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Fire Down Below

Keith Hopkins

10 November 1994
The Formation of Hell 
by Alan Bernstein.
UCL, 392 pp., £25, December 1993, 1 85728 225 6
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... foster their own depravity. ‘The more merciful the theory,’ Augustine declared, ‘the more it contradicts the words of God.’ Harsh truth must take precedence over hopes for loving forgiveness. AlanBernstein has written a sturdy book on the history of hell in Antiquity; sturdy, in that there is no negotiation here between orthodox rigorism and soft liberalism: for him, history is the objective ...
8 March 1990
Alan​ Moorehead 
by Tom Pocock.
Bodley Head, 311 pp., £16.95, February 1990, 0 370 31261 9
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Loyalties: A Son’s Memoir 
by Carl Bernstein.
Macmillan, 254 pp., £15.95, January 1990, 0 333 52135 8
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Downstart 
by Brian Inglis.
Chatto, 298 pp., £15.95, January 1990, 0 7011 3390 2
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... actors, journalists have to believe in the glamour of their own calling. And here nothing has helped as much as the relatively recent invention of the journalist as superstar. Like Cameron himself, Alan Moorehead was just such a figure. He was probably the most celebrated of all the 1939-45 war correspondents. Along with his rival from the radio, Chester Wilmot, Moorehead was an Australian by birth ...
20 October 1994
Dictatorship of Virtue: Multiculturalism and the Battle for America’s Future 
by Richard Bernstein.
Knopf, 367 pp., $25, September 1994, 0 679 41156 9
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... In his new book, Richard Bernstein – one of the best reporters at the New York Times – offers some detailed descriptions, and some solid criticisms, of a serious nuisance. Unfortunately, he then tries to inflate this nuisance into ...
2 August 1984
Hermeneutics: Questions and Prospects 
edited by Gary Shapiro and Alan​ Sica.
Massachusetts, 310 pp., February 1984, 0 87023 416 1
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The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge 
by Jean-Francois Lyotard, translated by Geoff Bennington, Brian Massumi and Fredric Jameson.
Manchester, 110 pp., £23, August 1984, 0 7190 1450 6
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Literary Meaning: From Phenomenology to Deconstruction 
by William Ray.
Blackwell, 228 pp., £17.50, April 1984, 0 631 13457 3
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The Philosophy of the Novel: Lukacs, Marxism and the Dialectics of Form 
by J.M. Bernstein.
Harvester, 296 pp., £25, February 1984, 0 7108 0011 8
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Criticism and Objectivity 
by Raman Selden.
Allen and Unwin, 170 pp., £12.50, April 1984, 9780048000231
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... book is to keep this difficulty steadily in view while refusing to let go of the idea that theory – ‘intelligent theory’, if you like – is indispensably a part of the reader’s role. Jay Bernstein’s study of Lukacs also has to do with the relations between theory and narrative. It takes as its central text Lukacs’s early essay The Theory of the Novel, written in 1914-5, before he joined ...

Rivonia Days

R.W. Johnson: Remembering the trial

16 August 2007
The State v. Nelson Mandela: The Trial That Changed South Africa 
by Joel Joffe.
Oneworld, 288 pp., £16.99, July 2007, 978 1 85168 500 4
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... that Joel Joffe, then a young lawyer, took the case on only because he had already decided to emigrate. Two years later, he wrote up his lively insider’s view of the trial and allowed Lionel Bernstein, the only defendant to get off, to rewrite it to the point of virtual co-authorship. It was published somewhat obscurely in 1990 and is now reissued for the wider audience it deserves. Rivonia was ...
18 May 2000
Franz Liszt. Vol. III: The Final Years, 1861-86 
by Alan​ Walker.
Faber, 594 pp., £45, February 1998, 0 571 19034 0
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The Romantic Generation 
by Charles Rosen.
HarperCollins, 720 pp., £14.99, March 1999, 0 00 255712 6
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Franz Liszt: Selected Letters 
edited by Adrian Williams.
Oxford, 1063 pp., £70, January 1999, 0 19 816688 5
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... To be fair to Alan Walker, I should confess that I’m an amateur pianist who loves playing – or trying to play – some of the virtuoso music Liszt both composed and, of course, performed: relatively easy pieces ...

The Fame Game

Alan​ Brien

6 September 1984
Hype 
by Steven Aronson.
Hutchinson, 198 pp., £5.95, May 1984, 0 09 156251 1
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Automatic Vaudeville 
by John Lahr.
Heinemann, 241 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 434 40188 9
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Broadway Babies: The People who made the American Musical 
by Ethan Mordden.
Oxford, 244 pp., £19, August 1984, 0 19 503345 0
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... anybody, “absolutely anybody”, can walk through the door.’ He builds up ‘Suzy’, the gossip columnist who scorns social climbers and cannot be bribed by them, into the composite Woodward and Bernstein of the social world, fearlessly printing the truth no matter what the threats or promises. His lash falls on Barbara Cartland, who refuses to discuss Princess Di’ s periods, and Diana Trilling, who ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Kicking Dick Cheney

2 August 2007
... the experts as he furiously jotted notes on a stack of cards embossed with the vice-presidential seal. What kind of tax cuts are needed? Cheney wanted to know. How big?’ Cheney’s old friend Alan Greenspan, the excessively revered chairman of the Federal Reserve, wasn’t so keen on the cuts. Large budget deficits lead to higher interest rates in the long term, which in Greenspan’s opinion ...

First Puppet, Now Scapegoat

Inigo Thomas: Ass-Chewing in Washington

30 November 2006
State of Denial: Bush at War 
by Bob Woodward.
Simon and Schuster, 560 pp., £18.99, October 2006, 0 7432 9566 8
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... on TV – they never reveal much of themselves.What is known about Woodward? He’s a former navy man, who wrote several hundred articles on Watergate for the Washington Post with his colleague Carl Bernstein. The two then wrote famous books about the fall of Nixon, All the President’s Men and The Final Days, the first made into a well-known movie. Bernstein went to New York and wrote a book about the ...

Language Writing

Jerome McGann

15 October 1987
In the American Tree: Language, Poetry, Realism 
by Ron Silliman.
National Poetry Foundation, 628 pp., $34.50, June 1986, 0 915032 33 3
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‘Language’ Poetries: An Anthology 
by Douglas Messerli.
New Directions, 184 pp., $19.95, March 1987, 0 8112 1006 5
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... Modernist poetries which Jack Butler Yeats denounced. Indeed, what he had to say of those poets loved of Ezra Pound has been said, and continues to be said, of the poets and poetries loved of Charles Bernstein and Ron Silliman – two of the most important and influential of these new American writers. The anthologies edited by Silliman and Douglas Messerli contain a great deal of unpleasant and difficult ...

Abolish everything!

Andrew Hussey: Situationist International

2 September 1999
The Situationist City 
by Simon Sadler.
MIT, 248 pp., £24.95, March 1998, 0 262 19392 2
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... of the meeting at Cosio which portray the delegates in various symbolic or ludic sites around the village; the most famous shows the group, with Debord and his wife (and chief collaborator) Michèle Bernstein at the centre, staring down into the camera from the edge of a sheer drop, in front of a dilapidated house. What brought these disparate elements together to embark on the first phase, commonly known ...

Who Runs Britain?

Christopher Hitchens

8 December 1994
The Enemy Within: MI5, Maxwell and the Scargill Affair 
by Seumas Milne.
Verso, 352 pp., £18.95, November 1994, 0 86091 461 5
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... in which to discuss events. (The Donkeys, interestingly enough, was the title of a history of the Somme that formed the inspiration of Joan Littlewood’s Oh, What a Lovely War. Its author was Alan Clark. He at least did not pretend that Generals Haig and French, unlike Privates Scargill and Heathfield, were not responsible for a million dead.) To all this invocation of high and evasive ...

Red silk is the best blood

David Thomson: Sondheim

16 December 2010
Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-81), with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes 
by Stephen Sondheim.
Virgin, 445 pp., £30, October 2010, 978 0 7535 2258 5
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... stock market. It was that show, and his sharp lyrics, that got Sondheim invited to collaborate on West Side Story (1957), where he worked in lofty company – writer Arthur Laurents, composer Leonard Bernstein and director Jerome Robbins. The show was not just a hit but a turning point in musical theatre. Today, Sondheim feels he sometimes had the Jets and Sharks speaking too archly or poetically – his ...

Text-Inspectors

Andrew O’Hagan: The Good Traitor

24 September 2014
No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State 
by Glenn Greenwald.
Hamish Hamilton, 259 pp., £20, May 2014, 978 0 241 14669 9
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... journalist is in a panic – about security, about deadlines, about being scooped, about being misunderstood – while the source is cool and inscrutable. Snowden later told the Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, that if ‘I end up in chains in Guantánamo Bay … I can live with it’. Greenwald is a former constitutional and human rights lawyer, and now a journalist who isn’t afraid to point ...

Into the Eisenshpritz

Elif Batuman: Superheroes

10 April 2008
Life, in Pictures: Autobiographical Stories 
by Will Eisner.
Norton, 493 pp., £18.99, November 2007, 978 0 393 06107 9
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Epileptic 
by David B..
Cape, 368 pp., £12.99, March 2006, 0 224 07920 4
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Shortcomings 
by Adrian Tomine.
Faber, 108 pp., £12.99, September 2007, 978 0 571 23329 8
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Misery Loves Comedy 
by Ivan Brunetti.
Fantagraphics, 172 pp., £15.99, April 2007, 978 1 56097 792 6
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... of its practitioners as either an empty euphemism or a marketing ploy. As Marjane Satrapi puts it, graphic novels simply enable ‘the bourgeois to read comics without feeling bad’; according to Alan Moore, they allow publishers to ‘stick six issues of whatever worthless piece of crap they happened to be publishing lately under a glossy cover and call it The She-Hulk Graphic Novel’. Moore and ...

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