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Velvet Gentleman

Nick Richardson: Erik Satie

3 June 2015
A Mammal’s Notebook: The Writings of Erik Satie 
edited by Ornella Volta, translated by Antony Melville.
Atlas, 224 pp., £17.50, June 2014, 978 1 900565 66 0
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... One​ thing everyone knows about Erik Satie is that he was an eccentric. There are many kinds of eccentric and Satie was most of them. He presented himself as a nutty professor figure, not a composer but a ‘gymnopedist’ and ‘phonometrician’. He dined – or so he claimed in his autobiography – only on ‘food that is white: eggs, sugar, shredded bones, the fat of dead animals’. He walked ...

American Manscapes

Richard Poirier

12 October 1989
Manhood and the American Renaissance 
by David Leverenz.
Cornell, 372 pp., $35.75, April 1989, 0 8014 2281 7
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... fear of humiliation presumably began even earlier, in the bullying of an exacting father when the boy was eight. Whitman’s father was, in the poet’s words, ‘manly, mean, angered, unjust’, and Melville’s was driven to suicide after failures in the market. The novelist’s rage was only in-creased by his supposed inability to mourn his father’s death, and this gets transfigured into the ...


Frank Kermode

11 February 1993
Meaning by Shakespeare 
by Terence Hawkes.
Routledge, 173 pp., £30, October 1992, 0 415 07450 9
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Shakespeare’s Professional Career 
by Peter Thomson.
Cambridge, 217 pp., £24.95, September 1992, 0 521 35128 6
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Shakespeare’s Mouldy Tales 
by Leah Scragg.
Longman, 201 pp., £24, October 1992, 0 582 07071 6
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Reading Shakespeare’s Characters 
by Christy Desmet.
Massachusetts, 215 pp., £22.50, December 1992, 0 87023 807 8
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Bit Parts in Shakespeare’s Plays 
by Molly Mahood.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £35, January 1993, 0 521 41612 4
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... will eventually make some sense. Even as the General Strike loomed the Stratford theatre was destroyed by fire; the Birthday play, perforce performed in a cinema, was, significantly, Coriolanus. Mrs Melville, wife of the vicar of Stratford, a self-confessed Fascist and anti-semite who vigorously opposed the inclusion of the Soviet flag at the Birthday ceremonies, was a governor of the Shakespeare Theatre ...

Good Day, Comrade Shtrum

John Lanchester: Vasily Grossman’s Masterpiece

18 October 2007
Life and Fate 
by Vasily Grossman, translated by Robert Chandler.
Vintage, 864 pp., £9.99, October 2006, 0 09 950616 5
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... to write the Big Novel about the war and ended up writing a kind of pastiche, a strange hybrid of modernist ambition and postmodernist decentredness – a fake, perhaps, but an interesting one. As Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova’s’s superb book A Writer at War makes clear,* Grossman saw more of the war than any of them; more than any other writer. He volunteered to fight but, tubby and ...


Alan Bennett: Allelujah!

3 January 2019
... year I would forget the opening chorale until the orchestra struck up the long introduction and then it would all come back and sweep me away. The performance was always conducted by the organist, Dr Melville Cook, in a fluent, almost boneless style with which I was familiar as it was also affected by Maurice Miles, the conductor of the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra. But the uncushioned pews were hard and ...

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