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Wright and Wrong

Peter Campbell, 10 November 1988

Many Masks: A Life of Frank Lloyd Wright 
by Brendan Gill.
Heinemann, 544 pp., £20, August 1988, 0 434 29273 7
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... who have tried to make sense of Frank Lloyd Wright’s own account of his life will be grateful to Brendan Gill. He relieves us of doubts about our intelligence. As you read the Autobiography much does not quite fit. The feeling grows on you, as it must on the victims of confidence tricksters, that you cannot follow the story because you are stupid. ...

What makes a waif?

Joanne O’Leary, 13 September 2018

The Long-Winded Lady: Tales from the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 215 pp., £10.99, January 2017, 978 1 906539 59 7
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Maeve Brennan: Homesick at the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Angela Bourke.
Counterpoint, 360 pp., $16.95, February 2016, 978 1 61902 715 2
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The Springs of Affection: Stories 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 368 pp., £8.99, May 2016, 978 1 906539 54 2
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... kept the tightest of reins. Brennan’s male colleagues, including Addams, Joseph Mitchell and Brendan Gill (all of them her lovers at one time or another), joked that she had served her apprenticeship in hemlines. But it was the ability to spot the difference between ‘beige’ and ‘bone’ at fifty yards that made her a natural diarist. John ...

A Traveller in Residence

Mary Hawthorne, 13 November 1997

... a large mouth, which she liked further to exaggerate with generous applications of dark lipstick. Brendan Gill told me that the photographer (and pacifist) Karl Bissinger had photographed Maeve when the two had worked together at Bazaar, and the description of her I had been given was confirmed when I stopped off at the War Resisters’ League a few ...


Jenny Diski, 28 April 1994

Roald Dahl: A Biography 
by Jeremy Treglown.
Faber, 307 pp., £17.50, March 1994, 0 571 16573 7
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... a high order, and therefore entitled to respect and very special treatment,’ says Isaiah Berlin. Brendan Gill remembers him: ‘The most conceited man who ever lived in our time in New York City. Vain to the point where it was a kind of natural wonder.’ His attraction to conspicuous wealth and for women resulted in his flashing gifts of gold cigarette ...
Genius in Disguise: Harold Ross of the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Thomas Kunkel.
Random House, 497 pp., $25, March 1995, 0 679 41837 7
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... out-of-towners could read it without pain. It was, he’d say, a family magazine. According to Brendan Gill – a hostile judge – Ross’s morality was shaped by ‘the ugly commonplaces of almost a hundred years before’. His biographer describes him as ‘classically laissez-faire in everything from war to income tax’. Nobody ever called him a ...

Vampire to Victim

Nina Auerbach: The Cult of Zelda, 19 June 2003

Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Voice in Paradise 
by Sally Cline.
Murray, 492 pp., £25, September 2003, 0 7195 5466 7
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... it looks less like a book jacket than an invitation to a party. The late flower paintings, which Brendan Gill provocatively called ‘the expression of a violent, undischarged rage’ and thus ‘radically unsuited to the New Yorker’, sound intriguing, but they might be better read about than seen. One of Scott Fitzgerald’s cruellest remarks is also ...

I sizzle to see you

John Lahr: Cole Porter’s secret songs, 21 November 2019

The Letters of Cole Porter 
edited by Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh.
Yale, 672 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 0 300 21927 2
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... sadistic conjugal tastes, Linda ‘had had enough of the sexual side of marriage’, according to Brendan Gill. In their white marriage, Porter and Linda slept in separate rooms, though always nearby, with separate buildings on their estate in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and separate apartments on the 41st floor of the Waldorf Towers when they made it ...

Good Fibs

Andrew O’Hagan: Truman Capote, 2 April 1998

Truman Capote: In which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career 
by George Plimpton.
Picador, 498 pp., £20, February 1998, 0 330 36871 0
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... left the great editor none the wiser. ‘He was an absolutely gorgeous apparition,’ said Brendan Gill: fluttering, flitting up and down the corridors of the magazine. He was indeed tiny. He and Miss Terry, our office manager, were an extraordinary couple. They were both the same size and they got on wonderfully well. He always adored elderly ...

Secrets are best kept by those who have no sense of humour

Alan Bennett: Why I turned down ‘Big Brother’, 2 January 2003

... is a handsome example of its period (c.1930). Its demolition illustrates almost to the minute what Brendan Gill, late of the New Yorker, christened the ‘Gordon Curve’ after the architect Douglas Gordon of Baltimore. ‘This posits that a building is at its maximum moment of approbation when it is brand-new; that it then goes steadily downhill and at ...

Britain is Your Friend

Rosemary Hill: British WW2 Propaganda, 15 December 2016

Persuading the People: British Propaganda in World War Two 
by David Welch.
British Library, 224 pp., £25, September 2016, 978 0 7123 5654 1
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... out, itself seriously demoralised. Matters improved in 1941 when Churchill’s friend and fixer Brendan Bracken was put in charge. For the rest of the war the ministry produced propaganda that for all its directness and reliance on repetition conveyed subtle messages. It was always going to be a people’s war, affecting civilians as much as the military ...

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