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Bow. Wow

James Wolcott: Gore Vidal, 3 February 2000

Gore Vidal 
by Fred Kaplan.
Bloomsbury, 850 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 7475 4671 1
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... at John Barth and Thomas Pynchon, among others), gave the now unfashionable Somerset Maugham and William Dean Howells their dues, and resurrected the novels of Dawn Powell from neglect. Confronted with reams of words which speak so forthrightly for themselves, Kaplan resorts to academic robot-talk, wading into a minor comic escapade like Vidal’s novel ...

Burning Witches

Michael Rogin, 4 September 1997

Raymond Chandler: A Biography 
by Tom Hiney.
Chatto, 310 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 0 7011 6310 0
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Raymond Chandler Speaking 
edited by Dorothy Gardiner and Kathrine Sorley Walker.
California, 288 pp., £10.95, May 1997, 0 520 20835 8
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... killing the wife who betrayed him while he was at war. The murderer in Chandler’s script was the William Bendix character, Ladd’s war buddy, an amnesiac killer suffering from blackouts: playing Smerdyakov to Alan Ladd’s Ivan Karamazov, Bendix, as Chandler puts it, ‘executed his pal’s wife’. Although the studio invented another murderer ex machina ...

Stifled Truth

Wyatt Mason: Tobias Wolff and fictions of the self, 5 February 2004

Old School 
by Tobias Wolff.
Bloomsbury, 195 pp., £12.99, February 2004, 0 7475 6948 7
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... and endured. Wolff sidestepped Postmodern elders such as John Barth, Robert Coover, Guy Davenport, William Gass, Harry Mathews, Paul Metcalf, Gilbert Sorrentino, Ronald Sukenick and Paul West, as well as their heirs, such as T. Coraghessan Boyle, Lydia Davis, Rick Moody, William Vollmann and David Foster Wallace. None of ...

A Hammer in His Hands

Frank Kermode: Lowell’s Letters, 22 September 2005

The Letters of Robert Lowell 
edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 852 pp., £30, July 2005, 0 571 20204 7
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... or two to a former lover, Gertrude Buckman, a sentence to George Santayana and two sentences to William Carlos Williams. Of these communications, those to Bishop, Buckman and Williams are certified as ‘written during an acute manic episode’, but the others are not. A few days later everything again becomes manic for a while. How likely is it that the ...

Like a Manta Ray

Jenny Turner: The Entire History of Sex, 22 October 2015

The Argonauts 
by Maggie Nelson.
Graywolf, 143 pp., £23, May 2015, 978 1 55597 707 8
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... do no more than mark that wildness’s grave. Being by trade a poet of plain language – William Carlos Williams would be another hero, also George Oppen, also Eileen Myles – Nelson finds her artistic focus drawn in two main directions. On the one hand, she crafts her words until she gets them to ‘facet’ as accurately as she can: ‘How to ...

Wobble in My Mind

Colm Tóibín: Lizzie, Cal and Caroline, 7 May 2020

The Dolphin Letters, 1970-79: Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell and Their Circle 
edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 560 pp., £35, January, 978 0 571 35741 3
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The Dolphin: Two Versions, 1972-73 
by Robert Lowell, edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Farrar, Straus, 224 pp., £11.99, December 2019, 978 0 374 53827 9
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... uncertainties.’When she discovered that Lowell was with Blackwood, she wrote to her friend Mary McCarthy: ‘I knew Cal [Lowell] had a girl and had been distressed for some time, but it was just this afternoon that I knew it was Caroline. I felt such relief and burst out laughing! … I cannot take her seriously for Cal. There is a comic element to me in ...

Weimar in Partibus

Norman Stone, 1 July 1982

Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World 
by Elizabeth Young-Bruehl.
Yale, 563 pp., £12.95, May 1982, 0 300 02660 9
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Hannah Arendt and the Search for a New Political Philosophy 
by Bhikhu Parekh.
Macmillan, 198 pp., £20, October 1981, 0 333 30474 8
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... Arendt was very Sixties. Her friends in America were of the Left – Philip Rahv, Mary McCarthy (her generous literary executor) and Dwight MacDonald – and she supported, usually with some individual overtone, the advanced causes of the era, from Castro to Vietnam. In the early Sixties she achieved a succès de scandale with her articles (for the ...

Nixon’s Greatest Moments

R.W. Johnson, 13 May 1993

Nixon: A Life 
by Jonathan Aitken.
Weidenfeld, 633 pp., £25, January 1993, 0 297 81259 9
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... he would hardly want a running mate from the same Slate and if Taft won it, he was likely to pick William Knowland, the senior California Senator. Since he was determined to become someone’s running mate – quite regardless of State loyalty or ideological preference – Nixon worked to ditch the chances of both Warren and Taft. Ike was comically ...

Vermin Correspondence

Iain Sinclair, 20 October 1994

Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play 
by Ben Watson.
Quartet, 597 pp., £25, May 1994, 0 7043 7066 2
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Her Weasels Wild Returning 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 12 pp., £2, May 1994
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... that overwhelms its origin. We’ve finally (post-National Book Award) got around to Cormac McCarthy, whose first novel, The Orchard Keeper, was published in 1966, but we continue to ignore William Eastlake, who worked (Go in Beauty and Portrait of an Artist with 26 Horses) a parallel seam with equal distinction. To ...

Enemies For Ever

James Wolcott: ‘Making It’, 18 May 2017

Making It 
by Norman Podhoretz.
NYRB, 368 pp., £13.98, May 2017, 978 1 68137 080 4
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... of editors on the look-out. He’s invited to write reviews for the New Yorker, whose editor, William Shawn, was as Jamesian a figure as Lionel Trilling, a mandarin of almost excruciating courtesy and subtle indirection, riddled with phobias. Podhoretz prided himself, as well he might, on being the only young man to write for both Partisan Review and the ...

A Short History of the Trump Family

Sidney Blumenthal: The First Family, 16 February 2017

... Also cited in the FHA investigation was Fred Trump’s partner, contractor and financier William ‘Willie’ Tomasello, who according to the federal Organised Crime Task Force was associated with elements of both the Gambino and Genovese families.Fred Trump appeared to be grooming Fred Jr to take over his business. But he was a harsh and exigent ...

Amor vincit Vinnie

Marilyn Butler, 21 February 1985

Foreign Affairs 
by Alison Lurie.
Joseph, 291 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 0 7181 2516 9
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... new Lurie doesn’t resemble a Bradbury or Lodge, or for that matter an early Lurie, so much as William Boyd’s Stars and Bars, which also investigates how members of one Anglophone culture don’t merely observe but exploit the other one. The protagonists in the new Lurie and Boyd novels are diffident people in mid-life, misfits or at least ...

Anti-Liberalism

Alan Brinkley, 7 January 1988

Armed Truce 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 667 pp., £14.95, November 1986, 0 241 11843 3
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The Wise Men 
by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas.
Faber, 853 pp., £15.95, January 1987, 0 571 14606 6
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Ike 
by Piers Brendon.
Secker, 478 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 0 436 06813 3
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May-Day 
by Michael Beschloss.
Faber, 494 pp., £14.95, November 1986, 0 571 14593 0
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... control, that its own actions and misperceptions played a vital role in shaping Soviet behaviour. William Taubman, one of the most astute recent students of Soviet foreign policy (and himself a critic of many revisionist assumptions), has presented a far more persuasive picture in his excellent book Stalin’s American Policy (1982), which Thomas cites in ...

Look over your shoulder

Christopher Hitchens, 25 May 1995

... At different pitches and with different timbres, this refrain has been part of the Joe McCarthy movement, the George Wallace campaign and every Republican surge from Nixon to Gingrich. (But let’s not be too partisan about it; the rhetoric evolved from the days when the Ku Klux Klan and the Southern Democratic Party were each other’s official ...

Down with DWEMs

John Sutherland, 15 August 1991

ProfScam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education 
by Charles Sykes.
St Martin’s, 304 pp., $9.95, December 1989, 0 312 03916 6
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Tenured Redicals: How politics has corrupted our Higher Education 
by Roger Kimball.
HarperCollins, 222 pp., $9.95, April 1991, 0 06 092049 1
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... Culture’s got to go’ (the course, they meant – but it sounded more ominous than that). William Bennett, Secretary for Education, also came to visit the campus. He is the author of To reclaim a heritage: A Report on the Humanities in Higher Education (1984). Bennett thought that Western Culture had to stay and said so, face to face with Stanford’s ...

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