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At Dia:Beacon

Hal Foster: Fetishistic Minimalist, 5 June 2003

... context: the pieces by Serra, Heizer and Sandback, but also, variously, the video corridors of Bruce Nauman, the Conceptual statements of Lawrence Weiner and the wall drawings of Sol LeWitt. Those who fall outside these three logics look out of place. There is a catch here. Modular units can go on indefinitely, and the ...

Some Flim-Flam with Socks

Adam Kuper: Laurens van der Post, 3 January 2002

Storyteller: The Many Lives of Laurens van der Post 
by J.D.F. Jones.
Murray, 505 pp., £25, September 2001, 0 7195 5580 9
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... to re-create their own lives.’ Among recently exposed fantasists, he lists Patrick O’Brian, Bruce Chatwin, Laurie Lee and Jeffrey Archer, all writers for whom a legend as man of action was a large part of their stock in trade. The South African poet Roy Campbell, who was a world-class liar, influenced Van der Post at an impressionable age. (‘I have no ...

Phut-Phut

James Wood: The ‘TLS’, 27 June 2002

Critical Times: The History of the ‘Times Literary Supplement’ 
by Derwent May.
HarperCollins, 606 pp., £25, November 2001, 0 00 711449 4
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... It has been calculated that 20 per cent of the contributors to the TLS under the editorship of Bruce Richmond (1903-37) were members of the Athenaeum. Most articles were of course unsigned until 1974, and at least in those early years the paper’s fabled anonymity was really the signature of the institutional, the establishment’s individual voice. It ...

Ivy’s Feelings

Gabriele Annan, 1 March 1984

The Exile: A Life of Ivy Litvinov 
by John Carswell.
Faber, 216 pp., £10.95, November 1983, 0 571 13135 2
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... of a fan letter), she wore a specially borrowed ‘tailor-made’ with an embroidered shirt: ‘Lawrence was from the people himself,’ she remarked, ‘and however neatly and nicely his sisters dressed, the one thing they would never have had at that time was peasant embroidery. That was the monopoly of the intelligentsia.’ The fan letter to ...

Self-Hugging

Andrew O’Hagan: A Paean to Boswell, 5 October 2000

Boswell's Presumptuous Task 
by Adam Sisman.
Hamish Hamilton, 352 pp., £17.99, November 2000, 0 241 13637 7
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James Boswell’s ‘Life of Johnson’: Research Edition: Vol. II 
edited by Bruce Redford and Elizabeth Goldring.
Edinburgh, 303 pp., £50, February 2000, 0 7486 0606 8
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Samuel Johnson: The Life of an Author 
by Lawrence Lipking.
Harvard, 372 pp., £11.50, March 2000, 0 674 00198 2
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Dr Johnson's London 
by Liza Picard.
Weidenfeld, 362 pp., £20, July 2000, 0 297 84218 8
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... results have too infrequently been matched. If you don’t believe me you should take a look at Lawrence Lipking’s dreary ‘Life of an Author’, which deploys a frenetic academic semaphore in order to say things that Boswell says by noticing a cough or a sniff. Lipking’s book is more in the tradition of Sir John Hawkins, one of Johnson’s ...

Unmuscular Legs

E.S. Turner, 22 August 1996

The Dictionary of National Biography 1986-1990 
edited by C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 607 pp., £50, June 1996, 0 19 865212 7
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... this Buchanesque operator was allowed to set up his own office nearby, furnished according to John Bruce Lockhart with ‘lovely Oriental carpets, portraits of the queen and tsar, a whiff of incense and a fine model of a Russian destroyer of 1912’. There is a withering account by Sir David Hunt of the reputed master-spy Sir William Stephenson, who encouraged ...

Buffed-Up Scholar

Stefan Collini: Eliot and the Dons, 30 August 2012

Letters of T.S. Eliot, Vol. III: 1926-27 
edited by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden.
Faber, 954 pp., £40, July 2012, 978 0 571 14085 5
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... lead him to break with Eliot. Aldington had submitted a wayward, impressionistic essay on D.H. Lawrence, to which Eliot responded, apologetically though firmly, that ‘I do not think that it falls in with the general position of the Criterion.’ This, he went on to explain, might be thought of as ‘the consensus of opinion of the people who attend the ...

Osip and Nadezhda Mandelstam

Seamus Heaney, 20 August 1981

... Journey to Armenia is now available in Clarence Brown’s translation, with an introduction by Bruce Chatwin. It appeared first in the Soviet magazine Zvezda in 1933, and was the last piece of his work that Mandelstam would see published in his lifetime. To call it travel writing is to miss the mark almost as badly as the Pravda reviewer who savaged ...

Ways to Be Pretentious

Ian Penman, 4 May 2016

M Train 
by Patti Smith.
Bloomsbury, 253 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6768 6
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Collected Lyrics 1970-2015 
by Patti Smith.
Bloomsbury, 303 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6300 8
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... seventy this year, has had just one hit single (‘Because the Night’ in 1978, co-written with Bruce Springsteen) in forty years, and the only one of her 11 albums with an unassailable reputation is her glorious debut, Horses. I’ve known many people who dearly love Horses, but I can’t recall a single person ever declaring a passion for any of the other ...

Rinse it in dead champagne

Colm Tóibín: The women who invented beauty, 5 February 2004

War Paint: Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden: Their Lives, Their Times, Their Rivalry 
by Lindy Woodhead.
Virago, 498 pp., £20, April 2003, 1 86049 974 0
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Diana Vreeland 
by Eleanor Dwight.
HarperCollins, 308 pp., £30, December 2002, 0 688 16738 1
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... many dull and ugly people must, in some mysterious way, have been sacrificed to produce her’. Lawrence Selden who watches her, is ‘aware that the qualities distinguishing her from the herd of her sex were chiefly external: as though a fine glaze of beauty and fastidiousness had been applied to vulgar clay’. Two years earlier, W.B. Yeats had published ...

Pickering called

Rivka Galchen: ‘The Glass Universe’, 4 October 2017

The Glass Universe: The Hidden History of the Women Who Took the Measure of the Stars 
by Dava Sobel.
Fourth Estate, 336 pp., £16.99, January 2017, 978 0 00 754818 7
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... called, and the ladies answered. More money came from another heiress – the blind painter, Miss Bruce – and more women came to be actually employed at the observatory, earning between 25 and 50 cents an hour, about half of what men doing the same work would get. Eventually Pickering also obtained funds for research fellowships specifically for women ...

Stuart Hampshire writes about common decency

Stuart Hampshire, 24 January 1980

... cause and making a point and on the attack, whether at its best, as in Rochester or Genet or Lenny Bruce, or at its least talented, as in Sade. There is usually a veering into sadism, and a suggestion of anger and deprivation, certainly not of exuberance and of evident love of pleasure, in a work perceived as pornography rather than as erotic. A textbook ...

Staggering on

Stephen Howe, 23 May 1996

The ‘New Statesman’: Portrait of a Political Weekly, 1913-31 
by Adrian Smith.
Cass, 340 pp., £30, February 1996, 0 7146 4645 8
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... identity of the villain who thrust the New Statesman out of Eden is correspondingly various, with Bruce Page remaining by far the most popular whipping-boy, but with minority lobbies also fingering Richard Crossman, Anthony Howard and all the other post-Sixties editors. There is little disagreement, however, about when the glory days began. The New Statesman ...

Candle Moments

Andrew O’Hagan: Norman Lewis’s Inventions, 25 September 2008

Semi-Invisible Man: The Life of Norman Lewis 
by Julian Evans.
Cape, 792 pp., £25, June 2008, 978 0 224 07275 5
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... he was more like Graham Greene – with whom he shared a period and many destinations – than Bruce Chatwin, who might have learned from Lewis how to be a writer who is also a brilliant disappearing act. Lewis wrote as much fiction as anything else but many of his 15 novels are out of print and his reputation rests entirely on the travel writing. He could ...

One Enduring Trace of Our Presence

Maya Jasanoff: Governing Iraq, 5 April 2007

Occupational Hazards: My Time Governing in Iraq 
by Rory Stewart.
Picador, 422 pp., £17.99, June 2006, 0 330 44049 7
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... captive by Iraqis, the chances were high that he would be raped. (One presumes nobody told T.E. Lawrence to ‘remember that in 75 per cent of cases when you are male-raped, you will get an erection or ejaculate. Do not worry about that . . . it does not mean that you are gay.’) In September 2003 he touched down in Basra, where he was frantically ...

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