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Propellers for Noses

Dennis Duncan: The Themerson Archive, 9 June 2022

The Themerson Archive Catalogue 
edited by Jasia Reichardt and Nick Wadley.
MIT, three vols, 1000 pp., £190, November 2020, 978 1 9162474 1 3
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... This short film is an experiment designed to use the medium of the screen to create for the eye an impression comparable to that experienced by the ear.’ While the caption scrolls upwards, a soprano sings from Karol Szymanowski’s Słopiewnie cycle. This is The Eye and the Ear (1944), produced by the Polish Film Unit, which operated out of London in the later years of the war ...

Fake it till you make it

Anthony Grafton: Indexing, 23 September 2021

Index, A History of the 
by Dennis Duncan.
Allen Lane, 352 pp., £20, September, 978 0 241 37423 8
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... detailed, intelligently constructed indexes, whose makers he always warmly thanked.The index, as Dennis Duncan shows in Index, A History of the, has been around for a long time. Its roots stretch back to inventories, catalogues and the tags that identified scrolls, such as those of the Alexandrian Library, to tables of contents, which Pliny the Elder ...

Seductress Extraordinaire

Terry Castle: The vampiric Mercedes de Acosta, 24 June 2004

‘That Furious Lesbian’: The Story of Mercedes de Acosta 
by Robert Schanke.
Southern Illinois, 210 pp., £16.95, June 2004, 0 8093 2579 9
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Women in Turmoil: Six Plays 
by Mercedes de Acosta, edited by Robert Schanke.
Southern Illinois, 252 pp., £26.95, June 2003, 0 8093 2509 8
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... managed to bed just about everybody who was anybody in the sapphic world of her time: from Isadora Duncan, Alla Nazimova, Pola Negri, Tamara Karsavina, Katharine Cornell, Marie Laurencin, Michael Strange and Eva Le Gallienne in the 1920s and 1930s to Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Hope Williams, Libby Holman, Ona Munson (Belle Watling in Gone with the ...

See stars, Mummy

Rosemary Hill: Barbara Comyns’s Childhood, 9 May 2024

Barbara Comyns: A Savage Innocence 
by Avril Horner.
Manchester, 347 pp., £30, March, 978 1 5261 7374 4
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... another’s shoulders from Margaret, bending slightly to reach Molly, who bends one knee to reach Dennis, and from there down an even descent through Nan, Barbara and Kathleen, who holds a doll. It is a picture of harmony and continuity, like the Elizabethan church monuments in which mothers and fathers kneel with their children behind them. There was to be ...

Not a desire to have him, but to be like him

Slavoj Žižek: Highsmith is the One, 21 August 2003

Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith 
by Andrew Wilson.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £25, June 2003, 0 7475 6314 4
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... documenting the banality of evil’? Much more pertinent are the observations he quotes, such as Duncan Fallowell’s perspicuous characterisation of Highsmith as ‘a combination of painful vulnerability and iron will’. Or the anecdotes that illustrate her complete lack of tact, her openness about her fantasies and prejudices (although a leftist, she ...

A Bit Like Gulliver

Stephanie Burt: Seamus Heaney’s Seamus Heaney, 11 June 2009

Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney 
by Dennis O’Driscoll.
Faber, 524 pp., £22.50, November 2008, 978 0 571 24252 8
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The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney 
edited by Bernard O’Donoghue.
Cambridge, 239 pp., £45, December 2008, 978 0 521 54755 0
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... displace – a future biography without taking years to concentrate on a memoir? Seamus Heaney and Dennis O’Driscoll have found a good way. Stepping Stones is not quite Heaney’s autobiography: it is, instead, a long collection of interviews, revised collaboratively, in which Heaney describes each phase of his life. Only a poet of Heaney’s repute could ...

On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move, 13 September 2018

Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... studied in Stanford (‘You keep both Rule and Energy in view,’ Gunn wrote of him), and Robert Duncan, who was interested in a much looser, open style, as well as other Americans such as William Carlos Williams. Wavering between systems, Gunn didn’t please everyone. In August Kleinzahler’s introduction to the third Selected, which appeared in 2007 (the ...

My Castaway This Week

Miranda Carter: Desert Island Dreams, 9 June 2022

... William Trevor ruminating unshowily on the job of writing; the just pre-Pennies from Heaven Dennis Potter remembering his Forest of Dean childhood; and Charlotte Rampling, very solemn, on the death of her sister and making The Night Porter – Plomley managing to avoid any mention of what it was actually about. (In case you’ve forgotten, the S&M ...

So Ordinary, So Glamorous

Thomas Jones: Eternal Bowie, 5 April 2012

Starman: David Bowie, the Definitive Biography 
by Paul Trynka.
Sphere, 440 pp., £9.99, March 2012, 978 0 7515 4293 6
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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s 
by Peter Doggett.
Bodley Head, 424 pp., £20, September 2011, 978 1 84792 144 4
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... Trynka writes with studied understatement, ‘no detailed memories of the household antics of Dennis Hopper, Iggy Pop and David Bowie survive, for each of the participants’ recollection of this period is patchy.’ It seems that Bowie probably did have an exorcism carried out on his house, but ‘other tales, including the one of David storing bodily ...

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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... the names that regularly provoke newspaper articles – Moon Unit Zappa, Zowie Bowie (a.k.a. Duncan Jones), Trig and Track Palin, Rocket, Racer, Rebel and Rogue Rodriguez, Number 16 Bus Shelter and Talula Does the Hula from Hawaii (known to her friends as ‘K’) – may seem a little less provocative. Michael Jackson did not, after all, actually ...

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