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My Mummy’s Bones

Gaby Wood, 24 April 1997

The Foundation Pit 
by Andrei Platonov, translated by Robert Chandler and Geoffrey Smith.
Harvill, 168 pp., £14.99, May 1996, 1 86046 049 6
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... and hailed as ‘an element of the future’. Nastya’s appearance is fortuitous and absurd, in a Groucho Marx sort of way (‘Why, a four-year-old child could understand this report – run out and find me a four-year-old child, I can’t make head or tail of it’). The group are discussing installing a wireless, to keep the ‘backward masses’ from ...

A Taste for the Obvious

Brian Dillon: Adam Thirlwell, 22 October 2009

The Escape 
by Adam Thirlwell.
Cape, 322 pp., £16.99, August 2009, 978 0 224 08911 1
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... which suggests (along with certain of the names in the list: Sterne, Kafka, Mallarmé, Brecht, Groucho Marx) that Thirlwell has it in him to become a more rigorously playful novelist than he has so far been. It’s a mystery to me why a writer with such tastes, who has spent a good deal of his time so far arguing (both in the voice of his novels and ...

At least that was the idea

Thomas Keymer: Johnson and Boswell’s Club, 10 October 2019

The Club: Johnson, Boswell and the Friends who Shaped an Age 
by Leo Damrosch.
Yale, 488 pp., £20, April 2019, 978 0 300 21790 2
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... the value of the Club.’ (An enthusiastic social climber, Boswell might have got first to the Groucho Marx line – not wanting to be in a club that would have him as a member – if he hadn’t lacked the self-knowledge.) Fines were instituted in 1775 for Londoners who failed to attend without good cause, but some, notably Sheridan and Charles James ...

Nothing goes without saying

Stanley Cavell, 6 January 1994

The Marx Brothers: ‘A Day at the Races’, ‘Monkey Business’ and ‘Duck Soup’ 
introduced by Karl French.
Faber, 261 pp., £8.99, November 1993, 0 571 16647 4
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... must. The attractive publication, briefly and informatively introduced, of the scripts* of several Marx Brothers films – Monkey Business (1931), Duck Soup (1933) and A Day at the Races (1937) – is a sublime invitation to stop and think about our swings of convulsiveness and weariness in the face of these films; to sense that it is essential to the ...

Milk and Lemon

Steven Shapin: The Excesses of Richard Feynman, 7 July 2005

Don’t You Have Time to Think? The Letters of Richard Feynman 
edited by Michelle Feynman.
Allen Lane, 486 pp., £20, June 2005, 0 7139 9847 4
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... milk or lemon in his tea, was told ‘Both’. C.P. Snow said of Feynman that it was as if ‘Groucho Marx was suddenly standing in for a great scientist.’ But it was not so much Groucho as Trickster, Loki or Zebedee. For all the studied naivety and scientific intuitiveness, Feynman’s supreme skills were those ...

Double Thought

Michael Wood: Kafka in the Office, 20 November 2008

Franz Kafka: The Office Writings 
edited by Stanley Corngold, Jack Greenberg and Benno Wagner, translated by Eric Patton and Ruth Hein.
Princeton, 404 pp., £26.95, November 2008, 978 0 691 12680 7
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... world of the castle strange opportunities arise when the person he calls ‘the party’ – as in Groucho Marx’s ‘party of the first part’ – manages to surprise in the middle of the night an official who is not the one assigned to his case but nevertheless has some competence in the matter. K is already half-asleep, but able to hear most of ...

Hofstadterismus

Andrew Hodges, 17 April 1986

Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern 
by Douglas Hofstadter.
Viking, 852 pp., £18.95, September 1985, 0 670 80687 0
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Ada: A Life and a Legacy 
by Dorothy Stein.
MIT, 321 pp., £17.50, January 1986, 9780262192422
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... we count Nixonides the Cretin, who said ‘this statement is inoperative.’ The references to Marx point only to a George Marx, for Rubik cubology, and a Groucho Marx, for comic analogy. Perhaps I enjoy Hofstadter’s discussion of super-rational strategy for the wrong ...

The Importance of Being Ernie

Ferdinand Mount, 5 November 2020

Ernest Bevin: Labour’s Churchill 
by Andrew Adonis.
Biteback, 352 pp., £20, July, 978 1 78590 598 8
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... which Denis Healey may have been the first to make, that ‘Labour owed more to Methodism than to Marx.’ From his religion, Bevin probably also derived his frugality and diligence. Though he drank and smoked himself to death, and enjoyed the music hall and Chelsea Football Club, he refused all honours and never sought a penny beyond his salary, so that ...

ODQ

Richard Usborne, 24 January 1980

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations 
Oxford, 908 pp., £12.50, November 1980, 9780192115607Show More
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... 1,951 entries, the Bible next with 1,341. At random: Browning gets 265, Kipling 202, Housman 97, Marx (Karl) 11, Marx (Groucho) one. Mandy Rice-Davies (1944-  ) gets one with ‘He would, wouldn’t he?’ when, at the trial of Stephen Ward, June 1963, she was told that Lord X ...

How to vanish

Michael Dibdin, 23 April 1987

The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis 
by Humberto Costantini, translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni.
Fontana, 193 pp., £3.50, January 1987, 0 00 654180 1
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Requiem for a Woman’s Soul 
by Omar Rivabella, translated by Paul Riviera.
Penguin, 116 pp., £2.95, February 1987, 0 14 009773 2
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Words in Commotion, and Other Stories 
by Tommaso Landolfi, translated by Ring Jordan and Lydia Jordan.
Viking, 273 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 670 80518 1
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The Literature Machine 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Patrick Creagh.
Secker, 341 pp., £16, April 1987, 0 436 08276 4
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The St Veronica Gig Stories 
by Jack Pulaski.
Zephyr, 170 pp., £10.95, December 1986, 0 939010 09 7
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Kate Vaiden 
by Reynolds Price.
Chatto, 306 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 7011 3203 5
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... myself boy ... what you think of that?’ Or Dr Schacter, who zips into and out of the story like Groucho Marx, leaving words of wisdom floating in the air: ‘Yah, von must keep assets liquid, suitcases packed, lif close to the border, yah.’ Given these considerable talents, it is perhaps understandable that Jack Pulaski does not always bother to ...

Paley’s Planet

Robert Walshe, 17 April 1986

Three of a Kind 
by Rachel Ingalls.
Faber, 141 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 571 13606 0
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Home Truths 
by Mavis Gallant.
Cape, 330 pp., £9.95, November 1985, 0 224 02344 6
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Later the Same Day 
by Grace Paley.
Virago, 211 pp., £8.95, November 1985, 0 86068 701 5
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... because she does not, for the most part, write prose: she writes speech. She is the daughter of Groucho Marx and the mother of Woody Allen. You can pick it up from the far side of the Atlantic: ‘She says I called Mrs Z. a grizzly bear a few times. It’s my wife, no? ... ’ ‘She died in front of the television set. She didn’t miss a trick ...

Diary

James Meek: Where does the rubble end and the ground begin?, 3 January 2002

... for a chat. Some of the foreign journalists who went to see him began to ask themselves the Groucho Marx question: do I want to interview a general who has time to be interviewed? There was a pair of tanks parked outside his building, but a better symbol of his style was the sofa which he had placed in the little elevated yard leading to the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Awful Truth’, 24 May 2018

... Duck Soup (1933) has one of the cinema’s great moments of sceptical philosophy. Chico and Harpo Marx, both disguised as Groucho, are in Margaret Dumont’s bedroom, though Chico is hiding under the bed. Harpo departs and Chico suddenly appears. Dumont is shocked. Didn’t he just leave? Chico says he didn’t, and Dumont ...

Irrational Politics

Jon Elster, 21 August 1980

... be informed and helped by knowledge of the conceptual schemes involved. Zinoviev’s knowledge of Marx must also have been a crucial source of inspiration. In fact, many of the paradoxes of Hegelian and Marxist dialectic can be rendered in logical language, using precisely the kind of distinctions that Zinoviev has explored in his work on many-valued logic.6 ...

Karel Reisz Remembered

LRB Contributors, 12 December 2002

... place I had ever been in my life. One weekend, as we filmed in an empty gallery in Mayfair, Groucho Marx walked past the window. Once I opened the cutting-room door and there was Truffaut. Karel took me into his life and into his family and he took on the business of turning me into whatever it is I’ve become. It seemed as if I had acquired no ...

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