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Valet of the Dolls

Andrew O’Hagan: Sinatra

24 July 2003
Mr S.: The Last Word on Frank Sinatra 
by George Jacobs and William Stadiem.
Sidgwick, 261 pp., £16.99, June 2003, 0 283 07370 5
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... finding instant and compelling evidence to prove he was a complete nightmare. Yet this book by George Jacobs, who was Sinatra’s valet for 15 years, might be understood to be wired in a whole new way: it is perhaps the ultimate diatribe by the disgruntled ex-staffer; a new high point (or low point) in a super-readable genre that should surely be ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Valets

10 September 2009
... rivals. If you were looking for a rival almost in his exact class, you’d have to mention George Jacobs, valet to Frank Sinatra, who made his name, and unmade Frank’s to a small degree, by detailing his boss’s general dexterity when it came to smashing up a hotel room. Another rival would be Ernest A. Forssgren, Proust’s Swedish valet, a ...

Where are all the people?

Owen Hatherley: Jane Jacobs

26 July 2017
Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs 
by Robert Kanigel.
Knopf, 512 pp., £34, September 2016, 978 0 307 96190 7
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Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs 
edited by Samuel Zipp and Nathan Storring.
Random House, 544 pp., £16.99, October 2016, 978 0 399 58960 7
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... of real estate and cash-poor councils were taken into consideration, and that reason is: Jane Jacobs says no. This injunction can be traced back to the epiphany Jacobs experienced as a freelance journalist in Philadelphia in the mid-1950s when she visited new housing estates and old ‘slums’ with the city planner ...

If my sister’s arches fall

Laura Jacobs: Agnes de Mille

5 October 2016
Dance to the Piper 
by Agnes de Mille.
NYRB, 368 pp., £11.99, February 2016, 978 1 59017 908 6
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... The​ 1940s was the generative decade for American dance. George Balanchine, who was inching towards the founding of the New York City Ballet in 1948, produced eight works for other companies. Antony Tudor moved to New York from London in 1940 and quickly created two visions of psychosexual implosion, Pillar of Fire and Undertow ...


John Bayley: On V.S. Pritchett, the Man of Letters

30 January 1992
... modified circumstances. Pritchett understands this. He observes in passing as he writes about George Eliot that now ‘we do not wish to be better than we are but more fully what we are.’ Most of us, perhaps, but not all, and certainly not all readers of novels. His droll precisions – as when he writes of W.W. ...


Christopher Turner: Cities

6 September 2001
Cities for a Small Country 
by Richard Rogers and Anne Power.
Faber, 310 pp., £14.99, November 2000, 0 571 20652 2
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Urban Futures 21: A Global Agenda for 21st-Century Cities 
by Peter Hall and Ulrich Pfeiffer.
Spon, 384 pp., £19.99, July 2000, 0 415 24075 1
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... on out-of-town sites. The theoretical origins of this urban renaissance are to be found in Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961). When Rogers and Power write of a major shift in attitude in the 1960s, ‘against clearance and new building and in favour of inner-city renovation and the protection of traditional communities’, it ...

A History of Disappointment

Jackson Lears: Obama’s Parents

5 January 2012
The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father 
by Sally Jacobs.
Public Affairs, 336 pp., £20, July 2011, 978 1 58648 793 5
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A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother 
by Janny Scott.
Riverhead, 384 pp., £18.99, May 2011, 978 1 59448 797 2
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... meant to play by the same Washington rules that created the policy disasters he inherited from George W. Bush. Obama had retreated into politics as usual. He never looked back. One did not have to be a sentimental utopian to be disappointed. In domestic affairs, Obama’s obeisance to the Washington consensus led him to abandon the bold approach he ...


Ian Penman

1 July 2015
Sinatra: London 
Universal, 3 CDs and 1 DVD, £40, November 2014Show More
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... take on this touchy matter is provided by Sinatra’s long-time (African-American) valet, George Jacobs. In his immensely entertaining memoir Mr S: The Last Word on Frank Sinatra (2003), he defends Sinatra and the other Rat Pack roustabouts, and says the only people he ever got a real nasty sizzle of racism from were a few Mafia bosses, and the ...

The Girl Who Waltzes

Laura Jacobs: George Balanchine

8 October 2014
Balanchine and the Lost Muse: Revolution and the Making of a Choreographer 
by Elizabeth Kendall.
Oxford, 288 pp., £22.99, August 2013, 978 0 19 995934 1
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... In 1973​ , when George Balanchine was asked by his biographer Bernard Taper to appraise the previous decade of his life, he replied: ‘It’s all in the programmes.’ He meant that the most important information was already onstage: in the new ballets he made, the old ones he revived and the dancers he chose to perform them ...

Dear Mole

Julian Barnes

23 January 1986
Flaubert and Turgenev: A Friendship in Letters 
translated by Barbara Beaumont.
Athlone, 197 pp., £18, October 1985, 0 485 11277 9
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... largely complete, is probably the third most important exchange after those with Louise Colet and George Sand; and it comes from the mellower end of Flaubert’s tonal spectrum. The letters to Louise are almost wholly combative: he fights against being in love with her, he fights against seeing her (true lovers, he informed her, can go ten years without ...


John Sutherland

4 June 1981
Tit for Tat 
by Verity Bargate.
Cape, 167 pp., £5.95, April 1981, 0 224 01908 2
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Watching Me, Watching You 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 208 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 340 25600 1
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Maggie Muggins 
by Keith Waterhouse.
Joseph, 220 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 7181 2014 0
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Mr Lonely 
by Eric Morecambe.
Eyre Methuen, 189 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 413 48170 0
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... novelist simply mimics the dominant male practitioner – even to the length of calling herself George. Second is feminist fiction, where the strongest impulse is protest. Third comes ‘female’ writing, in which the main impulse is to investigate the condition of womanhood without any overt point-making. Bargate’s fiction is interestingly poised at the ...

Propaganda of the Deed

Steve Fraser: Emma Goldman

26 February 2009
Emma Goldman: A Documentary History of the American Years Vol I: Made for America, 1890-1901 
edited by Candace Falk.
Illinois, 659 pp., $35, August 2008, 978 0 252 07541 4
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Emma Goldman: A Documentary History of the American Years Vol. II: Making Speech Free, 1902-1909 
edited by Candace Falk.
Illinois, 641 pp., £35, August 2008, 978 0 252 07543 8
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... court injunctions and hurling makeshift weapons at advancing militiamen from behind barricades. George Pullman was so sure that labour insurgents would desecrate his corpse that he left instructions for his lead-lined casket to be covered with tar paper and asphalt and deposited in a vault made of concrete and reinforced steel. Small conspiratorial ...

Haddock blows his top

Christopher Tayler: Hergé’s Redemption

7 June 2012
Hergé: The Man who Created Tintin 
by Pierre Assouline, translated by Charles Ruas.
Oxford, 276 pp., £9.99, October 2011, 978 0 19 983727 4
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Hergé, Son of Tintin 
by Benoît Peeters, translated by Tina Kover.
Johns Hopkins, 394 pp., £15.50, November 2011, 978 1 4214 0454 7
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... unfriendly depictions of Levantine Greeks and, in particular, Jews. Unlike T.S. Eliot, however, Georges Remi, aka Hergé, was very certain of his nationality. He was, according to Pierre Assouline, ‘the personification of Belgium’, and it’s true that he created, in Tintin, one of the few national emblems his squabbling country can agree on. Born in ...

Goddesses and Girls

Nicholas Penny

2 December 1982
... Medici Venus was admired, as the Cnidian statue had been, in alarming ways. The bibliophile Henry George Quin, for instance, records in his diary (extracts of which were published in an amusing article by Arthur Rau in the Book Collector in 1964) how, in the winter of 1785, he ‘stole’ into the Tribuna of the Uffizi in Florence when no one was there and ...


D.A.N. Jones

8 January 1987
The Old School: A Study 
by Simon Raven.
Hamish Hamilton, 139 pp., £12, September 1986, 0 241 11929 4
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The Best Years of their Lives: The National Service Experience 1945-63 
by Trevor Royle.
Joseph, 288 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 7181 2459 6
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Murder without Conviction: Inside the World of the Krays 
by John Dickson.
Sidgwick, 164 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780283994074
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Inside ‘Private Eye’ 
by Peter McKay.
Fourth Estate, 192 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 947795 80 4
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Malice in Wonderland: Robert Maxwell v. ‘Private Eye’ 
by Robert Maxwell, John Jackson, Peter Donnelly and Joe Haines.
Macdonald, 191 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 356 14616 2
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... only felt like that once before, when I was in the Malayan jungle.’ He tells of the shooting of George Cornell, who had called Ronnie Kray a fat pouf, and of the murder of Jack the Hat by Reggie Kray, assisted by his cousin, Ronnie Hart (‘who had joined the firm when he came out of the army and was a good-looking guy’). The mysterious ‘Albert’ was ...

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