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Dogs

Ronan Bennett, 11 February 1993

Inshallah 
by Oriana Fallaci, translated by James Marcus.
Chatto, 599 pp., £15.99, November 1992, 0 7011 3835 1
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... Set in Beirut in the early Eighties, Oriana Fallaci’s novel opens at the moment when, on the morning of 23 October 1983, an Islamic Jihad militant drove a truck laden with explosives into the headquarters of the US contingent of the Multinational Force (MNF). A second suicide bomber attacked the French military base at the same time. Altogether more man three hundred servicemen were killed ...

Slowly/Swiftly

Michael Hofmann: James Schuyler, 7 February 2002

Last Poems 
by James Schuyler.
Slow Dancer, 64 pp., £7.99, January 1999, 1 871033 51 9
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Alfred and Guinevere 
by James Schuyler.
NYRB, 141 pp., £7.99, June 2001, 0 940322 49 8
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... found it difficult, conversely, to remember our first encounter. It is a slight relief to me that James Schuyler, who writes about reading almost as much as he writes about seeing, confesses to a similar sluggishness of feeling: Twenty-some years ago, I read Graham Stuart Thomas’s ‘Colour in the Winter Garden’. I didn’t plant a winter garden, but the ...

I like you

Hermione Lee: Boston Marriage, 24 May 2007

Between Women: Friendship, Desire and Marriage in Victorian England 
by Sharon Marcus.
Princeton, 356 pp., £12.95, March 2007, 978 0 691 12835 1
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... This ‘matrilineal, incestuous, adulterous, polygamous, homosexual household’, as Sharon Marcus describes it in Between Women, was not, however, ‘branded as deviant’. Cushman was indeed ‘unimpeachable’. Female marriages like hers, in which couples called each other ‘sposa’, ‘wedded wife’ and ‘hubbie’, and whose members might also ...

One and Only Physician

James Romm: Galen, 21 November 2013

The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire 
by Susan Mattern.
Oxford, 334 pp., £20, July 2013, 978 0 19 960545 3
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... received in combat; in Rome, he rose ever higher in reputation and finally entered the service of Marcus Aurelius. He was then nearing fifty and only midway through his remarkably long career, but Mattern can say little about what came next: ‘At this point we lose the narrative thread of Galen’s life,’ she writes. Only one other datable event, a fire in ...

On the Brink

James Lever: Philip Roth, 28 January 2010

The Humbling 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 140 pp., £12.99, November 2009, 978 0 224 08793 3
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... Pegeen having a healthy baby the very month that he opened at the Guthrie Theater in the role of James Tyrone … The stretch of bad luck was over.’ Axler is completely restored to himself and consults a specialist about the potential hazards of conceiving a child at his age. But Pegeen abruptly ends the affair. Axler’s new confidence collapses ...

Back to Life

Christopher Benfey: Rothko’s Moment, 20 May 2015

Mark Rothko: Towards the Light in the Chapel 
by Annie Cohen-Solal.
Yale, 296 pp., £18.99, February 2015, 978 0 300 18204 0
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... life and art for Yale’s ‘Jewish Lives’ series, drawing freely on the literary critic James Breslin’s impressive full-length biography of 1993. Unlike Breslin, she has little curiosity about Rothko’s darker side, preferring to see his life as an ongoing quest, as she puts it in her subtitle, ‘towards the light in the chapel’. She has ...

Coy Mistress Uncovered

David Norbrook, 19 May 1988

Dragons Teeth: Literature in the English Revolution 
by Michael Wilding.
Oxford, 288 pp., £25, September 1987, 0 19 812881 9
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Apocalyptic Marvell: The Second Coming in 17th-Century Poetry 
by Margarita Stocker.
Harvester, 381 pp., £32.50, February 1986, 0 7108 0934 4
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The Politics of Mirth: Jonson, Herrick, Milton, Marvell, and the Defence of Old Holiday Pastimes 
by Leah Marcus.
Chicago, 319 pp., £23.25, March 1987, 0 226 50451 4
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Milton: A Study in Ideology and Form 
by Christopher Kendrick.
Methuen, 240 pp., £25, June 1986, 0 416 01251 5
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... the lovers hang desperately on to their individual identities in the face of mortality. As Leah Marcus argues in The Politics of Mirth, ‘cavalier’ poems like Herrick’s ‘Corinna’s going a maying’ urge the abandonment of a strong sense of identity, in the spirit of the older ritual forms of carnival. In the wake of Bakhtin’s enormously ...

Shakespeare the Novelist

John Sutherland, 28 September 1989

The Vision of Elena Silves 
by Nicholas Shakespeare.
Collins, 263 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 00 271031 5
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Billy Bathgate 
by E.L. Doctorow.
Macmillan, £11.95, September 1989, 0 333 51376 2
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Buffalo Afternoon 
by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer.
Hamish Hamilton, 535 pp., £12.95, August 1989, 0 241 12634 7
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The Message to the Planet 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 563 pp., £13.95, October 1989, 0 7011 3479 8
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... British readers like myself – the majority, I suspect – for whom Peru is an unknown country. James Michener could brief us in a heavy-handed tutorial prelude on South American politics. But Shakespeare has chosen an artful form of narrative that cannot carry any great burden of exposition. I wish that Collins had appended ‘In Pursuit of Guzman’ to ...

Dry-Cleaned

Tom Vanderbilt: ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, 21 August 2003

The Manchurian Candidate: BFI Film Classics 
by Greil Marcus.
BFI, 75 pp., £8.99, July 2002, 0 85170 931 1
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... Artists). As with everything to do with the Cold War, it mutated in the imagination. As Greil Marcus suggests in his short study, the film ‘prefigured the sense that the events that shape our lives take place in a world we cannot see, to which we have no access, that we will never be able to explain. If a dream is a memory of the future, this is the ...

A Very Bad Man

Michael Kulikowski: Julius Caesar, Génocidaire, 18 June 2020

The War for Gaul: A New Translation 
by Julius Caesar, translated by James J. O’Donnell.
Princeton, 324 pp., £22, September 2019, 978 0 691 17492 1
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... have for centuries turned to the Gallic Wars – The War for Gaul, in this new translation by James O’Donnell – as a leadership manual and strategic primer, as well as a model of Latin prose. It was really only in the mid-20th century that doubts began to creep in: the seeming transparency of the language conceals as much as it discloses, the ...

You could catch it

Greil Marcus, 25 March 1993

Panegyric. Vol. I 
by Guy Debord, translated by James Brook.
Verso, 79 pp., £29.95, January 1993, 0 86091 347 3
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The Most Radical Gesture: The Situationist International in a Post-Modern Age 
by Sadie Plant.
Routledge, 226 pp., £40, May 1992, 0 415 06222 5
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... l’histoire, et l’histoire n’en regorge point’ – the rhythm may actually be stronger in James Brook’s unpretentious translation). Even if the allusion is clear – to Ecclesiastes 1.6-7, ‘All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full’ – one must be ready to entertain the notion that Debord’s version, at least for our place and ...

Into the Gulf

Rosemary Hill, 17 December 1992

A Sultry Month: Scenes of London Literary Life in 1846 
by Alethea Hayter.
Robin Clark, 224 pp., £6.95, June 1992, 0 86072 146 9
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Painting and the Politics of Culture: New Essays on British Art 1700-1850 
edited by John Barrell.
Oxford, 301 pp., £35, June 1992, 9780198173922
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London: World City 1800-1840 
edited by Celina Fox.
Yale, 624 pp., £45, September 1992, 0 300 05284 7
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... whom heroism was an obsession. He used his own head as a model for Christ, Solomon, Alexander and Marcus Curtius and believed that heroic history painting was the highest form of art. Today his only generally remembered work is a portrait of Wordsworth. In his lifetime Haydon was well-known and not without admirers but he was dogged increasingly by ridicule ...

Did you hear about Mrs Binh?

Adam Mars-Jones: Viet Thanh Nguyen, 17 May 2017

The Refugees 
by Viet Thanh Nguyen.
Corsair, 209 pp., £12.99, February 2017, 978 1 4721 5255 8
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... the place of traumatic origin overlap only notionally. Those are not the only possible Vietnams: James Carver, the central character of ‘The Americans’, doesn’t want to experience at ground level a country he knew only from forty thousand feet as a bomber pilot. It’s his wife, Michiko, who wants to visit, convinced by Japanese relatives who had ...

I now, I then

Thomas Keymer: Life-Writing, 16 August 2017

AHistory of English Autobiography 
edited by Adam Smyth.
Cambridge, 437 pp., £64.99, June 2016, 978 1 107 07841 3
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... as an alternative to earlier autonomous individualism, and in a penetrating chapter on Henry James, Max Saunders explores how James’s memoir-writing affected his novel-writing: his recognition that ‘really, universally, relations stop nowhere, and the exquisite problem of the artist is eternally but to draw … the ...

Wild Horses

Claude Rawson, 1 April 1983

‘The Bronze Horseman’ and Other Poems 
by Alexander Pushkin, translated by D.M. Thomas.
Penguin, 261 pp., £2.95, September 1982, 0 14 042309 5
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Alexander Pushkin: A Critical Study 
by A.D.P. Briggs.
Croom Helm, 257 pp., £14.95, November 1982, 0 7099 0688 9
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‘Choiseul and Talleyrand’: A Historical Novella and Other Poems, with New Verse Translations of Alexander Pushkin 
by Charles Johnston.
Bodley Head, 88 pp., £5.25, July 1982, 0 370 30924 3
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Mozart and Salieri: The Little Tragedies 
by Alexander Pushkin, translated by Antony Wood.
Angel, 94 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 946162 02 6
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I have come to greet you 
by Afanasy Fet, translated by James Greene.
Angel, 71 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 946162 03 4
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Uncollected Poems 
by John Betjeman.
Murray, 81 pp., £4.95, September 1982, 0 7195 3969 2
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Travelling without a Valid Ticket 
by Howard Sergeant.
Rivelin, 14 pp., £1, May 1982, 0 904524 39 6
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... It was ordered by Catherine the Great (Petro primo Catharina secunda). Modelled on the statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome, it was meant to evoke the wise emperor extending a main protectrice. Joseph de Maistre commented that one doesn’t know whether this hand protects or threatens. The statue celebrated Peter’s building of St Petersburg, that symbol of ...

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