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The Force of the Anomaly

Perry Anderson: Carlo Ginzburg, 26 April 2012

Threads and Traces: True False Fictive 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by Anne Tedeschi and John Tedeschi.
California, 328 pp., £20.95, January 2012, 978 0 520 25961 4
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... Dante, Boccaccio, More, Machiavelli, Montaigne, Hobbes, Bayle, Voltaire, Sterne, Diderot, David, Stendhal, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Warburg, Proust, Kracauer, Picasso and many more, each an extraordinary display of learning. No other living historian approaches the range of this erudition. Every page of Threads and Traces, his latest work to appear in ...

Lamb’s Tails

Christopher Driver, 19 June 1986

All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the Present 
by Stephen Mennell.
Blackwell, 380 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 631 13244 9
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Curye on Inglysch: English Culinary Manuscripts of the 14th Century including ‘The Forme of Cury’ 
edited by Constance Hieatt and Sharon Butler.
Oxford, for the Early English Text Society, 224 pp., £6.50, April 1985, 0 19 722409 1
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The English Cookbook 
by Victor Gordon.
Cape, 304 pp., £12.50, November 1985, 0 224 02300 4
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... Elton leafing through A la Carte as a substitute for actual cooking, and Emma consulting Elizabeth David for instruction in the matter of marrow-bones. Wherever the daily human comedy of manners is deployed as a cloak for our brute, indispensable appetites and satisfactions, food and drink must be present or, if absent, must expect to have their absence ...

Towards the Transhuman

James Atlas, 2 February 1984

The Oxford Companion to American Literature 
by James Hart.
Oxford, 896 pp., £27.50, November 1983, 0 19 503074 5
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The Modern American Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Oxford, 209 pp., £9.95, April 1983, 0 19 212591 5
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The Literature of the United States 
by Marshall Walker.
Macmillan, 236 pp., £14, November 1983, 0 333 32298 3
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American Fictions 1940-1980: A Comprehensive History and Critical Valuation 
by Frederick Karl.
Harper and Row, 637 pp., £31.50, February 1984, 0 06 014939 6
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Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 919 pp., £21, January 1984, 0 233 97610 8
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... as ‘a bohemian rebellion against established society which came to prominence about 1956’; David Ignatow’s poetic idiom as ‘Brooklynese speech’. But at least it doesn’t pretend to be more than it is – a ‘companion’, not a history. I wish I could say the same for the season’s lot of general surveys, which look so authoritative to the ...

Dishonoured

Michael Wood, 5 May 1983

The Rapes of Lucretia: A Myth and Its Transformation 
by Ian Donaldson.
Oxford, 203 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 19 812638 7
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The Rape of Clarissa 
by Terry Eagleton.
Blackwell, 109 pp., £10, September 1982, 0 631 13031 4
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Samuel Richardson: A Man of Letters 
by Carol Houlihan Flynn.
Princeton, 342 pp., £17.70, May 1982, 0 691 06506 3
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... the lighter cavalry (Mlle de Scudéry, Voltaire, Alfieri, Nathaniel Lee, Gavin Hamilton, J.-L. David). However, Donaldson sharply registers the enormous popularity of the myth across the centuries, and the ways in which controversy has enlivened and enlarged it rather than killing it off. Readings of a myth become part of the myth, as Lévi-...

History Man

John Robertson, 4 November 1993

G.B. Vico: The Making of an Anti-Modern 
by Mark Lilla.
Harvard, 225 pp., £29.95, April 1993, 0 674 33962 2
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The Rehabilitation of Myth: Vico’s ‘New Science’ 
by Joseph Mali.
Cambridge, 275 pp., £35, September 1992, 0 521 41952 2
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... is never really made clear. The great names from late 20th-century mythological studies – Levi-Strauss, Geertz, Winch, Gadamer, Ricoeur and many others – drop freely enough onto the page, often accompanied by the ipsissima verba; and the book ends by hailing Alasdair MacIntyre as Vico’s likeliest modern ...

Heart and Hoof

Marjorie Garber: Seabiscuit, 4 October 2001

Seabiscuit: The Making of a Legend 
by Laura Hillenbrand.
Fourth Estate, 399 pp., £16.99, May 2001, 1 84115 091 6
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... the names given to horses – not ordinary horses . . . but racehorses,’ writes Claude Lévi-Strauss, opening an excursus on equine onomastics in The Savage Mind. The names of thoroughbreds are ‘rigorously individualised’ and ‘rarely, if ever, describe them’. What counts is the way they can be seen to derive from the horse’s pedigree. They form ...

Icicles by Cynthia

Michael Wood: Ghosts, 2 January 2020

Romantic Shades and Shadows 
by Susan J. Wolfson.
Johns Hopkins, 272 pp., £50, August 2018, 978 1 4214 2554 2
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... from stylistic analysis. There is also the method of ‘too close reading’ wittily practised by David Miller, especially in his book Hidden Hitchcock (2016).Wolfson’s work is not unrelated to this last example – both writers are concerned with seeing apparitions and being glad to see them – but she tends to think that patient, uncensored curiosity ...

Check out the parking lot

Rebecca Solnit: Hell in LA, 8 July 2004

Dante's Inferno 
by Sandow Birk and Marcus Sanders.
Chronicle, 218 pp., £15.99, May 2004, 0 8118 4213 4
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... of depravity or opportunity (which, here, might be the same thing). She added that just as Lévi-Strauss once remarked that animals are how we think, so Los Angeles, and by extension California, are also how we think – about society, about urbanism, about the future, about morality and its opposite. It’s as though, in the golden light, everything is ...

Let’s Cut to the Wail

Michael Wood: The Oresteia according to Anne Carson, 11 June 2009

An Oresteia 
translated by Anne Carson.
Faber, 255 pp., $27, March 2009, 978 0 86547 902 9
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... different. It’s not just that all interpretations of a myth are instances of the myth, as Lévi-Strauss said (Freud and Sophocles are both dramatists of the tale of Oedipus): it’s that all instances of the myth are interpretations of it, as if they were played from a musical score that everyone knows but no one possesses. It is in this sense that there ...

Deciding Derrida

David Hoy, 18 February 1982

... the metaphysical strains he finds not only in Plato but also in moderns like de Saussure and Lévi-Strauss. He identifies more with figures like Mallarmé and Nietzsche who are like him in two respects: they break with traditional ways of writing, and they are often misinterpreted as idealists. Derrida’s critics in the Academy may grow impatient with his ...

Gesture as Language

David Trotter, 30 January 1992

A Cultural History of Gestures: From Antiquity to the Present 
edited by Jan Bremmer and Herman Roodenburg.
Polity, 220 pp., £35, December 1991, 0 7456 0786 1
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The New Oxford Book of 17th-Century Verse 
by Alastair Fowler.
Oxford, 830 pp., £25, November 1991, 0 19 214164 3
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... world.’ It is all very reminiscent of the heroic days of Structuralism, when Barthes and Lévi-Strauss triumphantly laid bare the codes embedded in what might at first glance appear spontaneous or arbitrary behaviour. The semiotician waves his wand and suddenly we can no longer see the behaviour for the codes which regulate it. Those codes now seem ...

Aloha, aloha

Ian Hacking, 7 September 1995

What ‘Natives’ Think: About Captain Cook, For Example 
by Marshall Sahlins.
Chicago, 316 pp., £19.95, July 1995, 0 226 73368 8
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... is critical only to Chapter Four of Islands. Most of Sahlins’s work is in the tradition of Lévi-Strauss, but instead of the doctrinaire structuralism of some of Lévi-Strauss’s followers that takes structures of autochthonous societies to be instantaneous and out of time, Sahlins studies how they change, and in ...

Il n’y a pas de Beckett

Christopher Prendergast, 14 November 1996

Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett 
by James Knowlson.
Bloomsbury, 872 pp., £25, September 1996, 0 7475 2719 9
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Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist 
by Anthony Cronin.
HarperCollins, 645 pp., £25, October 1996, 9780246137692
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The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett. Vol I: Waiting for Godot 
edited by Dougald McMillan and James Knowlson.
Faber, 472 pp., £75, March 1994, 0 571 14543 4
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The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett. Vol II: Endgame 
edited by S.E. Gontarski.
Faber, 276 pp., £50, November 1992, 0 571 14544 2
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The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett. Vol III: Krapp’s Last Tape 
edited by James Knowlson.
Faber, 286 pp., £50, May 1992, 0 571 14563 9
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Eleutheria 
by Samuel Beckett, translated by Barbara Wright.
Faber, 170 pp., £6.99, September 1996, 9780571178261
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... nothing so much as Lucky’s portering of the sand-filled suitcases in Waiting for Godot. Lévi-Strauss argued that history-writing was impossible given the indefinite divisibility of time and hence the arbitrariness of the temporal units adopted by the historian. This thought is unlikely to be much of an impediment to the practising historian, but it ...

Hare’s Blood

Peter Wollen: John Berger, 4 April 2002

The Selected Essays of John Berger 
edited by Geoff Dyer.
Bloomsbury, 599 pp., £25, November 2001, 0 7475 5419 6
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... read many of the same books, from the same canon of French revolutionary literature. He respected David as a painter because of his ‘revolutionary classicism’ and, in his book on The Success and Failure of Picasso, he cites Bakunin’s typically anarchist dictum that ‘the urge to destroy is also a creative urge,’ comparing it to Picasso’s ...

Flat-Nose, Stocky and Beautugly

James Davidson: Greek Names, 23 September 2010

A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Vol. V.A Coastal Asia Minor: Pontos to Ionia 
edited by T. Corsten.
Oxford, 496 pp., £125, March 2010, 978 0 19 956743 0
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... normal classic names: Simon, Mark, Peter, Andrew, Paul, Martin, Michael, Stephen, Richard, Robert, David. Girls’ names remained more modish: some Sarahs, Anns and Elizabeths and even some residual Marys, but also plenty of Janets, Jackies, Lisas and Debbies, who soared and plummeted through the bestseller lists in the space of a couple of decades, the ...

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