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The Real Magic

David Sylvester, 8 June 1995

A Biographical Dictionary of Film 
by David Thomson.
Deutsch, 834 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 233 98859 9
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... now I have taken the view that my ‘Desert Island’ book, if I were asked, would have to be David Thomson’s A Biographical Dictionary of the Cinema. First published in 1970, it has just re-appeared as A Biographical Dictionary of Film in a third edition that is revised and considerably enlarged. Despite its titles it is indeed a work of ...

Queening It

Jenny Diski: Nina Simone, 25 June 2009

Nina Simone: The Biography 
by David Brun-Lambert.
Aurum, 346 pp., £20, February 2009, 978 1 84513 430 3
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... unreliable ghosted memoir of her own and a reminiscence by the founder of her British fan club, David Nathan, and its secretary, Sylvia Hampton. Potential biographers might have been put off by the resistance of Simone’s daughter, who doesn’t want to talk about her mother, and many former friends and colleagues who refused to be interviewed or give ...

How does one talk to these people?

Andrew O’Hagan: David Storey in the Dark, 1 July 2021

A Stinging Delight: A Memoir 
by David Storey.
Faber, 407 pp., £20, June, 978 0 571 36031 4
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... a pot-boy (Bob Gliddery in Our Mutual Friend), seven surgeons, three dance-masters, a reporter (David Copperfield), a tobacconist (Mrs Chivery in Little Dorrit), two fishermen, 32 teachers, four blacksmiths, six undertakers, 45 lawyers and sixteen landladies, several magistrates, a weaver (Stephen Blackpool in Hard Times), an umbrella-maker (Alexander Trott ...

Out of the house

Dinah Birch, 30 August 1990

The Sign of Angellica: Women, Writing and Fiction, 1660-1800 
by Janet Todd.
Virago, 328 pp., £12.99, April 1989, 0 86068 576 4
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Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian Britain 
by Mary Poovey.
Virago, 282 pp., £12.99, February 1989, 1 85381 035 5
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The Woman Question. Society and Literature In Britain and America, 1837-1883: Vols I-III 
edited by Elizabeth Helsinger, Robin Lauterbach Sheets and William Veeder.
Chicago, 146 pp., £7.95, February 1989, 0 226 32666 7
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Sexual Science: The Victorian Construction of Womanhood 
by Cynthia Eagle Russett.
Harvard, 245 pp., £15.95, June 1989, 9780674802902
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... perspectives represented by Henry Fielding. Henry’s sister Sarah, whose novel The Adventures of David Simple is examined in detail here, demonstrates the power of the vision of sensibility which culminated in Richardson’s Clarissa. It was a double-edged rule, bound up with the perverse gratifications of misery. Virtue could be revered only as long as it ...

Short Cuts

Frederick Wilmot-Smith: RBG’s Big Mistake, 8 October 2020

... the Senate’. When Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the seat, but the Senate declined to exercise its power of advice and consent. The nomination should be made, they argued, by whoever won the presidential election later that year. Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said that their ...

What We Have

David Bromwich: Tarantinisation, 4 February 1999

The Origins of Postmodernity 
by Perry Anderson.
Verso, 143 pp., £11, September 1998, 1 85984 222 4
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The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-98 
by Fredric Jameson.
Verso, 206 pp., £11, September 1998, 1 85984 182 1
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... dryness into ‘Sweeney Agonistes’, could be heard a few years later as the refrain for Judy Garland and Margaret O’Brien’s dance number in Meet Me in St Louis, not because Vincente Minnelli stole the idea from Eliot but because both were freely borrowing from the same source. Given the absence of novelty in Pomo’s fondness for popular culture, the ...

Supermax

John Bayley, 8 December 1988

The Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 244 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7195 4537 4
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The Faber Book of Letters 
edited by Felix Pryor.
Faber, 319 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 571 15269 4
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... to put people right about other people is incorrigible, indeed obsessional. In his review of David Cecil’s biography of Max Beerbohm Malcolm Muggeridge allowed it to be a graceful job of work, but said it missed the real point about Beerbohm and his lifestyle, which was that he concealed his Jewish origins and was a crypto-homosexual. Of ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies, 26 January 2012

An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... the Communist Party as a career move: ‘You will meet big people.’ By the end of that year, David Platt, the Daily Worker’s movie reviewer (a witness frequently summoned by Hoberman for counterpoint), announced that ‘never before in the history of the screen have there been so many forward-looking people in positions of responsibility as in ...

Upward Mobility

Bruce Boucher, 31 March 1988

Venetian Villas 
by Michelangelo Muraro.
Rizzoli, 514 pp., $85, January 1987, 0 8478 0762 2
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Picturing Art in Antwerp, 1550-1700 
by Zirka Zaremba Filipczak.
Princeton, 247 pp., £37.60, February 1988, 0 691 04047 8
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The Painful Birth of the Art Book 
by Francis Haskell.
Thames and Hudson, 64 pp., £5.95, February 1988, 0 500 55019 0
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... qualities were underscored by the presence of paintings with subjects such as the Madonna in a garland of flowers or Christ’s healing of the blind man. Those studying the pictures can be identified as gentlemen or possibly noblemen by their accoutrements of swords and staffs: the galleries and their inhabitants appear to reinforce a concept of art as a ...

Umpteens

Christopher Ricks, 22 November 1990

Bloomsbury Dictionary of Dedications 
edited by Adrian Room.
Bloomsbury, 354 pp., £17.99, September 1990, 0 7475 0521 7
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Unauthorised Versions: Poems and their Parodies 
edited by Kenneth Baker.
Faber, 446 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 0 571 14122 6
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The Faber Book of Vernacular Verse 
edited by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 407 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 571 14470 5
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... a prophylactic distance. The SDP/Liberal Alliance is judged to have ‘foundered on the pique of David Steel and the pride of David Owen’: it is not clear why a note to this effect had to be appended to this other parody of Woddis’s, for the parody itself implies as much. Or as little, since there are those of us who ...

Her face was avant-garde

Christian Lorentzen: DeLillo’s Stories, 9 February 2012

The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 211 pp., £16.99, November 2011, 978 1 4472 0757 3
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... a dark and deafening cavern of trains, a pool of sunlight spilling through the church window, a garland of garish faces on a dark street corner – but rather a concept, a vague abstraction of duty, instruction, salvation.’ And the story dwells for pages on Burke’s Jesus complex, juxtaposing it repeatedly with vulgar scenes from the street. Consumerism ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Finding My Métier, 4 January 2018

... to it. On the News reports of Tony Snowdon’s death. I first met him in 1968 when Patrick Garland brought him backstage with Princess Margaret after Forty Years On. A friend of Patrick’s, he talked mostly to him, but Princess Margaret didn’t confine herself to John Gielgud and Paul Eddington but to her credit wanted to meet the boys in the ...

Lost in Beauty

Michael Newton: Montgomery Clift, 7 October 2010

The Passion of Montgomery Clift 
by Amy Lawrence.
California, 333 pp., £16.95, May 2010, 978 0 520 26047 4
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... popular icon is in fact a misconception, in particular the sense of Clift as a male Monroe, Judy Garland as a guy. Although he was one of the founding members of the Actors’ Studio, it turns out that he shouldn’t even be considered a method actor, his style already fully formed by the time the method came along. His career at first was defined by his ...

Miss Lachrymose

Liz Brown: Doris Day’s Performances, 11 September 2008

Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door 
by David Kaufman.
Virgin, 628 pp., £29.95, June 2008, 978 1 905264 30 8
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... The transition from birth name to celebrity persona is common enough: Frances Gumm became Judy Garland; Lucille LeSueur became Joan Crawford; Norma Jeane Mortenson became Marilyn Monroe. Doris Kappelhoff became Doris Day, who then became Clara Bixby, a third self. You can look at the icon of Doris Day and at the woman known as Clara Bixby, but not at the ...

Surrealist Circus Animals

Ned Beauman: Jeff VanderMeer, 17 August 2017

Borne 
by Jeff VanderMeer.
Fourth Estate, 323 pp., £12.99, June 2017, 978 0 00 815917 7
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... that has been annexed by some kind of supernatural force. (A film adaptation, directed by Alex Garland and starring Natalie Portman, is due for release next year.) Much of the critical discussion of the trilogy has presented it as an achievement in nature writing; a review on newyorker.com, for instance, was headlined ‘The Weird ...

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