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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Innocents’, 17 November 2016

The Innocents 
directed by Anne Fontaine.
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... some stories don’t call for another colour. Pale grey, for example, might be about right for Anne Fontaine’s Gemma Bovery (2014), a stately, not obviously funny film in which an English woman stumbles into Flaubert’s plot and dies not deliberately by arsenic poisoning but accidentally by swallowing, or rather failing to swallow, a chunk of ...

Why are you so fat?

Bee Wilson: Coco Chanel, 7 January 2010

Perfumes: The A-Z Guide 
by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez.
Profile, 620 pp., £12.99, October 2009, 978 1 84668 127 1
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Chanel: Her Life, Her World, The Woman behind the Legend 
by Edmonde Charles-Roux, translated by Nancy Amphoux.
MacLehose, 428 pp., £14.99, June 2009, 978 1 906694 24 1
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The Allure of Chanel 
by Paul Morand, translated by Euan Cameron.
Pushkin, 181 pp., £12, September 2009, 978 1 901285 98 7
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Coco before Chanel 
directed by Anne Fontaine.
July 2009
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... or like Audrey Tautou, the latest face of Chanel No. 5, who also plays the young Coco Chanel in Anne Fontaine’s Coco before Chanel. So far as one can tell, Chanel was never fully contented (she boasted that she did not require ‘that daily dose of poison, recently invented, that we call happiness’ and her restless scissors were always ...

Possibility throbs

Richard Altick, 23 July 1987

by Richard Sennett.
Faber, 274 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 571 14718 6
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... outdo it in innovative boldness and size. The architect the duke commissioned was Pierre-François Fontaine, and it is the premise of Richard Sennett’s attractive novel that he chose for his assistant a young Englishman who was just finishing his studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Frederick Courtland was the son of an architect who had learned his ...

Fame at last

Elaine Showalter, 7 November 1991

Anne Sexton: A Biography 
by Diane Wood Middlebrook.
Virago, 488 pp., £20, November 1991, 1 85381 406 7
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... I met Anne Sexton six months before her suicide, in April 1974. My colleague Carol Smith and I were doing a series of interviews with women writers, and we had heard how Sexton and her friend Maxine Kumin had worked together for years, talking about their poems in long telephone sessions when neither of then could get out of the house ...

The Virgin and I

Elisabeth Ladenson: The Mancini sisters, 18 December 2008

by Hortense Mancini and Marie Mancini, edited and translated by Sarah Nelson.
Chicago, 217 pp., £31, August 2008, 978 0 226 50279 3
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... a practical joke played by their uncle, Cardinal Mazarin, on their youngest sister, Marie-Anne, who was then about six. (Marie-Anne was to marry Maurice-Godefroy de la Tour d’Auvergne, duc de Bouillon.) The cardinal, who doesn’t otherwise come across as a fun-loving sort, begins by teasing Marie-...

Sleep through it

Anne Diebel: Ottessa Moshfegh, 13 September 2018

My Year of Rest and Relaxation 
by Ottessa Moshfegh.
Cape, 288 pp., £12.99, July 2018, 978 1 78733 041 2
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Homesick for Another World 
by Ottessa Moshfegh.
Cape, 277 pp., £9.99, January 2018, 978 1 78470 150 5
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... I still looked good’ – ‘a young Lauren Bacall the morning after’, ‘a dishevelled Joan Fontaine’. Plus, she’s rich and expensively educated. She studied art history at Columbia (and is therefore ‘cultured’, according to Reva). She was born into privilege and now lives on an inheritance from her parents. She used to work at a Chelsea ...

Capital W, Capital W

Michael Wood: Women writers, 19 August 1999

Women Writers at Work 
edited by George Plimpton.
Harvill, 381 pp., £9.99, February 1999, 1 86046 586 2
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Just as I Thought 
by Grace Paley.
Virago, 332 pp., £8.99, August 1999, 1 86049 696 2
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... starts to look a little shaky. All is not lost, though. What these writers have in common – Marianne Moore, Katherine Anne Porter, Rebecca West, P.L. Travers, Simone de Beauvoir, Elizabeth Bishop, Nadine Gordimer and Anne Sexton, who appear in the volume alongside the writers already ...


Hal Foster: Bruce Nauman, 20 December 2018

... Square Dance (1967-68) Nauman steps around a rectangle taped on his studio floor in a deadpan manner that both parodies the modernist obsession with this geometric form and opens up the Minimalist grid to bodily movement. ‘Fist in Mouth’ (1990). For Nauman ‘art became more of an activity and less of a product,’ a shift that aligned him with ...

In Coleridge’s Bed

Ange Mlinko: Dead Poets Road Trip, 19 April 2017

Deaths of the Poets 
by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts.
Cape, 414 pp., £14.99, February 2017, 978 0 224 09754 3
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... last residence on Boston Harbor; the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia, which reassembled Marianne Moore’s Brooklyn living space on its own third floor. I’m pretty sure I can tell which poets the authors are really keen on (Berryman, MacNeice, Auden) and which they aren’t. The list can get a bit listless. In one of the most involved chapters, the ...

Anna Papa Mama Liddy

Anne Diebel: Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach, 30 November 2017

Manhattan Beach 
by Jennifer Egan.
Corsair, 448 pp., £16.99, October 2017, 978 1 4721 5087 5
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... with a heavy hand. One evening Eddie sits at home, ‘dusk falling blue outside the windows, Brianne’s rum pleasantly clouding his thoughts, his daughters nudging him like kittens. Ellington on the radio, the month’s rent paid; things could be worse – were worse for many a man in the dregs of 1934.’ There are ‘gats’ and ‘rods’; Anna (aka ...

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