
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... in 1985) offers little more than a glimpse of a lifetime of painstaking research on Ruskin. Peter Fuller’s provocative Theoria was not a university product. There is no shared perspective in these books. Hewison and Fuller, Ruskin’s most polemical advocates, have made incompatible political claims for his ...

Sisterly

A.N. Wilson, 21 October 1993

Love from Nancy: The Letters of Nancy Mitford 
edited by Charlotte Mosley.
Hodder, 538 pp., £20, September 1993, 0 340 53784 1
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... the snippets so tantalisingly quoted both in Harold Acton’s memoir and in Selina Hastings’s fuller biography, there were many more like this. ‘At every word a reputation dies.’ In this long volume one wants more, more, more of this, and less sisterly chit-chat about skirt lengths. After all, as she herself admitted so freely, Nancy Mitford did not ...

A Life of Its Own

Jonathan Coe, 24 February 1994

The Kenneth Williams Diaries 
edited by Russell Davies.
HarperCollins, 827 pp., £20, June 1993, 0 00 255023 7
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... 1960 Williams was playing with Fenella Fielding in the revue Pieces of Eight (largely written by Peter Cook) at the Apollo Theatre, and his diary entry for the 27th reads: ‘The show in evening went well, till Madam decided to ad lib one line before the tag in “Spies”. Of course it threw me completely. This is the last straw. I’ve reported it to the ...

Frazzle

Michael Wood: Chinese Whispers, 8 August 2013

Multiples 
edited by Adam Thirlwell.
Portobello, 380 pp., £20, August 2013, 978 1 84627 537 1
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... but it involves history as much as literature, and the book is also full of gains, and even fuller of instances where we can’t draw up a balance sheet of any kind, and are driven to quite different modes of comparison. The book reproduces a game played in the pages of McSweeney’s in 2012. Twelve stories are on offer, first written in ...

No nation I’ve ever heard of

Garth Greenwell: Matthew Griffin’s ‘Hide’, 19 January 2017

Hide 
by Matthew Griffin.
Bloomsbury, 272 pp., £16.99, August 2016, 978 1 4088 6708 2
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... that is anything but rational, given that it means turning their backs on the possibility of a fuller life, or even, by the end of the book, a bearable one. The image of invisible boundaries recurs later in the book, this time in a different key. Frank, even in his self-imposed exile, remains attached to the rituals of suburban masculinity, chief among ...

Field of Bones

Charles Nicholl: The last journey of Thomas Coryate, the English fakir and legstretcher, 2 September 1999

... in 1603, he gained entry to the court of the precocious young Prince of Wales. According to Bishop Fuller, ‘Prince Henry allowed him a pension and kept him for his servant. Sweetmeats and Coryate made up the last course on all court entertainments.’ In fact, his status was probably not as formal as this implies: no record remains of any pension, and his ...

Bats on the Ceiling

James Lasdun: The Gospel of St Karen, 24 September 2020

Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife 
by Ariel Sabar.
Random House, 401 pp., $29.95, August, 978 0 385 54258 6
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... and the present owner, dated 1999, and a letter and note to Laukamp from an Egyptologist called Peter Munro at the Free University of Berlin, dated 1982, conveying an analysis of the contents of the papyri by a colleague of his, Professor Fecht. That was all.While lamenting the meagreness of the provenance materials, King was reluctant to discuss the ...

Jewish Blood

Michael Church, 7 February 1985

Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince 
by Budd Schulberg.
Penguin, 500 pp., £4.95, September 1984, 0 14 006769 8
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Baku to Baker Street: The Memoirs of Flora Solomon 
by Barnet Litvinoff.
Collins, 230 pp., £11.95, June 1984, 0 00 217094 9
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Wilfrid Israel: German Jewry’s Secret Ambassador 
by Naomi Shepherd.
Weidenfeld, 286 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 297 78308 4
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The Smiths of Moscow: A Story of Britons Abroad 
by Harvey Pitcher.
Swallow House Books, 176 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 905265 01 7
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Family Secrets 
by David Leitch.
Heinemann, 242 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 434 41345 3
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... impelled by her upbringing to become a socialist, and even to pass on the contagion to her son – Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International. Her book moves from the site of her father’s first oilfield to the site of her reforming achievements at Marks and Spencer. ‘What were my qualifications?’ she asks in her foreword. ‘A Russian soul, a ...

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