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Into the Eisenshpritz

Elif Batuman: Superheroes

10 April 2008
Life, in Pictures: Autobiographical Stories 
by Will Eisner.
Norton, 493 pp., £18.99, November 2007, 978 0 393 06107 9
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Epileptic 
by David B..
Cape, 368 pp., £12.99, March 2006, 0 224 07920 4
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Shortcomings 
by Adrian Tomine.
Faber, 108 pp., £12.99, September 2007, 978 0 571 23329 8
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Misery Loves Comedy 
by Ivan Brunetti.
Fantagraphics, 172 pp., £15.99, April 2007, 978 1 56097 792 6
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... is the motif of ‘double identity’. This is perhaps the defining feature of the superhero. We recognise Superman not by his ability to freeze objects by blowing on them but by his second life as ClarkKent. In an essay on Superman, Umberto Eco characterised superhero comics generically as an amalgam of ‘mythopoeic’ and ‘novelistic’ narratives: Superman is simultaneously an epic-eternal ...

Joining them

Conrad Russell

24 January 1985
Goodwin Wharton 
by J. Kent Clark.
Oxford, 408 pp., £15, November 1984, 0 19 212234 7
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Witchcraft and Religion 
by Christina Larner.
Blackwell, 184 pp., October 1984, 0 631 13447 6
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Lordship to Patronage: Scotland 1603-1745 
by Rosalind Mitchison.
Arnold, 198 pp., £5.95, November 1983, 0 7131 6313 5
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... watersheds in the separation of religion and politics. It suggests that perhaps after all someone learnt something from the great religious battles of the middle of the 17th century, and that perhaps J.N. Figgis was right that ‘political liberty was the residuary legatee of ecclesiastical animosities.’ Certainly 1707 shows the Lowland Scots as skilled practitioners of the maxim: ‘if you can ...

Going Flat Out, National Front and All

Ian Hamilton: Watch your mouth!

14 December 2000
Diaries: Into Politics 
by Alan Clark.
Weidenfeld, 389 pp., £20, October 2000, 0 297 64402 5
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The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diarists 
edited by Irene Taylor and Alan Taylor.
Canongate, 684 pp., £25, November 2000, 0 86241 920 4
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The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt. Vol. III: From Major to Blair 
edited by Sarah Curtis.
Macmillan, 823 pp., £25, November 2000, 9780333774069
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... lain with her as a husband ‘more times since this falling-out than in I believe twelve months before – and with more pleasure to her then I think in all the time of our marriage before’.) Alan Clark’s Diaries 1983-91, published a few years ago, were applauded for their beastly candour but Clark was nowhere near as winningly ingenuous as Pepys. Mrs Clark was generally pitied at the time for ...

Shoulder-Shrugging

Julian Critchley

11 December 1997
Dear Bill: Bill Deedes Reports 
by W.F. Deedes.
Macmillan, 396 pp., £20, October 1997, 0 333 71386 9
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... for example, that when he ceased to be editor he would (a) never write for the paper again, and (b) never be persuaded to go to the Lords – he would spend his declining years growing cabbages in Kent. It was obvious all along that this was fantasy. He is still writing regularly for the paper (and very well) and became a peer in 1986. Deedes’s political colleagues used to say he was a journalist ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘A Serious Man’

17 December 2009
A Serious Man 
directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.
November 2009
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... hyperrealist painting. Or the way we imagined the 1960s when we thought they were still the 1950s. Larry Gopnik, played by Michael Stuhlbarg with a fine capacity for recurring surprise, as if he were ClarkKent who kept forgetting he had another identity, is an assistant professor of physics at the local university. He is just coming up for tenure, and one form of the petering-out joke is the series of ...

Tasty Butterflies

Richard Fortey: Entomologists

24 September 2009
Bugs and the Victorians 
by J.F.M. Clark.
Yale, 322 pp., £25, June 2009, 978 0 300 15091 9
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... meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. When the wasp died the following year, Nature gave it an obituary. He had up to 40 glass ants’ nests constructed in his house in Kent, the better to observe the daily workings of these diminutive species. He was also a friend and neighbour of Charles Darwin. He provided the land on which Darwin constructed the Sand Walk at Down ...

Members Only

R.B. Dobson

24 February 1994
The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1386-1421 
edited by J.S. Roskell, Linda Clark and Carole Rawcliffe.
Alan Sutton, 3500 pp., £275, February 1993, 9780862999438
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... dictionary should be placed within its historical context. In addition to John Roskell’s magisterial introductory survey of Parliament (not only the Commons) between 1386 and 1421, and Linda Clark’s illuminating statistical appendices, this volume breaks new ground in providing a remarkably informative series of 135 substantial ‘constituency surveys’. Based on independent and original ...

Mortal Beauty

Paul Delany

21 May 1981
Feminine Beauty 
by Kenneth Clark.
Weidenfeld, 199 pp., £10, October 1980, 0 297 77677 0
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Of Women and their Elegance 
by Norman Mailer.
Hodder, 288 pp., £12.50, March 1981, 0 340 23920 4
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Nude Photographs 1850-1980 
edited by Constance Sullivan.
Harper and Row, 204 pp., £19.95, September 1981, 0 06 012708 2
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... urges, or displacing them upwards. But making beauty into a spiritual ideal often stems from uneasiness about its very concrete power to inspire action: an uneasiness that is pervasive in Kenneth Clark’s latest book. Feminine Beauty insists on the ethereal or strictly formal qualities of beauty, continuing the same line of argument as Clark’s magisterial earlier work, The Nude. The introduction ...

Fancy Patter

Theo Tait: Holmes and the Holocaust

31 March 2005
The Final Solution 
by Michael Chabon.
Fourth Estate, 127 pp., £10, February 2005, 0 00 719602 4
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... of Jewish identity. ‘They’re all Jewish, superheroes,’ Sammy tells his cousin. ‘Superman, you don’t think he’s Jewish? Coming over from the old country, changing his name like that. ClarkKent, only a Jew would pick a name like that for himself.’ It is also, more generally, a wonderful piece of storytelling, indulging the old-fashioned pleasures that nowadays only historical novels ...
16 December 2010
... had been freely given out. It wasn’t until early the next afternoon that they knew for sure the hacker had been shut out. The news that they were back up – given by a boy in a purple hoodie and ClarkKent glasses – got the loudest cheer from the room all day, louder than the cheer that greeted Bob Crow when he came to remind them that it was only when suffragettes broke windows that the world ...
15 April 2013
... wrong moves on the part of a Tory minister or MP, and she could summon the mutes – or in her case the Whips – and destroy him in an instant.​Linda Colley, 7 September 2000 Westminster, in Alan Clark’s diary portrayal, was peopled almost wholly by buffoons and crooks. The Laird of Saltwood, it was evident, had no need to spend his days doing what they did: sucking up to Thatcher, plotting the ...

Heavy Sledding

Chauncey Loomis

21 December 1989
The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the Northwest Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909 
by Pierre Berton.
Viking, 672 pp., £16.95, May 1989, 0 670 82491 7
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Overland to Starvation Cove: With the Inuit in Search of Franklin 1878-1880 
by Heinrich Klutschak and William Barr.
Toronto, 261 pp., £17.50, February 1988, 0 8020 5762 4
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Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition 
by Owen Beattie and John Geiger.
Bloomsbury, 180 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 0 7475 0101 7
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... Island, almost thirty naval and overland expeditions joined the search. A writer has to juggle the names of explorers, famous in their day, but now known only to Arctic buffs, such as John and James Clark Ross, Rae, Pullen, Collinson, M’Clure, Austin, Ommanney, Richardson, Penny, DeHaven, Kane, Forsyth, Bellot, Kennedy, Belcher, Inglefield, M’Clintock – and names of ships, such as Plover, Herald ...

The Amazing …

Jonathan Lethem: My Spidey

6 June 2002
Spider-Man 
directed by Sam Raimi.
May 2002
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... measure, by wristwatch). His white skin is thoroughly on view. No, it’s the pre-existing backdrop of Superman and Batman’s deep whiteness that establishes Spider-Man’s metaphoric blackness. ClarkKent and Bruce Wayne live in palaces of privilege and operate from fantasy cities, Metropolis and Gotham, while working-class Spider-Man is a bridge-and-tunnel person, from Queens, in the real New ...

Warrior Women

Patrick Wormald

19 June 1986
Women in Anglo-Saxon England and the Impact of 1066 
by Christine Fell, Cecily Clark and Elizabeth Williams.
British Museum/Blackwell, 208 pp., £15, April 1984, 0 7141 8057 2
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... were aggravated by the fact that their ‘literary image ... becomes stereo-typed’. This is a very learned and deeply enjoyable book, full of unexpected insights. The weight of scholarship which Dr Clark has put into her chapter on the ‘factual evidence’ after the ‘Conquest is evident only to the expert (or to those who ruminate on her startling bibliography). Professor Fell is one of the ...

Kindness rules

Gavin Millar

8 January 1987
A Life in Movies 
by Michael Powell.
Heinemann, 705 pp., £15.95, October 1986, 9780434599455
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All Our Yesterdays: 90 Years of British Cinema 
edited by Charles Barr.
BFI, 446 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 85170 179 5
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... United Artists with Emeric, the demise of the silents, meeting Salvador Dali, then suddenly: Do I digress? Well I digress. Art has its historian in every century. From Benvenuto Cellini to Kenneth Clark, we learn the most from their personal memories, experiences, opinions. Do I claim to sit with the Masters? Yes, I do. His conflation of the historian’s mastery of ideas with an artist’s mastery ...

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