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Wild-Eyed and Ready to Die

Mary Hawthorne: Dawn Powell, 22 February 2001

The Diaries of Dawn Powell 1931-65 
edited by Tim Page.
Steerforth, 513 pp., $19, October 1999, 1 883642 25 6
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... prim cruelties were there from the beginning,’ Powell wrote years later to her editor Maxwell Perkins). When she wasn’t busy thrashing the children with a silver-handled whip, for offences such as entering the parlour without an invitation, she neglected and humiliated them. The last straw came when she burned Powell’s earliest stories and ...

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 ...

Diary

Alan Brien: Finding Lenin, 7 August 1986

... in Petrograd from Finland to trigger off the Revolution. A book recommended by many experts is David Shub’s Lenin: A Biography. It has much to recommend it, not least that Shub was a member of the Bolshevik Party in 1905 when Lenin was its leader and knew him and many other prominent actors in the Revolution very well. But few openings to a novel about ...

The Trouble with Nowhere

Martin Jay, 1 June 2000

The End of Utopia: Politics and Culture in an Age of Apathy 
by Russell Jacoby.
Basic Books, 256 pp., £17.95, April 1999, 0 465 02000 3
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Utopias: Russian Modernist Texts 1905-40 
edited by Catriona Kelly.
Penguin, 378 pp., £9.99, September 1999, 0 14 118081 1
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The Faber Book of Utopias 
edited by John Carey.
Faber, 560 pp., £20, October 1999, 9780571197859
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The Nazi War on Cancer 
by Robert Proctor.
Princeton, 390 pp., £18.95, May 1999, 0 691 00196 0
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... old as Marcuse’s 1937 essay on ‘The Affirmative Character of Culture’ and as contemporary as David Lloyd and Paul Thomas’s 1998 Culture and the State – that such a culture, when it is officially sponsored by even the most benevolent and enlightened state, may easily serve to maintain a very non-utopian status quo. If there is an embarrassing absence ...

Old America

W.C. Spengemann, 7 January 1988

Look homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe 
by David Herbert Donald.
Bloomsbury, 579 pp., £16.95, April 1987, 0 7475 0004 5
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From this moment on: America in 1940 
by Jeffrey Hart.
Crown, 352 pp., $19.95, February 1987, 9780517557419
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... that far country through study and then begin to remember it as their own birthplace. Others, like David Donald and Jeffrey Hart, remember it first and then study it up in order to flesh out their memories with circumstantial detail. In either case, historiography is given the task that Wordsworth assigned to poetry: to reconcile the seemingly unrelated worlds ...

Yuh wanna play bad?

Christopher Tayler: Henry Roth, 23 March 2006

Redemption: The Life of Henry Roth 
by Steven Kellman.
Norton, 372 pp., $16.99, September 2005, 0 393 05779 8
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Call It Sleep 
by Henry Roth.
Picador US, 462 pp., $15, July 2005, 0 312 42412 4
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... child growing up in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side a few years before the First World War. David Schearl, the protagonist, lives in terror of his father, an implacably resentful man called Albert, who boils with rage every evening while recounting real or imagined workplace slights: ‘They look at me crookedly, with mockery in their eyes! How much can ...

Hiatus at 4 a.m.

David Trotter: What scared Hitchcock?, 4 June 2015

Alfred Hitchcock 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Chatto, 279 pp., £12.99, April 2015, 978 0 7011 6993 0
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Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much 
by Michael Wood.
New Harvest, 129 pp., £15, March 2015, 978 1 4778 0134 5
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Hitchcock à la carte 
by Jan Olsson.
Duke, 261 pp., £16.99, March 2015, 978 0 8223 5804 6
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Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and Interviews, Vol. II 
edited by Sidney Gottlieb.
California, 274 pp., £24.95, February 2015, 978 0 520 27960 5
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... Crane (Janet Leigh), having just set foot in the Bates motel, fences warily with Norman (Anthony Perkins) in a room full of stuffed animals. But this is a heroine who will be dead before she’s had a chance to notice anything truly suspicious. Hers is a post-mortem awakening. The camera starts on her lifeless face pressed against the bathroom floor, pans to ...

In the dark

Philip Horne, 1 December 1983

The Life of Alfred Hitchcock: The Dark Side of Genius 
by Donald Spoto.
Collins, 594 pp., £12.95, May 1983, 0 00 216352 7
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Howard Hawks, Storyteller 
by Gerald Mast.
Oxford, 406 pp., £16.50, June 1983, 0 19 503091 5
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... are plenty of motels in this area. You should’ve – I mean just to be safe – Anthony Perkins, who plays Norman Bates in the film, has justly remarked: ‘Luckily, I think that most of the people who saw the picture enjoyed it in a very good warmhearted way. When they were frightened, they were pleased that they were frightened.’ For Hitchcock ...

Wait a second what’s that?

August Kleinzahler: Elvis’s Discoverer, 8 February 2018

Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ’n’ Roll 
by Peter Guralnick.
Weidenfeld, 784 pp., £16.99, November 2015, 978 0 297 60949 0
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... From that point on Sun shifted direction towards white rockabilly, that same year signing Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, both of whom became hugely successful and drifted away a couple of years later to Columbia Records. Jerry Lee Lewis came aboard in 1956 and stayed with Sun until 1963. Roy Orbison didn’t enjoy as much success at Sun as the others, but ...

I even misspell intellectual

Rupert Thomson: Caroline Gordon v. Flannery O’Connor, 2 April 2020

The Letters of Flannery O’Connor and Caroline Gordon 
edited by Christine Flanagan.
Georgia, 272 pp., £31.95, October 2018, 978 0 8203 5408 8
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... that’s no bad thing: her blend of crackling violence and surreal wit often seems closer to David Lynch than Aquinas.The theological approach receives a predictably complete expression in Christine Flanagan’s edition of The Letters of Flannery O’Connor and Caroline Gordon. The two women were introduced by Robert Lowell, who had met O’Connor ...
... antiquities at Sotheby’s and head of modern painting. When Magnus Linklater took over as editor, David Sylvester, my neighbour and great friend, who had been art adviser, offered his resignation. So suddenly there wasn’t an art adviser. Bruce was at a terribly low ebb. He’d been working for ages on the book which eventually came out as The Songlines. He ...

Enjoy!

Terry Eagleton, 27 November 1997

The Indivisible Remainder: An Essay on Schelling and Related Matters 
by Slavoj Žižek.
Verso, 248 pp., £40, January 1997, 1 85984 094 9
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The Abyss of Freedom/Ages of The World 
by Slavoj Žižek and F.W.J. Von Schelling.
Michigan, 182 pp., £35, July 1997, 0 472 09652 4
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The Plague of Fantasies 
by Slavoj Žižek.
Verso, 248 pp., £40, November 1997, 1 85984 857 5
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... a grotesque war dance for the delectation of some visiting anthropologists, he notes that ‘David Owen and companions are today’s version of the expedition to the New Zealand tribe: they act and react exactly in the same way, overlooking how the entire spectacle of “old hatreds suddenly erupting in their primordial cruelty” is a dance staged for ...

He had it all

Alex Harvey: Fitzgerald’s Decade, 5 July 2018

Paradise Lost: A Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald 
by David S. Brown.
Harvard, 424 pp., £21.95, May 2017, 978 0 674 50482 0
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‘I’d Die for You’ and Other Lost Stories 
by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Scribner, 384 pp., £9.99, April 2018, 978 1 4711 6473 6
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... and fiction. Fitzgerald shared with his hero Gatsby an untimely death and barely attended funeral. David Brown’s thorough biography, Paradise Lost, emphasises that Fitzgerald lived with the constant tension between the desire to be a ‘whole man’ and the recognition of its impossibility. His life was full of drama and destruction: reckless ...

I’m a Surfer

Steven Shapin: What’s the Genome Worth?, 20 March 2008

A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life 
by Craig Venter.
Allen Lane, 390 pp., £25, October 2007, 978 0 7139 9724 8
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... their own money, secured $100,000 in seed capital from the Palo Alto venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, and incorporated a company, known as Genentech, whose current market capitalisation of $85.1 billion makes it the biggest biotech company in the world. Boyer became rich and Cohen comfortably well-off. And this sort of spinning-out of science from ...

Shapeshifter

Ian Penman: Elvis looks for meaning, 25 September 2014

Elvis Has Left the Building: The Day the King Died 
by Dylan Jones.
Duckworth, 307 pp., £16.99, July 2014, 978 0 7156 4856 8
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Elvis Presley: A Southern Life 
by Joel Williamson.
Oxford, 384 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 19 986317 4
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... his personal jeweller for two hundred wrist watches that flashed both cross of Jesus and star of David. Such personal touches were far more Elvis than any of the books that had been recommended to him. Soon life would again be games with lascivious starlets and golden guns and awesome dune buggies. Soon he would be home again and primed for every day’s ...

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