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Dolls, Demons and DNA

Barbara Herrnstein Smith: Bruno Latour, 8 March 2012

On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods 
by Bruno Latour.
Duke, 157 pp., £12.99, March 2011, 978 0 8223 4825 2
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... have been taken up by scholars across the social sciences and humanities, many of them in fields far from the orbit of science studies. In some quarters Latour’s ideas have proved unsettling, not to say infuriating. His statements, often in garbled versions, were targets of choice for science warriors throughout the 1990s and continue to be cited ...

Larkin and Us

Barbara Everett, 4 November 1982

Larkin at Sixty 
edited by Anthony Thwaite.
Faber, 148 pp., £7.95, May 1982, 9780571118786
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The Art of Philip Larkin 
by Simon Petch.
Sydney University Press, 108 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 424 00090 3
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... like these, bringing        the priest and the doctor In their long coats Running over the fields. In this way, ‘Days’, though it has larger and more interesting ends in view, throws some light on the odd gaps between ‘life’ and ‘literature’, and on the always obscure and tangled relations that exist between them before ‘days’ become ...


Barbara Everett, 10 November 1988

A Sinking Island: The Modern English Writers 
by Hugh Kenner.
Barrie and Jenkins, 290 pp., £16.95, September 1988, 0 7126 2197 0
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... can’t be. One of the important effects of a culture in many ways philistine is to keep aesthetic fields necessarily large. Aestheticism tends to be exclusive, and narrows the area covered by serious writing. Philistinism, by having no aspirations, lets anything in. This is why British writing includes so many kinds of the good, and why the really great ...


Gavin Millar, 13 September 1990

Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles 
by Frank Brady.
Hodder, 655 pp., £18.95, January 1990, 0 340 51389 6
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If this was happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth 
by Barbara Leaming.
Weidenfeld, 312 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 297 79630 5
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Norma Shearer 
by Gavin Lambert.
Hodder, 381 pp., £17.95, August 1990, 0 340 52947 4
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Ava’s Men: The Private Life of Ava Gardner 
by Jane Ellen Wayne.
Robson, 268 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 86051 636 9
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Goldwyn: A Biography 
by Scott Berg.
Hamish Hamilton, 579 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 241 12832 3
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The Genius of the System: Hollywood Film-Making in the Studio Era 
by Thomas Schatz.
Simon and Schuster, 514 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 671 69708 0
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... should regard as the received malice. Although an admirer, Brady remains a touch less devoted than Barbara Leaming in her 1986 biography, based as it was on long personal sessions with Welles. Brady never met Welles. They communicated by phone and letter, and so important and detailed – important if only because detailed – a study would have benefited from ...

Think Tiny

Mark Ford: Nancification, 17 July 2008

The Nancy Book 
by Joe Brainard.
Siglio, 144 pp., $39.50, April 2008, 978 0 9799562 0 1
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... off’, in Padgett’s phrase, to his willingness to spend his days immersed in the fiction of Barbara Pym rather than taking the Manhattan art world by storm. He experienced a ‘speed-crisis’ around 1976, one he’d anticipated some years earlier: ‘A mad fiend, yes,’ he wrote of the pills that kept him humming, ‘but I’m willing to pay. The time ...

Pirouette on a Sixpence

Christopher Prendergast: Untranslatables, 10 September 2015

Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon 
edited by Barbara Cassin, translated by Emily Apter, Jacques Lezra and Michael Wood.
Princeton, 1297 pp., £44.95, February 2014, 978 0 691 13870 1
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... by virtue of being itself a consummately executed translation – of a French original edited by Barbara Cassin (Vocabulaire européen des philosophies: Dictionnaire des intraduisibles); there are a few local difficulties in managing some of the French, but not an intraduisible in sight. As for the achievement of Emily Apter, Jacques Lezra and Michael Wood ...

Departure and Arrival Times

Sheldon Rothblatt, 18 August 1983

The History Men: The Historical Profession in England since the Renaissance 
by John Kenyon.
Weidenfeld, 322 pp., £16.50, March 1983, 0 297 78081 6
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... us to, a culture high on originality and multiplicity of outlook. The building-up of academic sub-fields, no doubt promoted in part by competition for resources, does have the virtue of altering perspectives in the long run. One part of Kenyon certainly understands this, but his treatment of the subject is unfinished because it is not thoughtfully blended ...


Blake Morrison, 30 June 2011

The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp 
by W.H. Davies.
Amberley, 192 pp., £14.99, September 2010, 978 1 84868 980 0
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... killed his father in a fight;/And now he’ll take his mother’s blood’), or his description of fields as ‘dewy cemeteries … white with mushroom tombs’. Still, it’s true that for all his talk of waiting for poems to come naturally, his persona can seem forced and theatrical. Shaw suspected that he’d read no poets later than Cowper and Crabbe, and ...


Michael Taussig: In Colombia, 5 October 2006

... add the 19 million cellphones currently in use, double last year’s number. In Santa Barbara, a small town of some six thousand people in the isolated rainforest of the Pacific coast, now reeling under the impact of coca cultivation forced westward over the Andes by US-instigated aerial fumigation, sixty teenage boys were circling the plaza ...

Occupation: Novelist

Christopher Beha: Peter Matthiessen, 31 July 2014

In Paradise 
by Peter Matthiessen.
Oneworld, 246 pp., £12.99, April 2014, 978 1 78074 555 8
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... But, by volume of production, the evidence went the other way. His rare novels – At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1965), about Christian missionaries in South America, and Far Tortuga (1975), about Caribbean turtlemen – grew so obviously out of his travels that they served as reminders of his main career. Matthiessen’s qualities as a non-fiction ...

Great Fun

John Bayley, 22 January 1987

by Patricia Meyer Spacks.
Chicago, 287 pp., £9.25, November 1986, 0 226 76844 9
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The Bonus of Laughter 
by Alan Pryce-Jones.
Hamish Hamilton, 263 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 0 241 11903 0
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... back into the world of academic thinking and reading, as of conversing and living. In both fields, she suggests, the effect can only be therapeutic. She does not mention Mary McCarthy or Fanny Assingham, both of whom seem to claim that the gossip market can be played – judiciously – for higher stakes than that. Nor does she make much of the gossip ...

What’s Happening in the Engine-Room

Penelope Fitzgerald: Poor John Lehmann, 7 January 1999

John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure 
by Adrian Wright.
Duckworth, 308 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 7156 2871 2
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... literature of which he was once at the heart’. Can this truly be done? John was sent to Summer Fields, and left in 1921 with an Eton scholarship and a report that he was ‘never likely to do anything dishonourable or mean’, a golden lad, as Wright calls him. About Eton he was at best lukewarm. He had wished not to disappoint his father, but he was a ...

Spot the Gull

Peter Campbell: The Academy of the Lincei, 20 March 2003

The Eye of the Lynx: Galileo, His Friends and the Beginnings of Modern Natural History 
by David Freedberg.
Chicago, 513 pp., £35, December 2002, 0 226 26147 6
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... noticing symptoms and making prognoses even when the explanation for what is happening is obscure. Barbara McClintock’s attention to her fields of maize was that of a natural historian; so was Alexander Fleming’s observation of the mould on his Petri dish. Galileo’s telescope had shown that the heavens were ...

The Obdurate Knoll

Colin Kidd: The Obdurate Knoll, 1 December 2011

Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan 
by Jeff Greenfield.
Putnam, 434 pp., £20.25, March 2011, 978 0 399 15706 6
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by Stephen King.
Hodder, 740 pp., £19.99, November 2011, 978 1 4447 2729 6
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... forces. Conspiracy theorists often possess a wealth of accurate knowledge in such arcane fields as ballistics and acoustics, the workings of the Carcano rifle and the topography of downtown Dallas. It was an anti-Warren buff, Sylvia Meagher, who first indexed the 26 volumes of evidence published under the auspices of the commission. Some critics of ...

Hallelujah Lasses

E.S. Turner: The Salvation Army, 24 May 2001

Pulling the Devil’s Kingdom down: The Salvation Army in Victorian Britain 
by Pamela Walker.
California, 337 pp., £22.95, April 2001, 0 520 22591 0
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... fire is beautiful and blood a vital and splendid red . . . (this from the preface to Major Barbara). In darkest London appearances could be deceptive. Those belligerent women who ambushed the hapless male on his way to the public house were not, as might be supposed, harpies eager to lure him into more vicious courses. They were Salvationist ...

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