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‘His eyes were literally on fire’

David Trotter: Fu Manchu, 5 March 2015

The Yellow Peril: Dr Fu Manchu & the Rise of Chinaphobia 
by Christopher Frayling.
Thames and Hudson, 360 pp., £24.95, October 2014, 978 0 500 25207 9
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... Dickens and Richard Horne wrote a piece for Household Words that contrasted the wonders of the Crystal Palace with the quaintness of an accompanying display of artefacts from China at a gallery in Hyde Park Place. ‘It is very curious,’ Dickens and Horne noted, ‘to have the Exhibition of a people who came to a dead stop, Heaven knows how many hundreds ...

Twilight Approaches

David A. Bell: Salon Life in France, 11 May 2006

The Age of Conversation 
by Benedetta Craveri, translated by Teresa Waugh.
NYRB, 488 pp., £17.99, October 2005, 1 59017 141 1
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... the style of Mills and Boon. A noble home is ‘illuminated by a thousand candles, shimmering with crystal and silver, and teeming with the full flower of the French nobility’. Mlle d’Epernon had ‘a tender, chaste love’ for the Chevalier de Fiesque, while ‘no one had a happier youth than Mlle de Bourbon.’ Noblemen are generally ...

Convenience Killing

John Sutherland, 7 April 1994

What’s Wrong with America 
by Scott Bradfield.
Picador, 196 pp., £14.99, January 1994, 0 330 32249 4
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The History of Luminous Motion 
by Scott Bradfield.
Picador, 196 pp., £5.99, January 1994, 0 330 33412 3
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Greetings from Earth 
by Scott Bradfield.
Picador, 296 pp., £5.99, January 1994, 0 330 32252 4
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... of liquid protein, wheat germ, vitamin B complex and B12 and three heaped tablespoons of blue crystal Drano.’ Daniel dies making gurgling noises like bad plumbing; rather appropriate in the circumstances. And so Dolores goes on, slashing the throat of a loved one with a kitchen knife, shooting the man who eventually marries her and burying him in the ...


David Craig: Moore in Prato, 9 December 1999

... from a thousand planes like shot off armour. It’s as though we’re balanced on a titanic crystal that climbs as high as the sun. Cut blocks rest here and there, one with a diamond-shod steel cord tensed motionless a quarter of the way through the stone. ‘They are trimming off poor-quality rock,’ says Carlo while Ron translates. On the lip of the ...

You know who

Jasper Rees, 4 August 1994

Jim Henson – The Works: The Art, the Magic, the Imagination 
by Christopher Finch.
Aurum, 251 pp., £20, April 1994, 1 85410 296 6
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... films not involving the Muppets fed on fantastical, picaresque literary sources: The Dark Crystal on Tolkien, Labyrinth on Lewis Carroll. (The fact that the latter also represented the indisputable nadir in the career of David Bowie is, for the purposes of this review, neither here nor there.) In the film ...

Six hands at an open door

David Trotter, 21 March 1991

Intertextual Dynamics within the Literary Group: Joyce, Lewis, Pound and Eliot 
by Dennis Brown.
Macmillan, 230 pp., £35, November 1990, 9780333516461
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An Immodest Violet: The Life of Violet Hunt 
by Joan Hardwick.
Deutsch, 205 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 233 98639 1
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... of Rip Van Winkle, that the challenge laid down by Canto CXVI (‘I have brought the great ball of crystal;/ who can lift it?/ Can you enter the great acorn of light?’) has never been met. ‘Nothing in English creative writing or criticism since those words were written in the late Fifties really seems an adequate response, except perhaps the via negativa ...

Broadcasting and the Abyss

Norman Buchan, 14 June 1990

... fought around that phrase, and the whole question of quality. And something was won. The Minister, David Mellor, accepted that ‘exceptional circumstances’ could include quality. This he has now spelled out in the Bill. But it still leaves much unanswered. Little is laid down in relation to ensuring diversity. The customary reference to the broadcaster’s ...


Hal Foster: Curation, 4 June 2015

Ways of Curating 
by Hans Ulrich Obrist.
Penguin, 192 pp., £9.99, March 2015, 978 0 241 95096 8
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Curationism: How Curating Took Over the Art World – And Everything Else 
by David Balzer.
Pluto, 140 pp., £8.99, April 2015, 978 0 7453 3597 1
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... formation as an Ausstellungsmacher, and it is no more than touched on by the Canadian art critic David Balzer in his breezy book about ‘how curating took over the art world – and everything else’. But both do point out how far we have come from the original avatars of the term (whose root is cura or ‘care’): the curatores, the civil servants who ...

Gloomy Sunday Afternoons

Caroline Maclean: Modernists at the Movies, 10 September 2009

The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period 
by Laura Marcus.
Oxford, 562 pp., £39, December 2007, 978 0 19 923027 3
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... images on a wide range of writers and critics in the first three decades of the 20th century. As David Trotter notes in Cinema and Modernism,* his account of the impact of film on Woolf, Joyce and Eliot, critics have tended to associate modernist literature with montage, a term used by Russian film-makers of the 1920s to indicate a quick succession of ...

Follow the Money

David Conn, 30 August 2012

... have been the result of relegation from the Premier League. Leeds, Leicester City, Bradford City, Crystal Palace and Wimbledon have all gone into administration that way. Portsmouth was the first club to suffer insolvency while still in the Premier League. In February 2010, with debts of more than £100 million, it was put into administration by Balram ...

Hoo-Hooing in the Birch

Michael Hofmann: Tomas Tranströmer, 16 June 2016

Bright Scythe: Selected Poems 
by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Patty Crane.
Sarabande, 207 pp., £13, November 2015, 978 1 941411 21 6
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... a neologism, an ordinary word) as ‘glass-clear’ when English says ‘crystal clear’. One language assonates, the other alliterates. (The sentence it occurs in, the first sentence in the first poem in the book, makes a horrid screech anyway in a bafflingly disordered English: ‘The stones we have thrown I hear/fall, glass-clear ...

When Pigs Ruled the Earth

James Secord: A prehistoric apocalypse, 1 April 2004

When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time 
by Michael Benton.
Thames and Hudson, 336 pp., £16.95, March 2003, 9780500051160
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... also still be seen in the extraordinary models of extinct monsters built for the grounds of the Crystal Palace when it moved to Sydenham in 1854. Here, iguanodon and other giant dinosaurs, made out of bricks, iron and cement, appear as the lords of reptilian creation. More than a million visitors a year saw these displays in the 19th century, and they ...

The Great Business

Nicholas Penny, 21 March 1985

Art of the 19th Century: Painting and Sculpture 
by Robert Rosenblum and H.W. Janson.
Thames and Hudson, 527 pp., £25, March 1984, 0 500 23385 3
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Romanticism and Realism: The Mythology of 19th-Century Art 
by Charles Rosen and Henri Zerner.
Faber, 244 pp., £15, October 1984, 0 571 13332 0
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Géricault: His Life and Work 
by Lorenz Eitner.
Orbis, 376 pp., £40, March 1983, 0 85613 384 1
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Tradition and Desire: From David to Delacroix 
by Norman Bryson.
Cambridge, 277 pp., £27.50, August 1984, 0 521 24193 6
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... Rosenblum with ‘the immediate illusion of a theatrical tableau enacted by costumed players in a crystal-clear space’. It was painted for – one might say took place at – the Salon of 1834. By then many paintings were designed primarily for the great annual public exhibitions and some of them exclusively for these, with no appropriate final ...

The Wildest, Highest Places

David Craig, 17 July 1997

John Muir: His Life and Letters and Other Writings 
edited by Terry Gifford.
Baton Wicks, 912 pp., £20, November 1996, 1 898573 07 7
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... because he delighted in it, was equal to its rigours, and craved to understand its least leaf and crystal, swarming up its pines in gales of wind and leaning out over the lips of its waterfalls. His feeling for nature is scarcely separable from his piety, which is luxuriant and ecstatic. In the Californian Sierra, ‘the presence of an atmosphere is hardly ...

Homely Virtues

David Cannadine, 4 August 1983

London: The Unique City 
by Steen Eiler Rasmussen.
MIT, 468 pp., £7.30, May 1982, 0 262 68027 0
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Town Planning in London: The 18th and 19th Centuries 
by Donald Olsen.
Yale, 245 pp., £25, October 1982, 0 300 02914 4
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The English Terraced House 
by Stefan Muthesius.
Yale, 278 pp., £12.50, November 1982, 0 300 02871 7
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London as it might have been 
by Felix Barker and Ralph Hyde.
Murray, 223 pp., £12.50, May 1982, 0 7195 3857 2
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... Thames-side quay (which looks like something out of Cleopatra); and a scheme for standing the Crystal Palace on its end as a 1,000-foot-high memorial to Albert (the ‘Towering Inferno’ before its time). For foolishness, there is a monument to Nelson in the form of an 89-foot-high trident (described by one contemporary as ‘a gigantic toasting ...

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