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Reluctant Psychopath

Colin MacCabe, 7 October 1993

My Idea of Fun 
by Will Self.
Bloomsbury, 309 pp., £14.99, September 1993, 0 7475 1591 3
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... The photograph of the author on the jacket is warning enough. He is dressed all in black, poised as though ready to pounce; his eyes fix you through a cloud of smoke. The cigarette, which is positively belching fumes, is held at the precise angle guaranteed to cause the most severe nicotine staining of the fingers. This is not the author as good guy but the author as knowing addict – an adept of Burroughs’s Dr Benway and his Algebra of Total Need ...

What was new

Eric Griffiths, 19 December 1985

Theoretical Essays: Film, Linguistics, Literature 
by Colin MacCabe.
Manchester, 152 pp., £17.50, September 1985, 0 7190 1749 1
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A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory 
by Raman Selden.
Harvester, 153 pp., £15.95, August 1985, 0 7108 0658 2
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... hard to come to intellectual grips with because, most of the time, we are each of us in its grip. Colin MacCabe, in 1969, was pretty much a Miranda, agog at Paris and 1968. Indeed, he was a champion of Mirandas in Cambridge, eager to make contact with ‘the brave new thoughts which seemed to circulate everywhere but in the teaching of the Faculty’. He ...

James Joyce and the Reader’s Understanding

Brigid Brophy, 21 February 1980

James Joyce and the Revolution of the Word 
by Colin MacCabe.
Macmillan, 186 pp., £8.95, February 1979, 0 333 21648 2
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... The aim of this work,’ Colin MacCabe announces, ‘is not to provide the meaning of Joyce’s work but to allow it to be read.’ ‘Well, ta ever so,’ I wrote in the margin. In 1922, when Ulysses was first published and copies were burnt by the New York Post Office, or 1923, when copies were seized by the Folkestone Customs, English-reading people might have thanked Mr MacCabe for, at least, a kindly intention ...

Lacan’s Mirrors

Edmund Leach, 2 July 1981

The Talking Cure: Essays in Psychoanalysis and Language 
edited by Colin MacCabe.
Macmillan, 230 pp., £20, February 1981, 0 333 23560 6
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... for improving the ritual status of the victim-donor, and it is entirely appropriate that Dr MacCabe should, in the outcome, have become a full professor (at the University of Strathclyde). But all that has nothing whatever to do with this book.Although it appears in a series (edited by Stephen Heath and ...

Watching a black man in the shower

Michael Wood, 12 September 1991

Young Soul Rebels 
directed by Isaac Julien.
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Diary of a Young Soul Rebel 
by Isaac Julien and Colin MacCabe.
BFI, 218 pp., £10.95, September 1991, 0 85170 310 0
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... is a bit of a mixed bag – shooting script, interview with Isaac Julien, diaries of Julien and Colin MacCabe, executive producer of the film – but it’s not just advertising. It gives the film a context, tells us something about its BFI and European funding, allows us to see its place in a debate and Julien’s dedication to differences which do ...

George Eliot, Joyce and Cambridge

Michael Mason, 2 April 1981

... English Faculty there, and who want to assess the ‘repulsiveness’ of either party, or of both, Colin MacCabe’s book on Joyce* is among the few pieces of hard evidence available. One tendency of the stories coming out of Cambridge has been to represent MacCabe as an irenic figure, peaceably intent on exploring and ...

After the Movies

Michael Wood: Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma, 4 December 2008

Histoire(s) du cinéma 
directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
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... of the experience: seeing, not seeing again, or clocking the reference. It’s important, as Colin MacCabe says in Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at 70 (2003), not to turn our viewing into a guessing game. We see Godard sitting at his electric typewriter, smoking a cigar. He is murmuring titles of novels and movies, staring into space. If there is ...

Many Andies

Andrew O’Hagan, 16 October 1997

Shoes, Shoes, Shoes 
by Andy Warhol.
Bulfinch Press, 35 pp., $10.95, May 1997, 0 8212 2319 4
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Style, Style, Style 
by Andy Warhol.
Bulfinch Press, 30 pp., $10.95, May 1997, 0 8212 2320 8
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Who is Andy Warhol? 
edited by Colin MacCabe, Mark Francis and Peter Wollen.
BFI, 162 pp., £40, May 1997, 9780851705880
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All Tomorrow’s Parties: Billy Name’s Photographs of Andy Warhol’s Factory 
by Billy Name.
frieze, 144 pp., £19.95, April 1997, 0 9527414 1 5
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The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco and the Culture of the Night 
by Anthony Haden-Guest.
Morrow, 404 pp., $25, April 1996, 9780688141516
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... had a nice day out, but why must the speeches then be collected in this way? No good comes of it. Colin MacCabe tells us in his Preface that ‘it is not clear that Warhol’s prodigious output has ever been satisfactorily described, still less understood’ – which is true enough, and might be a good reason to throw a conference, to commission a ...

Monster Doss House

Iain Sinclair, 24 November 1988

The Grass Arena 
by John Healy.
Faber, 194 pp., £9.95, October 1988, 0 571 15170 1
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... vagrancy, a willed renunciation, rebirth into chess, guru-chasing and, inevitably, the in-tray of Colin MacCabe at the British Film Institute. Now the book (or, more accurately, John Healy himself) is everywhere; the knock-on effect, the metropolitan whispers that can rush the latest hot item from the Guardian to the heavyweight Sundays and a full ...


Jeremy Harding: Hitchens, 31 March 2011

... gathers and the fields fall silent, lying face down in his own bullshit’ (LRB, 23 January 2003). Colin MacCabe, for the friends, tells us that passages of the memoir, Hitch-22, are ‘among the most affecting writing that I know in English’ (New Statesman, 17 November 2010). That’s a pungent claim and it bears repeating, or ...


Gilberto Perez: Godard’s Method, 1 April 2004

Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at 70 
by Colin MacCabe.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, November 2003, 0 7475 6318 7
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... for most of his career pledged to beauty, and in their films together Karina personified it. In Colin MacCabe’s critical biography each of the three long chapters devoted to Godard’s film-making career has a woman’s name in its title. Each woman has not only shared a part of Godard’s life but also played an important part in his work: Anna ...

When the beam of light has gone

Peter Wollen: Godard Turns Over, 17 September 1998

The Films of Jean-Luc Godard 
by Wheeler Winston Dixon.
SUNY, 290 pp., £17.99, March 1997, 0 7914 3285 8
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Speaking about Godard 
by Kaja Silverman and Harun Farocki.
New York, 256 pp., $55, July 1998, 0 8147 8066 0
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... of continuity. In the most useful sketch of Godard’s development to date, published in 1991, Colin MacCabe divided his life into seven schematic episodes, which could be summarised and rephrased as follows. 1. Childhood. Godard was born in Switzerland in 1930. His father was a successful doctor who ran a private clinic in Nyon, his mother a member ...

I am a Cretan

Patrick Parrinder, 21 April 1988

On Modern Authority: The Theory and Condition of Writing, 1500 to the Present Day 
by Thomas Docherty.
Harvester, 310 pp., £25, May 1987, 0 7108 1017 2
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The Order of Mimesis: Balzac, Stendhal, Nerval, Flaubert 
by Christopher Prendergast.
Cambridge, 288 pp., £27.50, March 1986, 0 521 23789 0
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... 1971 edited the Cambridge structuralist pamphlet ‘Signs of the Times’ with Stephen Heath and Colin MacCabe, might be said to have played a small part in the assault on mimesis. Now he has tentatively and scrupulously set out to rehabilitate it. Plato argued for excluding the poets because he considered that their mimetic activities would tend to ...


John Kerrigan: Lost Shakespeare, 6 February 1986

... the market. The level of argument has been on the whole abysmal. Not since the heady days of Colin MacCabe has the press displayed its philistinism so frankly. True to its decline, the Times invited a writer from flashpulp to report. His piece was a tissue of ineptitudes. One lecturer informed the Thunderer that, if scholars spent their time ...

Anger and Dismay

Denis Donoghue, 19 July 1984

Literary Education: A Revaluation 
by James Gribble.
Cambridge, 182 pp., £16.50, November 1983, 0 521 25315 2
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Reconstructing Literature 
edited by Laurence Lerner.
Blackwell, 218 pp., £15, August 1983, 0 631 13323 2
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Counter-Modernism in Current Critical Theory 
by Geoffrey Thurley.
Macmillan, 216 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 333 33436 1
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... theory, its overweening ambitiousness and vanity, the incommensurability of different theories’. Colin MacCabe refers to ‘the cultural supremacism of Leavis’. Bernard Bergonzi traces the development of Leavis’s attitude to Eliot’s poetry and criticism, and shows how Leavis used Blake and Lawrence as sticks with which to beat Eliot. ‘What ...

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