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Vagueness

Hans Keller

1 May 1980
Michael Tippett: An Introductory Study 
by David Matthews.
Faber, 112 pp., £5.95, December 1979, 0 571 10954 3
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Tippett and his Operas 
by Eric WalterWhite.
Barrie and Jenkins, 142 pp., £7.97, January 1980, 0 214 20573 8
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... are not always the best quartet circles. Both musically and biographically, David Matthews and Eric WalterWhite are quite exceptionally well informed, and never get their facts wrong – even though they are not beyond getting their right facts mixed up. As we know from the recently published second edition of ...

State Aid

Denis Arnold

22 December 1983
A History of English Opera 
by Eric WalterWhite.
Faber, 472 pp., £30, July 1983, 0 571 10788 5
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... and composers. It is an obvious example of Hamlet without the Prince: in this case, music. Mr White is clearly more at home with literary sources than with musical style, and on the few occasions when he does embark on comment about the music, he shows no great grasp (his comments about Handel’s operas on page 169 are crashingly beside the ...

Diary

Frank Kermode: What Went On at the Arts Council

4 December 1986
... of person they don’t technically belong to it). Anxious though we may be to find out how this maverick got amongst them, we must first wait until Osborne has finished telling us about his Australian childhood and youth (sexual initiation in Brisbane, mystical experience in Melbourne), his arrival in England (actor, editor on the London Magazine and ...

Big Fish

Frank Kermode

9 September 1993
Tell Them I’m on my Way 
by Arnold Goodman.
Chapmans, 464 pp., £20, August 1993, 1 85592 636 9
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Not an Englishman: Conversations with Lord Goodman 
by David Selbourne.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 237 pp., £17.99, August 1993, 1 85619 365 9
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... grounds. I was surprised to come upon a sustained and in my view immoderate onslaught on the late Eric WalterWhite, who, during Goodman’s chairmanship, was Literature Director at the Arts Council and its much admired organiser of festivals. I worked with White for some years, and ...

Gloomy Sunday Afternoons

Caroline Maclean: Modernists at the Movies

10 September 2009
The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period 
by Laura Marcus.
Oxford, 562 pp., £39, December 2007, 978 0 19 923027 3
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... and audiences did not feel compelled to stop talking during short reels. Marcus says that the American poet and early film critic Vachel Lindsay reported that immigrants to the US learned English by listening to their neighbours reading out intertitles. From the German novelist Gert Hofmann’s semi-autobiographical account of his grandfather, she draws the ...

On the Beaches

Richard White: In Indian Country

21 March 2002
Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early Americ
by Daniel Richter.
Harvard, 317 pp., £17.95, January 2002, 0 674 00638 0
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... When I was a child in the mid-1950s, there was an American television programme called You Are There. The pretence was that a reporter, who in my mistaken memory was always Walter Cronkite, would be on hand as a historical event unfolded. No matter what the century, the reporters were from the 1950s, with notepads or microphone in hand ...

Freddie Gray

Adam Shatz

20 May 2015
... between the end of Reconstruction and the 1960s, often for such crimes as daring to look at a white woman. Black bodies no longer swing in the Southern breeze, as Billie Holiday sang. Instead, they are victims of chokeholds, bullets and other ‘restraining’ measures inflicted by the police, and not only below the Mason-Dixon line. Police killings of ...

Diary

David Denby: Deaths on Camera

7 September 2016
... On 19 July​ 2015, a sullen, hot day with white skies, an unarmed black man was killed in Cincinnati. The incident began when Officer Ray Tensing, a member of the University of Cincinnati campus police, pulled over Samuel DuBose, whose car was missing its front licence plate. Tensing was wearing a body camera, and when the Hamilton County district attorney released the video ten days later, on 29 July, Americans watching the news that night saw about two minutes of what happened ...
1 December 1983
A Dictionary of Mottoes 
by L.G. Pine.
Routledge, 303 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 9780710093394
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Newspeak: A Dictionary of Jargon 
by Jonathon Green.
Routledge, 263 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 0 7100 9685 2
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The Oxford Miniguide to English Usage 
by E.S.C. Weiner.
Oxford, 412 pp., £1.95, October 1983, 0 19 869127 0
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The Oxford Dictionary of Current Idiomatic English: Volume II 
by A.P. Cowrie, R. Mackin and I.R. McCaig.
Oxford, 685 pp., £12.50, October 1983, 0 19 431150 3
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A Dictionary of the Teenage Revolution and its Aftermath 
by Kenneth Hudson.
Macmillan, 203 pp., £12.95, October 1983, 0 333 28517 4
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A Dictionary of Catch-Phrases 
by Eric Partridge.
Routledge, 278 pp., £5.95, October 1983, 0 7100 9989 4
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... Lexicographical apparatus, as Walter Ong recently reminded us in Orality and Literacy, was ‘a very late accretion to language as language’. It was also quite a profitable accretion for at least two classes of language-user: printers and publishers. It still is, to judge by the way dictionaries continue to proliferate ...

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Adam Shatz: Mass Incarceration

3 May 2017
Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black Americ
by James Forman.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 306 pp., £21.98, April 2017, 978 0 374 18997 6
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... of​ the great paradoxes of the Obama era is that it encouraged so many liberals, both black and white, to see the black experience in America not as a slow, arduous struggle for freedom culminating in the election of a black president – Obama’s version, not surprisingly – but as an unending nightmare. Not least ...
21 September 1995
Secret Affairs: Franklin Roosevelt, Cordell Hull and Sumner Welles 
by Irwin Gellman.
Johns Hopkins, 499 pp., $29.95, April 1995, 0 8018 5083 5
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Closest Companion: The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley 
edited by Geoffrey Ward.
Houghton Mifflin, 444 pp., $24.95, April 1995, 0 395 66080 7
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No Ordinary Time. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War Two 
by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Simon and Schuster, 759 pp., £18, June 1995, 0 671 64240 5
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The End of Reform 
by Alan Brinkley.
Knopf, 371 pp., $27.50, March 1995, 0 394 53573 1
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... on what they affectionately call ‘Our Hill’. The President’s secretary, who lives at the White House (and has lived with the President since he was Governor of New York), thinks her boss will be moving into the cottage with her. The President’s wife, another cousin, stays in her own fieldstone cottage on the estate when she is there without her ...

The Hagiography Factory

Thomas Meaney: Arthur Schlesinger Jr

8 February 2018
Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian 
by Richard Aldous.
Norton, 486 pp., £23.99, November 2017, 978 0 393 24470 0
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... half a century, Arthur Schlesinger Jr was perhaps the most recognisable liberal intellectual in America. With his tortoiseshell glasses, bow ties, and neatly stencilled hair, he played for the literary side of Kennedy’s best and brightest, which was meant to balance out the number-crunching prowess of Robert McNamara and the Whiz Kids. In his dozens of ...

Diary

Iain Sinclair: At Bluewater

3 January 2002
... Hill in Dartford are the inspiration for this collision of ribbed domes and curved windows. The American architectural consultant Eric Kuhne, invited to talk the site up, spoke of a ‘new kind of city’, a ‘resort’. A form of petrol-guzzling tourism has evolved: Bluewater is a Ballardian resort (Vermilion ...

Fill it with fish

Helen Cooper: The trail of the Grail

6 June 2002
Parzival and the Stone from Heaven: A Grail Romance Retold for Our Time 
by Lindsay Clarke.
HarperCollins, 239 pp., £14.99, September 2001, 0 00 710813 3
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Merlin and the Grail: ‘Joseph of Arimathea’, ‘Merlin’, ‘Perceval’ The Trilogy of Arthurian Romances Attributed to Robert de Boron 
translated by Nigel Bryant.
Boydell and Brewer, 172 pp., £30, May 2001, 0 85991 616 2
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Le Livre du Graal. Tome I: ‘Joseph D’Arimathie’, ‘Merlin’, ‘Les Premiers Faits du Roi Arthur’ 
edited by Daniel Poirion and Philippe Walter.
Gallimard, 1993 pp., £50.95, April 2001, 2 07 011342 6
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... appropriate dish for a pike or lamprey or salmon. Chrétien had previously written romances called Eric and Enide and The Knight with the Lion; others had written a Romance of Troy, a Romance of Eneas, and love stories called such things as Floris and Blauncheflour and Tristan. But The Story of the Serving-Dish? How can a serving-dish be a plausible subject of ...

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