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Jon Elster, 18 March 1982

Marx’s Politics 
by Alan Gilbert.
Martin Robertson, 326 pp., £16.50, August 1981, 0 85520 441 9
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The History of Marxism. Vol. 1: Marxism in Marx’s Day 
edited by Eric Hobsbawm.
Harvester, 349 pp., £30, January 1982, 0 7108 0054 1
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Dialectic of Defeat: Contours of Western Marxism 
by Russell Jacoby.
Cambridge, 202 pp., £15.80, January 1982, 9780521239158
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Analytical Foundations of Marxian Economic Theory 
by John Roemer.
Cambridge, 230 pp., £19.50, August 1981, 0 521 23047 0
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Karl Marx: The Arguments of the Philosophers 
by Allen Wood.
Routledge, 304 pp., £13.50, January 1981, 0 7100 0672 1
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... or – at a pinch – by denying the principle of contradiction. Of the present authors, Wood is the only one to present a sustained defence of this mode of reasoning, albeit in a diluted and therefore less absurd form. Secondly, much confusion has been generated by the twin errors of treating Marx and Engels either as identical in all respects or as ...

A Kind of Slither

Michael Wood: Woody Allen, 27 April 2000

The Unruly Life of Woody Allen 
by Marion Meade.
Weidenfeld, 384 pp., £20, February 2000, 0 297 81868 6
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... The films of Woody Allen are dedicated to the proposition that life is both alarming and boring. Is this possible? Surely alarms are at least interesting? Nothing is interesting in Allen’s imagined world except the nervousness of the mind observing the banality, the sheer invention with which the imagination pictures its cage ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Fading Gigolo’, 19 June 2014

Fading Gigolo 
directed by John Turturro.
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... their doubts and decide they have seen it all before. It’s true the film owes a lot to Woody Allen, and not just because he has a major acting part in it. It owes a lot to the Coen Brothers too. But it entirely lacks the angry edge that marks the later Allen films and its quirkiness is quieter than even the quietest ...

Five Girls on a Rock

Allan Gibbard: Derek Parfit, 7 June 2012

On What Matters 
by Derek Parfit.
Oxford, 540 pp. and 825 pp., £30, May 2011, 978 0 19 926592 3
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... above all – that compete, at times tragically, with other moral considerations such as welfare. Allen Wood objects to the use of lifeboat cases as tests, since they leave out the social and institutional factors that ordinarily matter to us and on which our moral intuitions are trained. Still, he finds, there are cases in which Kantian ways of thinking ...

Rethinking the countryside

David Allen, 22 January 1987

The History of the Countryside 
by Oliver Rackham.
Dent, 445 pp., £16.95, April 1986, 0 460 04449 4
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Gilbert White: A Biography of the Author of the ‘Natural History of Selborne’ 
by Richard Mabey.
Century, 239 pp., £14.95, May 1986, 0 7126 1232 7
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The Journals of Gilbert White 1751-1773: Vol. 1 
edited by Francesca Greenoak.
Century, 531 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 7126 1294 7
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An Account of the Foxglove and its Medical Uses 1785-1985 
by J.K. Aronson.
Oxford, 399 pp., £25, February 1986, 0 19 261501 7
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The Oxford Dictionary of Natural History 
edited by Michael Allaby.
Oxford, 688 pp., £20, January 1986, 0 19 217720 6
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... has generally been supposed. Later on, a cluster of young historical ecologists based at Monks Wood Experimental Station, outside Huntingdon, deepened and widened some of Hoskins’s pioneer perceptions, adding support to them with biological data. Beginning to overtake all of these in practical effectiveness, however, is the remarkable figure of Oliver ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Blue Jasmine’, 24 October 2013

Blue Jasmine 
directed by Woody Allen.
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... Many critics and viewers have felt that Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen’s best film since Match Point. The accompanying implication is that the intervening works – seven movies, starting with Scoop and ending at To Rome with Love – are just international chaff, too lightweight to get interested in. If you think, as I do, that such a judgment confuses solemnity with seriousness, that Match Point represents one of the worst dips in Allen’s career, and that the later films were often funny and showed at least flickers of artistic life, you have a bit of explaining to do ...

Several Doses of Wendy

Robert Baird: David Means, 11 August 2016

by David Means.
Faber, 352 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 0 571 33011 9
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... that shift in typography suggests, purports to be a posthumously discovered manuscript by Eugene Allen, a young Vietnam veteran who committed suicide in 1974. ‘Hystopia’ fills out the vast bulk of its namesake, nestling against the inner edges of the outer story with the snugness of a matryoshka doll. The forty or so pages of paratext that bridge the two ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Lincoln’, 20 December 2012

... Tommy Lee Jones underneath it. Jones gets craggier with every film he is in, his face, as Woody Allen might say, a combination of Gertrude Stein’s and some local mountain. He manages to be funny and bleak without any sense of contradiction between the two effects. And then there’s Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln. The film would be worth seeing for this ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Synecdoche, New York’, 11 June 2009

Synecdoche, New York 
directed by Charlie Kaufman.
April 2009
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... just grim and lingering, allowing Cotard to wallow in his not very interesting angst, as if Woody Allen had visited us with one of his earnest moments. You have to wonder whether there is a virus that makes witty American moviemakers want to be Ingmar Bergman at least once in their lives. This is it for Kaufman: Wild Raspberries. But only some of the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Django Unchained’, 24 January 2013

Django Unchained 
directed by Quentin Tarantino.
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... incorrect racial views, these men are idiots. The joke recalls many situations in early Woody Allen movies, Take the Money and Run, for example, where the bank teller can’t read the handwriting in the robber’s threatening note, and indeed looks back to the conversation John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson have in Pulp Fiction when a victim’s brains ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘A Serious Man’, 17 December 2009

A Serious Man 
directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.
November 2009
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... dead from the shore by a man and his son out hunting Jews. You’ll recognise the homage to Woody Allen. The narrative of the film is structured around Larry’s quest for advice from three rabbis. The film’s second-best version of the reigning joke occurs in the last of these scenes when the rabbi’s stolid receptionist, after staring at Larry for a long ...


Michael Wood: Di Benedetto’s Style, 5 April 2018

by Antonio Di Benedetto, translated by Esther Allen.
NYRB, 198 pp., £9.99, June 2017, 978 1 59017 717 4
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Nest in the Bones 
by Antonio Di Benedetto, translated by Martina Broner.
Archipelago, 275 pp., £15.99, May 2017, 978 0 914671 72 5
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... rest from the local details – or, in my case, I gratefully accept the information from Esther Allen. Don Diego conjures up the distance from home. ‘Half the length of two countries and all the width of the second lay stretched between my wife and me.’ He pictures the ‘slow journey’ of a letter to his wife ‘by water to Buenos Aires, then westward ...

Slices of Cake

Gilberto Perez: Alfred Hitchcock, 19 August 1999

Hitchcock’s Secret Notebooks: An Authorised and Illustrated Look Inside the Creative Mind of Alfred Hitchcock 
by Dan Auiler.
Bloomsbury, 567 pp., £20, May 1999, 0 7475 4490 5
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... entertainment to have a moral, metaphysical or ideological content. The high-minded critic Robin Wood responded to Houston’s article with the kind of righteousness his mentor F.R. Leavis directed against Bloomsbury, dismissing it in Hitchcock’s Films, his classic auteur study of 1965, as the product of a snobbish, dilettante establishment that refused to ...

Petal by Petal

C.K. Stead, 27 May 1993

E.E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1904-1962 
edited by George Firmage.
Liveright, 1102 pp., £33, January 1993, 0 87140 145 2
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... In the Woody Allen movie Hannah and Her Sisters Eliot (Michael Caine) contrives to cross paths on a Manhattan street with his sister-in-law. Lee (Barbara Hershey), with whom he has fallen in love. He pretends to be hunting for a bookshop: she shows him the way to it and there he finds, as if by chance, E.E. Cummings’s Collected Poems, which he insists on buying for her ...

Men at forty

Derek Mahon, 21 August 1980

Selected Poems 
by Donald Justice.
Anvil, 137 pp., £3.50, May 1980, 0 85646 058 3
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by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 80 pp., £2.95, April 1980, 0 85635 332 9
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... show signs of having been influenced by the Fugitives; indeed, the shades of John Crowe Ransom and Allen Tate seem to hover around many of the earlier poems in this volume, poems with titles like ‘Ladies by Their Windows’, ‘Landscape with Little Figures’, ‘Beyond the Hunting Woods’, ‘On the Death of Friends in Childhood’, ‘The ...

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