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Adam to Zeus

Colin Burrow: John Banville, 11 March 2010

The Infinities 
by John Banville.
Picador, 300 pp., £7.99, March 2010, 978 0 330 45025 6
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... or scientists or academics with high aesthetic ideals and dodgy personal histories, like Victor Maskell, the Anthony Blunt-ish hero of The Untouchable, or the murderer Freddie Montgomery in The Book of Evidence, or the unnamed narrators of the string of novels which followed. These men are set apart from other people by a massive sense of self-worth ...

St Marilyn

Andrew O’Hagan: The Girl and Me, 6 January 2000

The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe 
Christie’s, 415 pp., $85, September 1999, 0 903432 64 1Show More
The Complete Marilyn Monroe 
by Adam Victor.
Thames and Hudson, 339 pp., £29.95, November 1999, 0 500 01978 9
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Marilyn Monroe 
by Barbara Leaming.
Orion, 474 pp., £8.99, October 1999, 0 7528 2692 1
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... Kennedy dress smashed the previous world record for the sale of a female costume: a blue velvet Victor Edelstein dress belonging to Princess Diana that sold for £222,500 in June 1997. The actor and peroxophile Tony Curtis, who must have forgotten that he once said kissing Marilyn was like kissing Hitler, got out of his seat at the auction to tell reporters ...

Be flippant

David Edgar: Noël Coward’s Return, 9 December 1999

1956 and All That 
by Dan Reballato.
Routledge, 265 pp., £40, February 1999, 0 415 18938 1
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Collected Plays: Six 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 415 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73410 2
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Collected Plays: Seven 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 381 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73410 2
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Collected Revue Sketches and Parodies 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 282 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73390 4
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Noël Coward: A Life in Quotes 
edited by Barry Day.
Metro, 116 pp., £9.99, November 1999, 9781900512848
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Noël Coward: The Complete Lyrics 
Methuen, 352 pp., £30, December 1998, 0 413 73230 4Show More
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... In the film about Noël Coward that Adam Low made for Arena in 1998, there is a shot of Arnold Wesker watching a recording of a Royal Court fundraising gala in which Coward is marvellous but clearly miserable as the restaurant owner in an extract from Wesker’s The Kitchen. Less emblematic but equally germane is the story, told in Philip Hoare’s 1995 biography, of Coward’s visit to the Court to see David Storey’s grittily realistic Rugby League play The Changing Room ...

The Lemming Market

Atossa Araxia Abrahamian: Asset Class Art, 10 May 2018

Dark Side of the Boom: The Excesses of the Art Market in the 21st Century 
by Georgina Adam.
Lund Humphries, 232 pp., £20, January 2018, 978 1 84822 220 5
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A History of the Western Art Market: A Sourcebook of Writings on Artists, Dealers and Markets 
edited by Titia Hulst.
California, 416 pp., £28, November 2017, 978 0 520 29063 1
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... about watching the world’s wealthiest people spend 19 minutes bidding up, up, up, until a victor emerges half a billion dollars less rich. The crowd gasped as the zeros multiplied, and erupted into cheers when one of five prospective buyers phoned in the winning bid. The painting sold for $450 million including fees – the highest sum ever commanded ...

The Honour of Defeat

D.J. Enright, 3 December 1981

The Life of Villiers de I’Isle-Adam 
by A.W. Raitt.
Oxford, 470 pp., £25, October 1981, 0 19 815771 1
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... Born in 1838, Jean-Marie-Mathias-Philippe-Auguste, Comte de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam came of an illustrious Breton line, latterly more distinguished for its poverty and eccentricity. His grandfather, who fought against the Revolution but failed to thrive under the Restoration, wrote to the Minister of Justice in 1815 that, had his name not been so long already, he would have asked the reigning monarch, Louis XVIII, ‘to add to it that of “poor devil”, and that is a name I really deserve ...


Emilie Bickerton, 22 November 2018

The Great Nadar: The Man behind the Camera 
by Adam Begley.
Tim Duggan, 247 pp., £12.99, July 2018, 978 1 101 90262 2
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... Charles Bataille said of his friend Félix Nadar, ‘turbulent, unexpected, terrifying’. Adam Begley’s biography describes a life lived so frenetically, it’s surprising it lasted so long – Nadar died at the age of ninety, in 1910. Yet he is remembered today primarily for the stillness and serenity of his photographic portraits of 19th-century ...

On the Run

Adam Phillips: John Lanchester, 2 March 2000

Mr Phillips 
by John Lanchester.
Faber, 247 pp., £16.99, January 2000, 9780571201617
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... man left alone in the universe would have no rights whatsoever, but he would have obligations.’ Victor Phillips, the eponymous hero of Lanchester’s new novel, doesn’t think of himself as a man of big themes, and so wouldn’t be drawn either to reading about them, or indeed to mocking them. Whether or not Mr Phillips would have been Simone Weil’s cup ...

Walter Scott’s Post-War Europe

Marilyn Butler, 7 February 1980

Walter Scott and the Historical Imagination 
by David Brown.
Routledge, 239 pp., £9.75, August 1980, 0 7100 0301 3
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... first novelist to represent the historical process, the first portrayer of society in terms that Adam Smith might and Karl Marx did approve. David Brown makes the academic case admirably. He begins by modestly disclaiming originality: he is developing insights put forward by others in recent years, and only applying them more carefully to a selection of the ...

They don’t say that about Idi Amin

Andrew O’Hagan: Bellow Whinges, 6 January 2011

Saul Bellow: Letters 
edited by Benjamin Taylor.
Viking, 571 pp., $35, November 2010, 978 0 670 02221 2
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... ones, where Bellow suddenly drops out of the race, as when he sends stamps to his son. ‘Dear Adam – Here are some stamps. Countries sometimes disappear and leave nothing behind but some postage stamps. But Papas and Adams go on and on.’ He much prefers sparring with a big and capable admirer like Leon Wieseltier than passing on news to his ...


Adam Shatz, 16 April 2020

... match between the US and the Soviet Union, refereed by China, which finally declared the US the victor by itself embracing capitalism.) ‘Conservatism became revolutionary’ while the left became conservative, forced to defend the gains of the past. The result today is clear: a ‘world in decomposition’ in which ‘most … have ceased to believe in a ...

Like Cutting a Cow

Adam Kuper: Ritual killings in southern Africa, 6 July 2006

Medicine Murder in Colonial Lesotho: The Anatomy of a Moral Crisis 
by Colin Murray and Peter Sanders.
Edinburgh, 493 pp., £50, May 2006, 0 7486 2284 5
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... of inquiry into ‘witchcraft violence and ritual murders’. Led by the Venda anthropologist Victor Ralushai, the commission documented the recent wave of witch-hunts and medicine murders in grisly detail but paid more attention to what it considered, like King James I, to be the real threat of witchcraft. Another anthropologist, Isak Niehaus, has since ...

A Thousand Sharp Edges

Adam Mars-Jones: Antonio Muñoz Molina, 18 June 2015

In the Night of Time 
by Antonio Muñoz Molina, translated by Edith Grossman.
Tuskar Rock, 641 pp., £16.99, April 2015, 978 1 78125 463 9
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... the children … were picked up by their grandfather, the maiden aunts, Abel’s brother-in-law Victor, and the uncle who was a priest, and scrutinised as they discussed to which of the two lines a nose or a type of hair or dimples belonged, from which Ponce or Cañizares or Salcedo the baby had inherited the tendency to cry so loudly – those strong ...

After George W. Bush, the Deluge

Murray Sayle: Back to the Carboniferous, 21 June 2001

Draft Report of the 17th Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Nairobi, 4-6 April 2001 
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Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability 
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The Collapse of the Kyoto Protocol and the Struggle to Slow Global Warming 
by David Victor.
Princeton, 192 pp., £12.95, April 2001, 0 691 08870 5
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Managing the Planet: The Politics of the New Millennium 
by Norman Moss.
Earthscan, 232 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 1 85383 644 3
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... this life, real wisdom, and the surest and readiest means of obtaining both safety and advantage. Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments On 13 March President George W. Bush wrote to four Republican Senators informing them that he would not be ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, aimed at reducing worldwide emissions of ‘greenhouse’ gases, especially carbon ...

Not to Be Read without Shuddering

Adam Smyth: The Atheist’s Bible, 20 February 2014

The Atheist’s Bible: The Most Dangerous Book That Never Existed 
by Georges Minois, translated by Lys Ann Weiss.
Chicago, 249 pp., £21, October 2012, 978 0 226 53029 1
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... where, between the giants and the scatology, Rabelais describes the Library of St Victor in Paris – perhaps Europe’s earliest imaginary library. Among the volumes Pantagruel finds are The Codpiece of the Law; The Testes of Theology; On the Art of Discreetly Farting in Company; Three Books on How to Chew Bacon; Martingale Breeches with ...

Belfryful of Bells

Theo Tait: John Banville, 19 November 2015

The Blue Guitar 
by John Banville.
Viking, 250 pp., £14.99, September 2015, 978 0 241 00432 6
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... an alternate reality, in the ‘new-old world that Godley’s theorem wrought’. This refers to Adam Godley, from his 2009 novel The Infinities, a mathematician who cooked up the world-changing Brahma Postulate. This is something to do with quantum physics, and it means that there are an infinite number of worlds, that history has gone into reverse, that ...

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