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The Biggest Rockets

Alex Ross: Gustav Mahler, 24 August 2000

Gustav Mahler. Vol. III. Vienna: Triumph and Disillusion (1904 to 1907) 
by Henry-Louis de La Grange.
Oxford, 1024 pp., £35, February 1999, 9780193151604
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The Mahler Companion 
edited by Donald Mitchell and Andrew Nicholson.
Oxford, 652 pp., £50, May 1999, 0 19 816376 2
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... In thirty or forty years,’ Gustav Mahler is said to have said, ‘Beethoven’s symphonies will no longer be played in concerts. My symphonies will take their place.’ The line comes from a dubious source – an ageing critic – but it is not out of character. Mahler, the most generous of megalomaniacs, often prophesied great things for his music, and, to judge from the programmes of recent seasons, his roll-over-Beethoven fantasy is coming true ...

He is cubic!

Tom Stammers: Wagnerism, 4 August 2022

Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music 
by Alex Ross.
Fourth Estate, 769 pp., £14.99, September 2021, 978 0 00 842294 3
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... and reverie in the dark created a sense of initiation in a Wagnerian cult.‘Wagnerism’, Alex Ross claims, has become a ‘synonym for grandiose, bombastic, overbearing, or, simply, very long’. His analysis of Wagner’s reception attempts to pinpoint the origins of these associations and interrogate their legitimacy. He is not concerned here ...

In the Body Bag

Adam Mars-Jones: Ian McEwan’s ‘Nutshell’, 6 October 2016

by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 198 pp., £16.99, September 2016, 978 1 911214 33 5
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... if any has been imposed. McEwan chooses a reformulation of Hamlet’s own last words. Perhaps if Alex Ross hadn’t used the phrase for a celebrated survey of 20th-century music he would have opted for ‘The rest is noise,’ entirely suitable for a newborn’s first exposure to the sounding world. (McEwan chooses ‘chaos’.) In the body of the ...

The End of Labour?

Colin Kidd, 8 March 2012

... SNP during a midwinter silly season offensive, has managed to provoke Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, into a daring dash for independence. Salmond is not – as the English fail miserably to understand – an out-and-out nationalist. He is a gradualist in a party that has long contained divisions between fundamentalist and gradualist wings. He is ...

Boofy’s Bill

Alex Harvey, 18 September 1997

... would not apply in Scotland (largely because of the opposition of the Secretary of State, Willie Ross), Northern Ireland or the Armed Forces; and the age of consent was fixed at 21. Richard Crossman, who was then Leader of the House, was far from popular with his Northern MPs for giving the Bill Parliamentary time. As for Harold Wilson, he hated the whole ...

After the Referendum

LRB Contributors, 9 October 2014

... a tear and that’s that. Except, it’s not. I was still on the sofa when Phil came in to tell me Alex Salmond had resigned. He wasn’t our ‘leader’, though he’d sure impressed us. I got up and went to the laptop. The Times front page was online: ‘Salmond quits as powers for Scotland are blocked’. The devo-max ‘vow’ was already falling ...


Stephen Wall, 26 March 1992

Surviving: The Uncollected Writings of Henry Green 
edited by Matthew Yorke.
Chatto, 302 pp., £18, February 1992, 0 7011 3900 5
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Pack my bag 
by Henry Green.
Hogarth, 242 pp., £9.99, February 1992, 0 7012 0988 7
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by Henry Green.
Harvill, 225 pp., £6.99, February 1992, 0 00 271185 0
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... the social balance of its predecessor, being mainly concerned with the rich – Max, Amabel, Alex and their smart friends, driven to take refuge in a station hotel when the trains stop because of fog. Outside, the waiting crowds sit patiently on the platforms; in the warmth of the hotel drinks are sent for and Amabel has a lingering bath. ...


Tom Nairn: On Culloden, 9 May 1996

... grandeur lies all about, however, in a vast arena stretching from Mount Eagle and Easter Ross in the north, across the Moray Firth to the escalating foothills of Grampian in the south. The Culloden drama was on that scale. It was an event of world importance, one of whose side-effects happened to be the severance of something vital in Scottish ...

Hanging out with Higgins

Michael Wood, 7 December 1989

Silent Partner 
by Jonathan Kellerman.
Macdonald, 506 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 356 17598 7
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‘Murder will out’: The Detective in Fiction 
by T.J. Binyon.
Oxford, 166 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780192192233
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Devices and Desires 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 408 pp., £11.99, October 1989, 0 571 14178 1
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by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 287 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 670 82258 2
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by George V. Higgins.
Deutsch, 213 pp., £11.95, November 1989, 0 233 98513 1
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Polar Star 
by Martin Cruz Smith.
Collins Harvill, 373 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 00 271269 5
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... area – journalism, medicine – who stumbles into an investigation. Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware, who appears in Silent Partner and in Kellerman’s earlier novels, like Blood Test, or When the bough breaks, is a Californian child psychologist who meets violence and misdemeanour all over the place, and not just with children. The new novel ...
... was emphatically against that. Two questions it would have to be. Strong rumour suggests that Alex Salmond would have preferred to go for devo-max – which would undoubtedly have been accepted by a massive majority of the Scottish electorate – and then, after bedding down the new powers, to go to the country again in a few years’ time on the final ...

‘We’ know who ‘we’ are

Edward Said: Palestine, Iraq and ‘Us’, 17 October 2002

... when compared with those of some members of the Bush Administration. The Israeli journalist Alex Fishman described the ‘revolutionary ideas’ of Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld (who also refers to the ‘so-called occupied territories’) as terrifyingly hawkish. Sharon has said that ‘next to our American friends’ Effi Eitam – one of the Israeli ...

What did he think he was?

Tom Shippey: Ælfred the Great, 10 May 2018

Ælfred’s Britain: War and Peace in the Viking Age 
by Max Adams.
Head of Zeus, 509 pp., £9.99, May 2018, 978 1 78408 031 0
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... that, alderman Ethelred was hand in glove with Alfred. The silence about him is deeply suspicious. Alex Woolf, of St Andrews, has made the startling suggestion that perhaps he was the rightful king of Mercia, son of the runaway King Burgred and his wife, Alfred’s sister Ethelswith. His name combines elements from those of his putative parents; and this ...


Peter Robb, 20 June 1985

Selected Letters of E.M. Forster: Vol. I: 1879-1920, Vol. II: 1921-1970 
edited by Mary Lago and P.N. Furbank.
Collins, 344 pp., £15.95, October 1983, 0 00 216718 2
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... el Adl – I may not even have mentioned his name to you, he was a tram-conductor whom I met in Alex 1917-1919, and again saw in 1922, soon before his death. I assumed the letters would be nothing much, but gave a glance before destroying them and was amazed – all the things I most adore glimmering in them. He had gone underground in the interval ... They ...

Sisyphus at the Selectric

James Wolcott: Undoing Philip Roth, 20 May 2021

Philip Roth: The Biography 
by Blake Bailey.
Cape, 898 pp., £30, April, 978 0 224 09817 5
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Philip Roth: A Counterlife 
by Ira Nadel.
Oxford, 546 pp., £22.99, May, 978 0 19 984610 8
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Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth 
by Benjamin Taylor.
Penguin, 192 pp., £18, May 2020, 978 0 525 50524 2
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... cover depicting Marilyn Monroe mussing his hair had cost him his.)Roth’s first choice was Ross Miller, a friend, professor at the University of Connecticut and nephew of the playwright Arthur Miller. Unfortunately, the neph was no chip off the old oak. Hapless is perhaps the kindest word. A workhorse like Roth could only look on aghast at the ...

Different Speeds, Same Furies

Perry Anderson: Powell v. Proust, 19 July 2018

Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 509 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 241 14383 4
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... in a belated stage version of his prewar novel Afternoon Men – tell no tales. His friend Alan Ross, editor of the London Magazine, thought that surrounded by promiscuous friends, he may have simply found a vicarious pleasure, productive for his fiction, in observing them, while conducting his own marital life with the meticulous sexual correctness Jenkins ...

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