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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Project Nim’, ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ , 8 September 2011

Project Nim 
directed by James Marsh.
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Rise of the Planet of the Apes 
directed by Rupert Wyatt.
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... showing in London at the same time is presumably an accident of distribution. That the two works, James Marsh’s Project Nim and Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, should resemble each other so closely begins to look like a message or a clue, a movieworld sign that we actually are rethinking our relation to other animals. You’ll see how ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Man on Wire’, 11 September 2008

Man on Wire 
directed by James Marsh.
August 2008
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... while, and surrendered to the police only when a helicopter was sent after him, is the subject of James Marsh’s remarkable film Man on Wire. Or rather, not quite the subject, as he certainly is of his own 2002 book about the exploit, To Reach the Clouds, but something like the energetic and amiable excuse, the protagonist overtaken by a story not at ...

Living with a little halibut

John Bayley, 8 October 1992

by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 224 pp., £14.99, August 1992, 0 224 03315 8
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... or naturally fortunate know that mysteries are not there to be solved. Todorov said that Henry James’s stories mostly depend on a query and a riddle, which their endings formulate with complete artistry but without solving: the puzzle is itself the solution. Anita Brookner is a good hand at something similar. In her latest novel there is naturally ...

The Real Price of Everything

Hilary Mantel: The Many Lives of Elizabeth Marsh, 21 June 2007

The Ordeal of Elizabeth MarshA Woman in World History 
by Linda Colley.
HarperPress, 363 pp., £25, June 2007, 978 0 00 719218 2
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... a tremor through individual lives, wrecking certainties, reorganising identities. Elizabeth Marsh was one of those shaken by the times she lived through, her personal ‘ordeal’ intimately connected with global forces beyond the grasp of any individual then living. Conceived in Port Royal, born in Portsmouth, she ‘travelled further and more ...

Damaged Beasts

James Wood: Peter Carey’s ‘Theft’, 8 June 2006

Theft: A Love Story 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 269 pp., £16.99, June 2006, 0 571 23147 0
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... colonise a blob of white. Michael Boone’s father was a butcher in the small town of Bacchus Marsh near Melbourne – hence his son’s moniker – and Michael is a provincial rebel, determined to remind the metropolis of his raggedness. In Bacchus Marsh, a German art teacher inducted the young savage into the ...

Something Rather Scandalous

Jean McNicol: The Loves of Rupert Brooke, 20 October 2016

Rupert Brooke: Life, Death and Myth 
by Nigel Jones.
Head of Zeus, 588 pp., £12, April 2015, 978 1 78185 703 8
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Fatal Glamour: The Life of Rupert Brooke 
by Paul Delany.
McGill-Queen’s, 380 pp., £28.99, March 2015, 978 0 7735 4557 1
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The Second I Saw You: The True Love Story of Rupert Brooke and Phyllis Gardner 
by Lorna C. Beckett.
British Library, 216 pp., £16.99, April 2015, 978 0 7123 5792 0
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... Brooke in profile (‘your favourite actress’, some of his friends labelled it). He was, Henry James wrote, ‘in an extraordinary degree … a creature on whom the gods had smiled their brightest’ (James had fallen hard for what Brooke called ‘his fresh, boyish stunt’). In 1918 his Collected Poems were finally ...

The Rupert Trunk

Christopher Tayler: Alan Hollinghurst, 28 July 2011

The Stranger’s Child 
by Alan Hollinghurst.
Picador, 565 pp., £20, June 2011, 978 0 330 48324 7
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... Henry James met Rupert Brooke on a visit to Cambridge in June 1909, having been invited there by some young admirers who made him feel, he wrote in a letter, ‘rather like an unnatural intellectual Pasha visiting his Circassian Hareem’. Brooke, in a white shirt and white flannel trousers, took charge of a punting trip on the Cam ...


Elizabeth Mavor, 18 July 1985

A Traveller in Romance 
by W. Somerset Maugham, edited by John Whitehead.
Muller, Blond and White, 275 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 85634 184 3
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... the letters of Madame de Sévigné, the personalities of Marie Tempest, Noel Coward, Eddie Marsh, the Aga Khan; there are pensées on playing bridge, the reasons why the American dislike the English, an account of what it’s like to have one’s portrait painted; there are some unexceptionable short stories and a playlet. There are recurrent ...


Penelope Fitzgerald, 4 July 1996

Edward Thomas: Selected Letters 
edited by R. George Thomas.
Oxford, 192 pp., £30, March 1996, 0 19 818562 6
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... he has to show, and does show, the teenager eagerly approaching a distinguished man of letters, James Ashcroft Noble (‘my note-book would show you that I am not wasting my time out of doors at least’), his dissipations at Oxford, the complexity, beauty and bloody-mindedness of his love for Helen Noble, the disheartening untidiness of life in a cottage ...

Great Tradition

Robert Barnard, 18 December 1980

Plaster Sinners 
by Colin Watson.
Eyre Methuen, 160 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 413 39040 3
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by Ngaio Marsh.
Collins, 262 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 00 231857 1
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The Predator 
by Russell Braddon.
Joseph, 192 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 7181 1958 4
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... enjoys abundant affection from crime-readers but not quite the esteem that Mesdames Rendall and James reap, it may be because his solutions are sometimes less than convincing. We don’t always get the feeling that in his beginning was his end. The solution to Plaster Sinners does not seem inevitable, and is not particularly surprising. Added to that, the ...

Modern Virginity

Paul Delany, 27 February 1992

Song of Love: The Letters of Rupert Brooke and Noel Olivier 1909-1915 
edited by Pippa Harris.
Bloomsbury, 302 pp., £17.99, November 1991, 0 7475 1048 2
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... This surely would have been an explosive mixture, perhaps fatal to the public career that Eddie Marsh and the rest had laid out for him. The career he had instead was a posthumous one, as the national symbol for the death of a generation in the war. Within days of his death, he and his poetry were appropriated for public use. The young pacifist David ...

Why are you still here?

James Meek: Who owns Grimsby?, 23 April 2015

... trinketries of Freeman Street, the backbone of the Victorian town, which ran from the docks to the Marsh districts where the fishermen lived. They would walk away from the cashier at the docks, get into a cab and let the meter run through all their sprees and benders and gift-giving, till the taxi dropped them back off on the quay, quite possibly broke, ready ...

Sea Slugs, Wombats, Microbes

Richard Fortey: Species Seekers, 28 April 2011

The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth 
by Richard Conniff.
Norton, 464 pp., £19.99, November 2010, 978 0 393 06854 2
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... history of species ‘bagging’ in North America. Every ornithologist will know the name of John James Audubon, but there were many other impressive pioneers in recording life on the continent. I hadn’t realised the extent to which Thomas Jefferson, for example, engaged in speculation about the affinities of fossilised mammoth bones that had turned up in ...

Roman Fever

Sarah Perry, 26 September 2019

Malaria and Victorian Fictions of Empire 
by Jessica Howell.
Cambridge, 238 pp., £75, October 2018, 978 1 108 48468 8
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... symptoms and its connection to place – as well as the ague, it has been known as swamp fever, marsh fever, intermittent fever and camp fever. It was once endemic in England – Pepys frequently laments that an acquaintance is sick with the ague – until an increase in livestock offered mosquitoes a less skittish source of sustenance than humans, and the ...

The Runaways

Tessa Hadley: Michael Ondaatje, 8 November 2018

by Michael Ondaatje.
Cape, 299 pp., £16.99, June 2018, 978 1 78733 071 9
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... Stated baldly, the plot of the novel – The Moth, The Darter, The Darter’s enthusiasm for Henry James, Agnes’s love-talk full of poetry, the near kidnapping, the archive, the effortless class slippages – strains credulity. Indeed it bursts credulity at the seams. Of course in a romance it doesn’t strictly matter what’s believable in real-world ...

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