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A Prize from Fairyland

Andrew Bacevich: The CIA in Iran

2 November 2017
Foreign Relations of the US, 1952-54, Iran, 1951-54 
edited by James VanHook.
for the Department of State/Washington DC. Chiron Academic Press, 970 pp., £20, September 2017, 978 91 7637 496 2
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... establishing a “democratic” form of government has no place here.’ Nor did the question of advancing any of the other ideals the US professed (and professes) to cherish. The documents in this volume make it plain: values are an afterthought, while America’s prerogatives and capacity for stage-managing events are treated as boundless. Israel, too, is ...


James Wolcott: Updike should stay at home

1 January 2009
The Widows of Eastwick 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 308 pp., £18.99, October 2008, 978 0 241 14427 5
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... Updike was but a sprig, apprenticing at the New Yorker and carving out a little piece of Pennsylvania as his literary duchy, his gleaming facility was found suspect by some detractors, its satin finish the imposture of a fair-haired boy out to impress his elders with the fine flick of his exquisite perceptions and deflective modesty. ‘The New Yorker and ...

Top Brands Today

Nicholas Penny: The Art World

14 December 2017
The Auctioneer: A Memoir of Great Art, Legendary Collectors and Record-Breaking Auctions 
by Simon de Pury and William Stadiem.
Allen and Unwin, 312 pp., £9.99, April 2017, 978 1 76011 350 6
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Rogues’ Gallery: A History of Art and Its Dealers 
by Philip Hook.
Profile, 282 pp., £20, January 2017, 978 1 78125 570 4
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Donald Judd: Writings 
edited by Flavin Judd and Caitlin Murray.
David Zwirner, 1054 pp., £28, November 2016, 978 1 941701 35 5
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... Simon​ de Pury, assisted by ‘a regular contributor to Vanity Fair’, has written a book about his ascent to the top of the art world: the auctions he conducted, the deals he struck, the parties he attended. It resembles a board game, with smaller parts assigned to the ‘hedge fund overlord’, the ‘polo-playing playboy millionaire’, the ‘James Bond of the Russian oligarchy’, the ‘French luxury goods tycoon’ (also appearing as the ‘French luxury titan’), the ‘serial dater of supermodels’, and the ‘leveraged-buyout king ...

There are some limits Marlowes just won’t cross

Christopher Tayler: Banville’s Marlowe

2 April 2014
The Black-Eyed Blonde 
by Benjamin Black.
Mantle, 320 pp., £16.99, February 2014, 978 1 4472 3668 9
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... connoisseur in degenerates. You wouldn’t know him.’ She couldn’t have said the same to Philo Vance, S.S. Van Dine’s famous aesthete-sleuth – polo player, expert in Chinese ceramics, former student of William James – whom Raymond Chandler regarded as ‘the most asinine ...

A Moustache Too Far

Danny Karlin: Melville goes under

8 May 2003
Herman Melville: A Biography. Vol. II: 1851-91 
by Hershel Parker.
Johns Hopkins, 997 pp., £31, May 2002, 0 8018 6892 0
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... and myopic, with a red nose shaped like a snail-shell and a black goatee’. The fantasy Bergotte vanishes, but the caricature that replaces him is not intrinsically more ‘real’. Time radiates in two directions, or dimensions, from this encounter: as a mirage belonging to the past dissolves, knowledge from the future comes into play. The narrator, who ...


Mary-Kay Wilmers: The Menopause

10 October 1991
... the same sort of age, may now be a millionaire, she may own a chain of shops or be a top civil servant or the wife of a duke: but her womb, according to Greer, will be the size of an almond and one thing she won’t have is an eight-year-old daughter. The menopause isn’t some sort of metaphor and it doesn’t make you believe in the even-handedness of ...

Rub gently out with stale bread

Adam Smyth: The Print Craze

2 November 2017
The Print Before Photography: An Introduction to European Printmaking 1550-1820 
by Antony Griffiths.
British Museum, 560 pp., £60, August 2016, 978 0 7141 2695 1
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... workers we can no longer name to the early 16th-century masterpieces of Dürer (in Germany), Lucas van Leyden (in the Netherlands) and Marcantonio Raimondi working with Raphael (in Italy). As Sayer’s guide shows, the relationship between printing and drawing was rich. In The Compleat Drawing-Book, the print is a training tool for amateurs, but professional ...

The HPtFtU

Christopher Tayler: Francis Spufford

5 October 2016
Golden Hill 
by Francis Spufford.
Faber, 344 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 0 571 22519 4
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... addresses the ‘immense darkness’ of the continent beyond. Another unnamed presence might be Mr James, whose list of the ‘items of high civilisation … absent from the texture of American life’ finds a counterpart in the hero’s observations. After mulling over James’s views in The Child that Books Built, Spufford ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2004

6 January 2005
... in his dressing-room when there was a tentative knock on the door. It was Alec Guinness. He shook Alan’s hand, said, ‘You must be very tired,’ and left. Alan’s languid phone calls were often to do with professional humiliation. In the 1999 production of Antony and Cleopatra at Stratford the curtain rose with Antony on his knees pleasuring the ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies

26 January 2012
An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... compiling lists, but the lists themselves are interesting. For example: Jean Renoir, Orson Welles, James Wong Howe, Dudley Nichols, Clifford Odets, Robert Rossen, John Garfield, Charlie Chaplin and Leo McCarey all attended a reception in July 1943 for the Soviet director and administrator Mikhail Kalatozov. At that time Russian and American propaganda methods ...
13 May 1999
... from the Festival of Britain, the Dome of Discovery tricked out with bright yellow – ‘Van Gogh cornfield’ – cocktail sticks. Now I appreciated the concept of the Millennium Bug. Here it was, a white spider-crab quivering on the foreshore. A video-grab from Spielberg’s Close Encounters: an invertebrate alien protected by security ...
13 September 2012
... north-east England, they work for Warren Buffett; in Birmingham, Cardiff and Plymouth, the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company; in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Liverpool, Iberdrola; in Manchester, a consortium of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and a J.P. Morgan investment fund. More than anyone, you’d think, it would matter to the people who made these ...

The Ground Hostess

Francis Wyndham

1 April 1983
... mind off’ by giving me something to do: they gave me something to do, but their essential irrelevance to the obsession only fixed it more securely in the forefront of my mind. When it was over, the trickle continued for a little while (with excuses for not having been able to attend and with congratulations – reviews again – on the success of the ...

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