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Nicholas Penny, 18 March 1982

Michelangelo and the Language of Art 
by David Summers.
Princeton, 626 pp., £26.50, February 1981, 0 691 03957 7
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Bernini in France: An Episode in 17th-Century History 
by Cecil Gould.
Weidenfeld, 158 pp., £12.95, March 1982, 0 297 77944 3
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... and varied poses on the thrones of the prophets and sibyls on the same ceiling. I would agree with Summers, who supposes that the ignudi have an ‘ornamental significance’, and also that there is resistance to this because ‘ornament, visual or rhetorical, runs counter to one of the most deeply and confidently held articles of modern taste, and we have ...

The Fastidious President

David Bromwich: The Matter with Obama, 18 November 2010

... what they want, a Democrat has to: that was his line. Hillary Clinton also backed the generals, David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal and the chief of staff Admiral Mullen, in their request for 40,000 more troops. Indeed she supported them more strongly than Gates did. Jones sought to help Obama by running interference with the Pentagon, but Obama preferred ...

Our Soft-Shelled Condition

Katha Pollitt: Corsets, 14 November 2002

The Corset: A Cultural History 
by Valerie Steele.
Yale, 204 pp., £29.95, September 2001, 0 300 09071 4
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Bound to Please: A History of the Victorian Corset 
by Leigh Summers.
Berg, 302 pp., £15.99, October 2001, 9781859735107
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... her a wonderful massage, and instantly transforms her from sex object to sensuous liberated woman. David Kunzle challenged this narrative in Fashion and Fetishism: A Social History of Corsets, Tight Lacing and Other Forms of Body Sculpture in the West (1982), arguing that the dangers of corsets were exaggerated or even invented. Women, he claimed, wore corsets ...

More about Marilyn

Michael Church, 20 February 1986

Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe 
by Anthony Summers.
Gollancz, 414 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 575 03641 9
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Norma Jeane: The Life and Death of Marilyn Monroe 
by Fred Lawrence Guiles.
Granada, 377 pp., £12.95, June 1985, 0 246 12307 9
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Poor Little Rich Girl: The Life and Legend of Barbara Hutton 
by C. David Heymann.
Hutchinson, 390 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 09 146010 7
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Deams that money can buy: The Tragic Life of Libby Holman 
by Jon Bradshaw.
Cape, 431 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 224 02846 4
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All Those Tomorrows 
by Mai Zetterling.
Cape, 230 pp., £9.95, November 1985, 0 224 01841 8
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Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady 
by Florence King.
Joseph, 278 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 7181 2611 4
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... killing Bobby’s career, and possibly brother Jack’s as well. The silence of those whom Anthony Summers failed to catch suggests that the facts about that death are even now divulged at mortal risk. And the damage goes back and back. For her tuition as an actress Marilyn depended utterly on two women whom she first exalted then pitilessly destroyed. A ...

Cricket’s Superpowers

David Runciman: Beyond the Ashes, 22 September 2005

... It would be nice, particularly after this summer of summers, to think that the Ashes remains the pre-eminent contest in world cricket, and that Anglo-Australian rivalry is still one of the most significant in all sport. But it is not true, and it hasn’t been true for some time. The rivalry in international cricket that counts at present is the one between Australia and India ...

Short Cuts

David Bromwich: Stirrers Up of Strife, 17 March 2016

... especially in the first term, was largely a third Bill Clinton term: Rahm Emanuel, Lawrence Summers, Tom Donilon, Leon Panetta, John Podesta and Hillary Clinton were called back and held over. The interlude of subsequent personal enrichment by Clinton, trading on her prestige and inside knowledge, has drawn attention in recent days, after the revelation ...

Cod on Ice

Andy Beckett: The BBC, 10 July 2003

Panorama: Fifty Years of Pride And Paranoia 
by Richard Lindley.
Politico’s, 404 pp., £18.99, September 2002, 1 902301 80 3
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The Harder Path: The Autobiography 
by John Birt.
Time Warner, 532 pp., £20, October 2002, 0 316 86019 0
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... stories. Lindley’s account of how he and his colleagues, including the producer Anthony Summers, covered the Yom Kippur War is typical: Once in Tripoli Summers cut a comprehensive deal with a likely looking taxi driver which soon had the Lime Grove contingent speeding day and night across the desert, talking and ...

The Wickedest Woman in Paris

Colm Tóibín, 6 September 2007

Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins 
by Rupert Everett.
Abacus, 406 pp., £7.99, July 2007, 978 0 349 12058 4
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... out of sheer unpleasantness, but the night it went wrong it was done for pettier motives. Nona Summers, a society hostess, was that evening minding her own business in her own nice home in the company of Jack Nicholson and three hundred others. She had, understandably, drawn the line at Rupert and Min, who seem to have been upset by this. Rupert’s idea ...

Mary, Mary

Christopher Hitchens, 8 April 1993

Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover 
by Anthony Summers.
Gollancz, 576 pp., £18.99, March 1993, 0 575 04236 2
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... gossip had spoken of as not unknown in the German army. [Emphasis mine.] On page 222 of Anthony Summers’s vastly enjoyable and revealing book, we find J. Edgar Hoover’s lovely home in Rock Creek Park being done up at taxpayers’ expense, complete with ‘hand-crafted fruit bowl’ and ‘a heated toilet seat, invented in the FBI laboratory. When he ...

Poor Stephen

James Fox, 23 July 1987

An Affair of State: The Profumo Case and the Framing of Stephen Ward 
by Phillip Knightley and Caroline Kennedy.
Cape, 268 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 224 02347 0
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Honeytrap: The Secret Worlds of Stephen Ward 
by Anthony Summers and Stephen Dorril.
Weidenfeld, 264 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 297 79122 2
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... Honeytrap, in some sections an admirable piece of sleuthing, gets diverted into loose speculation. Summers and Dorril make too much of the ‘Kennedy connection’ – of the great interest the FBI and CIA took in the case. Much of their story depends on the London playgirl, Mariella Novotny, who claimed she slept with John Kennedy. Knightley dismisses most of ...

The Great Accumulator

John Sturrock: W.G. Grace, 20 August 1998

W.G. Grace: A Life 
by Simon Rae.
Faber, 548 pp., £20, July 1998, 0 571 17855 3
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W.G.’s Birthday Party 
by David Kynaston.
Night Watchman, 154 pp., £13, May 1998, 0 9532360 0 5
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... and assertive embodiment of the game in the years of its benign colonisation of the nation’s summers. The physique that famously sustained him was in truth a luxury: Grace was stronger than there was any call for a cricketer to be, ready to go off when young to run hurdle races between innings, and still up to bowling 75 overs in the match at the age of ...

A Peacock Called Mirabell

August Kleinzahler: James Merrill, 31 March 2016

James Merrill: Life and Art 
by Langdon Hammer.
Knopf, 913 pp., £27, April 2015, 978 0 375 41333 9
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... and a peacock called Mirabell, all of it recorded with the help of Merrill’s longtime partner, David Jackson, during twenty years of séances using a Ouija board at their home in Stonington, Connecticut. This volume tips in at 560 pages. Merrill also wrote novels, plays and two memoirs. Born to enormous wealth, he had little to distract him from his ...

The Loneliness Thing

Peter Campbell, 5 February 1981

Nature and Culture 
by Barbara Novak.
Thames and Hudson, 323 pp., £16, August 1980, 0 500 01245 8
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Edward Hopper: The Complete Prints 
by Gail Levin.
Norton, 128 pp., £9.95, April 1980, 0 393 01275 1
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Edward Hopper as illustrator 
by Gail Levin.
Norton, 288 pp., £15.95, April 1980, 0 393 01243 3
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... of ‘the still small voice’. She writes of the latter (they resemble the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich) that they ‘brought the 19th century as close as it could come to silence and the void.’ Hopper, whose paintings are ‘silent’ in a similar way, wrote rather tetchily that ‘the loneliness thing is overdone. It formulates something you ...

Rethinking the countryside

David Allen, 22 January 1987

The History of the Countryside 
by Oliver Rackham.
Dent, 445 pp., £16.95, April 1986, 0 460 04449 4
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Gilbert White: A Biography of the Author of the ‘Natural History of Selborne’ 
by Richard Mabey.
Century, 239 pp., £14.95, May 1986, 0 7126 1232 7
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The Journals of Gilbert White 1751-1773: Vol. 1 
edited by Francesca Greenoak.
Century, 531 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 7126 1294 7
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An Account of the Foxglove and its Medical Uses 1785-1985 
by J.K. Aronson.
Oxford, 399 pp., £25, February 1986, 0 19 261501 7
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The Oxford Dictionary of Natural History 
edited by Michael Allaby.
Oxford, 688 pp., £20, January 1986, 0 19 217720 6
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... when he was diverted from his normal course by succumbing to an outside fashion: for it was in the summers of 1765 and ’66 that it took place, just when the new Linnaean tide had begun to break upon our shores. If that tide could temporarily divert even a man like White, its current must indeed have been powerful. Another who was caught up by it, some ten ...

Seen through the Loopholes

David Simpson: ‘War at a Distance’, 11 March 2010

War at a Distance: Romanticism and the Making of Modern Wartime 
by Mary Favret.
Princeton, 262 pp., £18.95, January 2010, 978 0 691 14407 8
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... sight and out of time; the eruption of faraway Mount Tambora in 1815, for example, produced cold summers and critically low harvests in Europe (giving us also Byron’s ‘Darkness’ and, when the sun came out again, Keats’s ‘To Autumn’). Weather, like war and disease, was no respecter of national borders; distant war might come close to home. War and ...

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