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Beefcake Ease

Miranda Carter: Robert Mitchum and Steve McQueen

14 January 2002
Robert Mitchum: Solid, Dad, Crazy 
by Damien Love.
Batsford, 208 pp., £15.99, December 2001, 0 7134 8707 0
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Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don’t Care 
by Lee Server.
Faber, 590 pp., £20, October 2001, 0 571 20994 7
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McQueen: The Biography 
by Christopher Sandford.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £16.99, October 2001, 0 00 257195 1
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... possession of marijuana and serve two months in prison. In Robert Mitchum: Solid, Dad, Crazy, a Mitchum buff’s guide to his most interesting films, and a much better book than its title suggests, DamienLove describes Mitchum’s less-is-more style of acting as ‘a fundamental understanding of what the minute scrutiny of that close camera and the magnification of that big screen could do’. Like ...

Once a Catholic…

Marina Warner: Damien​ Hirst

5 July 2012
Damien​ Hirst 
Tate ModernShow More
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... me up – she was my sister-in-law and in those days we didn’t text – and said I really should go along to Bond Street and see the butterflies hatching in some disused premises that the artist Damien Hirst had rented. ‘It’s a truly beautiful installation,’ she enthused. She described it: the dishes of melting nectar, the chrysalises stuck to the walls, and the startling epiphanies as the ...
30 October 1997
Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection 
by Norman Rosenthal.
Thames and Hudson, 222 pp., £29.95, September 1997, 0 500 23752 2
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... advances of the Seventies and early Eighties. Rather than a meteor arriving out of the blue, the new generation of artists, who first came to public notice in 1988 with the Freeze show organised by Damien Hirst, were the beneficiaries of the hard work of the St Ives Group, the Independent Group, the Royal College Pop artists and so on, all of whom had successively edged British art into a position ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘La La Land’

19 January 2017
La La Land 
directed by Damien​ Chazelle.
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... if he doesn’t dance. All musicals, on stage and screen, implicitly or explicitly play with some version of this idea: you know who you are when you’re singing in the rain; you know you’re in love when it’s swing time, when the right person says: ‘Shall we dance?’ Some musicals, especially stage musicals, don’t play with the idea very hard, and rest their case on the commercial fact ...

Why can’t he be loved?

Benjamin Kunkel: Houellebecq

20 October 2011
The Map and the Territory 
by Michel Houellebecq, translated by Gavin Bowd.
Heinemann, 291 pp., £17.99, September 2011, 978 0 434 02141 3
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... of family life: ‘He wanted to do his best for the boy,’ the main character thinks about his son. ‘As long as it did not require too much of his time.’ In such a world, the receipt of love is no more guaranteed than a salary. Flexibility rather than loyalty is the order of the day, and even those who win comfortable and prestigious positions as love objects must worry constantly about ...

At the Gagosian

Peter Campbell: ‘Crash’

11 March 2010
... of a woman in an empty theatre; Witness, a smashed face by Jenny Saville; and John Currin’s Rotterdam – pornography as Norman Rockwell might have painted it. There are installations, such as Damien Hirst’s table of surgical instruments below photographs of a smashed eye and smashed limbs. There are DVD projections and sculpture. This disparate collection has been selected (and in some cases ...
7 September 2000
Aiding and Abetting 
by Muriel Spark.
Viking, 182 pp., £12.99, September 2000, 0 670 89428 1
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... neatly connected to each other, as they rarely are in life; novels full of blackmailers, forgers, murderers, devil-figures and witches (like Dougal Douglas in The Ballad of Peckham Rye and Margaret Damien in The Symposium), who, in their love of plotting, are linked analogically with the plotting novelist; novels which announce their own fictionality, often by making the novel’s hero or heroine a ...

Say hello to Rodney

Peter Wollen: How art becomes kitsch

17 February 2000
The Artificial Kingdom: A Treasury of the Kitsch Experience 
by Celeste Olalquiaga.
Bloomsbury, 321 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 7475 4535 9
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... of kitsch, from Adorno to Greenberg, have always distrusted. Not surprisingly, Hickey also offers a defence of the art market, of art as something which a dealer sells to people who genuinely love it, rather than art as something to be exhibited in museums by curators or financed by bureaucrats at the Arts Council or the National Endowment for the Arts. Hickey was once a dealer himself and he ...


Jonathan Coe

13 September 1990
by Muriel Spark.
Constable, 192 pp., £11.95, September 1990, 0 09 469660 8
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TheInn at the Edge of the World 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Viking, 184 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 9780670832743
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... Hurley Reed launches into a brilliant disquisition on marriage, maintaining that, as a Catholic, he can’t agree that it should be final: marriage vows are made under the influence of amorous love, which is ‘a state of mental imbalance’, and ‘there is a reservation, under Catholic laws of annulment, that allows for madness.’ His logic is unyielding, and it’s appropriate that he ...


Jenny Diski: New words

1 January 1998
... the use of Adam (‘In the slang of drug users, the hallucinogenic designer drug methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA, also known as Ecstasy’) from out-of-print 1991, though they could settle for love dove meaning the same thing in the second edition. Contemporaries, however, should beware. A dictionary is, by definition, no way to find out how to be hip (a word not found in either edition, but ...

Play Again?

Matthew Reynolds: Douglas Coupland’s ‘JPod’

3 August 2006
by Douglas Coupland.
Bloomsbury, 448 pp., £12.99, June 2006, 9780747582229
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... theirs, and generous enough to make beauty from it. According to the usual trajectory, Coupland’s characters are released from their commodified perceptions into feelings that count as ‘real’: love and/or untrammelled awareness of the natural world. The sun emerges from its shrink wrapper, and the novel (Miss Wyoming, 2000) that began by slapping parking tickets on people’s irises ends up ...

Eye Candy

Julian Bell: Colour

19 July 2007
Colour in Art 
by John Gage.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £9.95, February 2007, 978 0 500 20394 1
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... spirit. Compare Peter Halley and his ‘prison’ paintings of dayglo grids, which revisit Modernist design as a malign scheme of social control, or the affectless mixer-machine colour binges of Damien Hirst’s ‘spin’ and ‘spot’ paintings. Such sardonic palettes backhandedly acknowledge some past age of innocence, a heyday of fervent belief. When was colour? Should we think back to the ...

A Bit of Ginger

Theo Tait: Gordon Burn

5 June 2008
Born Yesterday: The News as a Novel 
by Gordon Burn.
Faber, 214 pp., £15.99, April 2008, 978 0 571 19729 3
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... Party, as it existed in Trimdon before the dazzling lawyer from London was selected as the constituency candidate. The wider implication is that a more authentic, less mediated world has been lost. Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull, For the Love of God, features at length and stares from the cover of the hardback, making its point about the glittering mask of celebrity and the deathly void it ...

Blowing Cigarette Smoke at Greenfly

E.S. Turner: The Beastliness of Saki

24 August 2000
The Unrest-Cure and Other Beastly Tales 
by Saki.
Prion, 297 pp., £8.99, May 2000, 9781853753701
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... seat, suddenly transformed, or perhaps stung, by a line like ‘to have reached thirty is to have failed in life,’ or wondering how to work off, on the next interviewer, a variation of ‘I love Americans but not when they try to talk French. What a blessing it is they never try to talk English.’ The Saki joke most venerated down the generations – ‘The cook was a good cook, as cooks go ...
18 May 2016
Edith Piaf: A Cultural History 
by David Looseley.
Liverpool, 254 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 1 78138 257 8
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... the 1920s, singing in Belleville and Pigalle. The heroine of ‘La Foule’ is jostled by a jubilant crowd celebrating a feast day. She is pushed into the arms of a stranger, with whom she falls in love, only to be dragged away from him again by the crowd, ‘who dance a mad farandole’ that drowns out the sound of her beloved’s voice. She ‘clenches her fists’ and curses the crowd for having ...

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