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Humph, He, Ha

Julian Barnes: Degas’s Achievement, 4 January 2018

Degas: A Passion for Perfection 
Fitzwilliam Museum/Cambridge, until 14 January 2018Show More
Degas Danse Dessin: Hommage à Degas avec Paul Valéry 
Musée d’Orsay/Paris, until 25 February 2018Show More
Drawn in Colour: Degas from the Burrell 
National Gallery, London, until 7 May 2018Show More
Degas and His Model 
by Alice Michel, translated by Jeff Nagy.
David Zwirner, 88 pp., £8.95, June 2017, 978 1 941701 55 3
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... Mercure de France. An as-told-to by a certain ‘Pauline’, written up in the third person by ‘Alice Michel’, who may have been the novelist ‘Rachilde’ (co-editor and co-founder of Le Mercure), it is not so much kiss-and-tell as pose-and-tell. And it is a curious text to evaluate, the more so when rendered into American English, with Degas as a ...

’Oly, ’Oly, ’Oly

D.A.N. Jones, 20 December 1990

From Early Life 
by William Cooper.
Macmillan, 180 pp., £13.95, August 1990, 0 333 52367 9
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Son of Adam 
by Denis Forman.
Deutsch, 201 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 9780233985930
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A Welsh Childhood 
by Alice Thomas Ellis and Patrick Sutherland.
Joseph, 186 pp., £15.99, September 1990, 0 7181 3292 0
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Alarms and Excursions: Thirty Years in Israel 
by Naomi Shepherd.
Collins, 220 pp., £16, August 1990, 0 00 215333 5
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Birds of Ill Omen 
by Marie Seurat, translated by Dorothy Blair.
Quartet, 168 pp., £10.95, September 1990, 0 7043 2694 9
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... numinous landscapes, properly illustrating some aspects of the author’s moody, rambling text. Alice Thomas Ellis, a Roman Catholic novelist, was brought up in Penmaenmawr, between Conwy and Bangor on the North Wales coast, facing the island of Anglesey. In one of her moods, she is inclined towards elegy for the ruined stone cottages and commination for ...

Quashed Quotatoes

Michael Wood: Finnegans Wake, 16 December 2010

Finnegans Wake 
by James Joyce, edited by Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon.
Houyhnhnm, 493 pp., £250, March 2010, 978 0 9547710 1 0
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Joyce’s Disciples Disciplined 
edited by Tim Conley.
University College Dublin, 185 pp., £42.50, May 2010, 978 1 906359 46 1
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... the writing of his last novel, that he hadn’t read Carroll until a friend ‘gave me a book, not Alice, a few weeks ago – though, of course, I heard bits and scraps’. The letter is dated 1627, so there may be a joke here rather than an error. Still, I don’t think we need to see Joyce as being disingenuous – David Greetham wonders about this in an ...

Earthworm on Zither

Paul Grimstad: Raymond Roussel, 26 April 2012

Impressions of Africa 
by Raymond Roussel, translated by Mark Polizzotti.
Dalkey, 280 pp., £10.99, June 2011, 978 1 56478 624 1
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New Impressions of Africa 
by Raymond Roussel, translated by Mark Ford.
Princeton, 264 pp., £16.95, April 2011, 978 0 691 14459 7
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... world he carried inside him. Most of the knowledge we have of Roussel’s temperament comes from Michel Leiris (his father, Eugène, was the Roussel family accountant), who wrote: ‘In all the countries he visited, he saw only what he had put there in advance.’ More recently Nicholas Jenkins put it neatly: Roussel, he wrote, appears ‘to have had no ...

Soap

Wendy Steiner, 28 June 1990

The New Women and the Old Men: Love, Sex and the Women Question 
by Ruth Brandon.
Secker, 294 pp., £16.95, January 1990, 0 436 06722 6
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... with erotic subject-matter in a contradictory and sometimes disturbing discourse. Brandon quotes Michel Foucault on the significance of the sexual debate for the 19th century: ‘The “right” to life, to one’s body, to health, to happiness, to the satisfaction of needs, and ... the “right” to discover what one is and all that one can be, this ...

Sorry to be so vague

Hugh Haughton: Eugene Jolas and Samuel Beckett, 29 July 1999

Man from Babel 
by Eugene Jolas.
Yale, 352 pp., £20, January 1999, 0 300 07536 7
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No Author Better Served: The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider 
edited by Maurice Harmon.
Harvard, 486 pp., £21.95, October 1998, 0 674 62522 6
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... and of course it meant a great deal to everybody,’ Gertrude Stein wrote in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, her story of ‘how two americans happened to be at the heart of an art movement of which the outside world at the time knew nothing’. The two Americans she had in mind, as so often, were Gertrude Stein and ...

Down to the Last Cream Puff

Steven Shapin: The End of Haute Cuisine, 5 August 2010

Au Revoir to All That: The Rise and Fall of French Cuisine 
by Michael Steinberger.
Bloomsbury, 248 pp., £8.99, July 2010, 978 1 4088 0136 9
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... stars meant and then filing reports from every one of France’s three-star establishments. Alice B. Toklas wrote her Cookbook, she said, ‘for America’, partly to explain the ‘delicacy and poignancy’, the perfect balance, of French cooking. (Alice’s recipe for boeuf bourguignon doesn’t have Julia’s ...

Troglodytes

Patrick Parrinder, 25 October 1990

Notes on the Underground: An Essay on Technology, Society and the Imagination 
by Rosalind Williams.
MIT, 265 pp., £22.50, March 1990, 9780262231459
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The Mask of the Prophet: The Extraordinary Fictions of Jules Verne 
by Andrew Martin.
Oxford, 222 pp., £27.50, May 1990, 0 19 815798 3
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... but not the Wonderland of strange creatures found down a rabbit-hole (there is no mention of Alice), nor even a convocation of politic worms. Very fairly, Rosalind Williams contends in her preface that each time a reader says, ‘She should have mentioned ...’ it is a sign not of her book’s failure, but of its success. She has deliberately ...

Et in Alhambra ego

D.A.N. Jones, 5 June 1986

Agate: A Biography 
by James Harding.
Methuen, 238 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 413 58090 3
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Subsequent Performances 
by Jonathan Miller.
Faber, 253 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 571 13133 6
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... review of Olivier-as-Macbeth concludes with a perfunctory compliment to ‘the production of M. Michel Saint-Denis, Motley’s scenery and the incidental music of M. Darius Milhaud’. This is where we may feel the need for someone like Jonathan Miller, demanding attention for his interpretation of the play. In Subsequent Performances Miller makes use of ...

High-Step with a Bull

T.J. Clark: Picasso, The Vollard Suite, 2 August 2012

Picasso Prints: The Vollard Suite 
British MuseumShow More
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... garland, and the sculptor is dreaming of his days as a wild thing. (Picasso was 51 in 1933. Michel Leiris in his diary records a group of friends at the time gossiping about the decline in their hero’s sexual powers. The gossip sounds dreary, but Picasso was asking for it.) Plate 56 of the Vollard Suite. Everything depends, in this etching and ...

A Man’s Man’s World

Steven Shapin: Kitchens, 30 November 2000

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly 
by Anthony Bourdain.
Bloomsbury, 307 pp., £16.99, August 2000, 0 7475 5072 7
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... board with Beth dry-humping him from behind, saying: “How do you like it, bitch?”’ (I trust Alice Waters orders these matters differently at Chez Panisse.) Bourdain records four epiphanies – all suitably profane – that confirmed his vocation. The first came when he was 11 years old, on vacation in France to visit his French father’s family. There ...

Lamb’s Tails

Christopher Driver, 19 June 1986

All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the Present 
by Stephen Mennell.
Blackwell, 380 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 631 13244 9
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Curye on Inglysch: English Culinary Manuscripts of the 14th Century including ‘The Forme of Cury’ 
edited by Constance Hieatt and Sharon Butler.
Oxford, for the Early English Text Society, 224 pp., £6.50, April 1985, 0 19 722409 1
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The English Cookbook 
by Victor Gordon.
Cape, 304 pp., £12.50, November 1985, 0 224 02300 4
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... after all, were relatively more expensive for châtelaines than the meats they accompanied. (Dame Alice de Bryene paid 4s 6d a pound in the 15th century for cinnamon, allowing about two and a half ounces per person per year.) They were used liberally – but, in Dame Alice’s household, not excessively – however fresh ...

Crack Open the Shells

Hal Foster: The Situationist Moment, 12 March 2009

Correspondence: The Foundation of the Situationist International (June 1957-60) 
by Guy Debord, translated by Stuart Kendall and John McHale.
Semiotext(e), 397 pp., £12.95, February 2009, 978 1 58435 055 2
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... this time, Bernstein, who refused her letters to the editor of the volume, Debord’s second wife, Alice Becker-Ho. As McKenzie Wark suggests in his helpful introduction, Debord serves as ‘secretary’ of the SI in the sense of both party head and general assistant: philosopher and disciplinarian, he is also publicist and agent, debating with collaborators ...

As If

Jonathan Romney: ‘Cahiers du cinéma’, 9 September 2010

A Short History of ‘Cahiers du cinéma’ 
by Emilie Bickerton.
Verso, 156 pp., £12.99, March 2010, 978 1 84467 232 5
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... is that Cahiers has continued to ask questions about cinema politics. Under the editorship of Jean-Michel Frodon (formerly the chief film critic at Le Monde), it ran a supremely uncommercial cover story in April 2007 consisting of 12 proposals on film policy for the incoming French government. It has also taken up the cause of non-commercial cinema: a ...

Self-Amused

Adam Phillips: Isaiah Berlin, 23 July 2009

Isaiah Berlin, Enlightening: Letters 1946-60 
edited by Henry Hardy and Jennifer Holmes.
Chatto, 844 pp., £35, June 2009, 978 0 7011 7889 5
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... panic occurred’. Berlin mentions this, jokily and in passing, in several letters, but Alice James, the wife of William James’s son Billy, gets the full story of the disaster that didn’t happen, at least to Berlin. ‘I saw a thin flame crawling up the side of my window & decided that it would take at least ten minutes to reach me & there ...

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