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Thunderstruck

Arthur Gavshon, 6 June 1985

The Falklands War: Lessons for Strategy, Diplomacy and International Law 
edited by Alberto Coll and Anthony Arend.
Allen and Unwin, 252 pp., £18, May 1985, 0 04 327075 1
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... Edgar Snow, the famous American foreign correspondent, once asked Mao Tse-tung for his appraisal of the social implications of the French Revolution. Mao reflected a while and then, shaking his head, said: ‘I think it’s still a bit too early to tell.’ The late Chinese leader’s caution might seem excessive even to the most obsessive historians ...

Veni, Vidi, Vichy

Jean-Pierre Chapelas, 9 March 1995

Une Jeunesse française: François Mitterrand 1934-1947 
by Pierre Péan.
Fayard, 615 pp., frs 160, September 1994, 2 213 59300 0
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... the greater glory of François Mitterrand. But with one ‘gap’, as it were, through which the wind from the left could come gusting in, that same left which in his young days our hero had so vigorously rejected. This boy from the South-West, educated in private schools and later a student in Paris, became enamoured – and why blame him? – of a social ...

Squealing to Survive

John Lahr: Clancy was here, 19 July 2018

Black Sunset: Hollywood Sex, Lies, Glamour, Betrayal and Raging Egos 
by Clancy Sigal.
Icon, 352 pp., £12.99, May 2018, 978 1 78578 439 2
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The London Lover: My Weekend that Lasted Thirty Years 
by Clancy Sigal.
Bloomsbury, 274 pp., £20, May 2018, 978 1 4088 8580 2
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... helped liberate the death camps and captured the Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. Next to J. Edgar Hoover, [Harry] Cohn has the finest surveillance system in the USA. The director Edward Dmytrk probably got it right when he refused to give names and honourably served his prison time and then – surprise! – became employable again by testifying ...

Francine-Machine

Jonathan Rée: Automata, 9 May 2002

Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen 
by Barbara Maria Stafford and Frances Terpak.
Getty, 416 pp., £30, February 2002, 0 89236 590 0
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The Secret Life of Puppets 
by Victoria Nelson.
Harvard, 350 pp., £20.50, February 2002, 0 674 00630 5
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Living Dolls: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life 
by Gaby Wood.
Faber, 278 pp., £12.99, March 2002, 0 571 17879 0
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... a metre-high machine featuring a cute little quill clasped by a miniature silver hand. When you wind it up, it spends four laborious minutes writing out a Latin formula petitioning God for leisure and material prosperity, which seems a pertinent request under the circumstances. Getty’s star exhibit was a six-foot-high ‘android clarinettist’ dating ...

Diary

Tom Paulin: Trimble’s virtues, 7 October 2004

... I jerk the cord again and again, and nothing happens, I get worried. Niall rests on the oars as I wind the cord again, and says: ‘Have you the choke on?’ At the next pull it shakes into life and we’re off towards Dawros Head, untangling the fishing line, scanning the water for mackerel shoals breaking the surface. We throw the line out and almost ...

My Old, Sweet, Darling Mob

Iain Sinclair: Michael Moorcock, 30 November 2000

King of the City 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 421 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 684 86140 2
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Mother London 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 496 pp., £6.99, May 2000, 0 684 86141 0
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... tapes, confessions to unremembered crimes, a dispersed set. The weather is borrowed from Edgar Wallace’s quota quickies and the dialogue from Edgar Lustgarten’s forensic reconstructions. A posthumous dream with a cast of greasy-tie filth and poetry-quoting psychopaths; autopsy flashbacks. Moorcock’s memory ...

Kitchen Devil

John Bayley, 20 December 1990

Emily Brontë: A Chainless Soul 
by Katherine Frank.
Hamish Hamilton, 303 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 9780241121993
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... vexes me to choose another guide: Where the grey flocks in ferny glens are feeding, Where the wild wind blows on the mountainside. The difference between that and ‘Cold in the earth, and fifteen wild Decembers ...’ is absolute: the difference between poetry that comes out of the air, and the sort that an earnest nature-worshipper, inspired by the real ...

Clairvoyant, Rich and Lucky

Chloë Daniel: Berlin 1904-2014, 30 November 2017

Hannah’s Dress: Berlin 1904-2014 
by Pascale Hugues, translated by C. Jon Delogu and Nick Somers.
Polity, 250 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 1 5095 0981 2
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... façades were still pockmarked by shrapnel, weeds grew in the empty plots of bombsites and the wind whipped round the new skyscrapers on Potsdamer Platz, built to fill the no-man’s-land between former East and former West. In Hannah’s Dress, Pascale Hugues writes about one of these ordinary-extraordinary streets: the one she lives on. Born in ...

What the hell happened?

Alexander Star: Philip Roth, 4 February 1999

I Married a Communist 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 323 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 224 05258 6
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... and paranoia is set from the start, as if the book carried an endorsement from someone like J. Edgar Hoover. You do not expect to find many orderly complex sentences or emotional subtleties. And yet I Married a Communist turns out to be another of Roth’s intricately arranged performances. As in American Pastoral, his familiar alter ego, Nathan ...

Communists have parents too

John Gittings, 5 August 1993

... the suite, less for the clean sheets than for the opportunity to sit at his desk, listen to the wind in the bamboos outside, study the ink spots on the worn leather, and think about the Chairman. I first came to China in 1971 when the air stewardesses still sang Mao-songs in the aisle, and people waved goodbye at railway stations with Little Red Books. Ten ...

His v. Hers

Mark Ford, 9 March 1995

In Touch: The Letters of Paul Bowles 
edited by Jeffrey Miller.
HarperCollins, 604 pp., £25, October 1994, 0 00 255535 2
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... pre-war writings of Sartre (whose Huis Clos Bowles translated in 1946), and the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, just about the only American writer Bowles appears to value at all. Unfortunately, Bowles’s concept of the writer as untraceable spy operates throughout his correspondence as well as his fiction. ‘If you get a letter from Paul, it’s about ...

Ne me touchez pas

Nicholas Spice: Debussy’s Mission, 24 October 2019

Debussy: A Painter in Sound 
by Stephen Walsh.
Faber, 368 pp., £15.99, March 2018, 978 0 571 33016 4
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Claude Debussy: A Critical Biography 
by François Lesure, translated by Marie Rolf.
Rochester, 478 pp., £40, June 2019, 978 1 58046 903 6
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... represent non-directional states, whether of energy – subtle drift (clouds, mist), great force (wind, waves), unified fields of intricate and random motion (reflections on water, fireworks) – or of feeling (sentiment and sensation). He rejected narrative and dialectical structures in favour of a music of apposition, placing one thing next to another ...

Wounds

Stephen Fender, 23 June 1988

Hemingway 
by Kenneth Lynn.
Simon and Schuster, 702 pp., £16, September 1987, 0 671 65482 9
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The Faces of Hemingway: Intimate Portraits of Ernest Hemingway by those who knew him 
by Denis Brian.
Grafton, 356 pp., £14.95, May 1988, 0 246 13326 0
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... the Mayo Clinic (he was being treated for paranoia!), from where they sent a report direct to J. Edgar Hoover on the progress of Hemingway’s treatment. This is all in Meyers, and in Hotchner’s Papa Hemingway. The report, which Brian cites, was filed on 13 January 1961, and is part of the large FBI file kept on the writer. Lynn might at least have ...

Haughty Dirigistes

Sudhir Hazareesingh: France, 23 May 2019

France’s Long Reconstruction: In Search of the Modern Republic 
by Herrick Chapman.
Harvard, 405 pp., £37.95, January 2018, 978 0 674 97641 2
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... neoliberal economic philosophy. At the height of the Poujadist insurgency in the mid-1950s, Edgar Faure, the finance minister, detected ‘a wind of insurrection against the state’ blowing from the provinces. In this respect, too, the French remain true to their ...

Bow. Wow

James Wolcott: Gore Vidal, 3 February 2000

Gore Vidal 
by Fred Kaplan.
Bloomsbury, 850 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 7475 4671 1
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... extinction (‘when time stops and the fiery beast falls upon itself to begin again as dust-filled wind’ – from the novel Two Sisters), given that he has a stoical outlook which views man as a bundle of atoms destined to disperse into the void, given that he sees writing as a noble exercise in futility in the age of idiot mass distraction (he’s bid ...

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