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Living the Life

Andrew​ O’Hagan

5 October 2016
Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency 
by James Andrew Miller.
Custom House, 703 pp., £20, August 2016, 978 0 06 244137 9
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... games would require storytellers – and that’s before we even get to the internet. In the age of ‘streaming’, of Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, there are 700 agents at CAA, but the story told in JamesAndrewMiller’s riveting book is really about the personalities who invented the game. It is, more particularly, the story of what Michael Ovitz gave to the world and what that world took away from ...

Short Cuts

Andrew​ O’Hagan: Have you seen their sandals?

2 July 2014
... Town said in 1838, ‘that of tailoring appears to be the most successful in the way of coining money. We might compare it to witchcraft.’ According to Bespoke: The Men’s Style of Savile Row by James Sherwood, even Queen Victoria got in on the act, writing to her son Bertie that ‘dress is a trifling matter,’ before adding: ‘we do not wish to control your own tastes and fancies … but we do ...

Short Cuts

Andrew​ O’Hagan: Voices from Beyond the Grave

20 November 2008
... sound in a public space. The time is long past when writers – pace Dickens – behaved as if the voice in their writing was a secret between the work and its readers. We don’t know what Henry James sounded like, and that is part of the mystery we enjoy. So much so that hearing the actual voices of dead writers can come as a shock. The British Library has decided, most pleasingly, to begin ...

Short Cuts

Andrew​ O’Hagan: Myths of Marilyn

8 July 2004
... everyone might be thought to have a Marilyn book in them? You’d certainly think so if you look at the list of people who’ve given it a go: her New York maid (Lena Pepitone), two of her husbands (James Dougherty, Arthur Miller), her half-sister (Berniece Miracle), her stalkers (Robert Slatzer, James Haspiel), her saviours (Gloria Steinem, Kate Millett), her driver of one summer (Colin Clark), her ...

Taking it up again

Margaret Anne Doody

21 March 1991
Henry James​ and Revision 
by Philip Horne.
Oxford, 373 pp., £40, December 1990, 0 19 812871 1
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... revise novels? The very thought of revising one is daunting. Yet of course novelists do revise their printed works, on occasion, for various reasons. No novelist has made such a job of it as Henry James. In July 1905 he began the task of revising his life’s work, in order to create a final statement, a complete collection of his works, called from its inception the New York Edition. James actually ...

Not bothered

E.S. Turner

29 August 1991
The Bachelor Duke: William Spencer Cavendish, Sixth Duke of Devonshire, 1790-1858 
by James​ Lees-Milne.
Murray, 234 pp., £19.95, March 1991, 0 7195 4920 5
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... so heading off any rumour of a changeling. In the birth chamber several witnesses testified that the child was Georgiana’s (the event has echoes of the ‘warming-pan affair’ which embarrassed James II’s Queen). Having given her husband a long-wanted male heir, the Duchess naturally expected him to pay off her prodigious gambling debts. This he failed to do. Soon she became pregnant again ...

Karl Miller​ Remembered

Neal Ascherson, John Lanchester and Andrew​ O’Hagan

22 October 2014
... who never knowthat dying is what, to live, each has to do.Neal AschersonTo younger readers​ , the idea of being a famous literary editor may seem oxymoronic. That, however, is exactly what Karl Miller was. As a result, it was possible to be well-briefed about Karl before meeting him for the first time. This was thanks to Clive James’s introduction to his collection Visions before Midnight. James ...

The Ballad of Andy and Rebekah

Martin Hickman: The Phone Hackers

16 July 2014
... before her arrest, she got friendly texts from Tony Blair (‘I’m no use on police stuff but call me after that because I may be some help on Commons’). Blair also offered advice to Rupert and James Murdoch. Peter Mandelson offered to prep Brooks for an appearance before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. Two Conservative peers gave glowing character references: Baron Black ...

I want my wings

Andrew​ O’Hagan: The Last Tycoons

3 March 2016
West of Eden: An American Place 
by Jean Stein.
Cape, 334 pp., £20, February 2016, 978 0 224 10246 9
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... until now. It is a book about Hollywood that has the authority of the smartest girl at the party. Stein speaks to the butlers and the chauffeurs, the studio wives, the bit-part players, to the Arthur Miller, Dennis Hopper and Gore Vidal part of the universe, and none of them lets her down, or lets her off. It is a wild compendium of stories about what it is to be a child in a world of childish adults ...

Cod on Ice

Andy Beckett: The BBC

10 July 2003
Panorama: Fifty Years of Pride And Paranoia 
by Richard Lindley.
Politico’s, 404 pp., £18.99, September 2002, 1 902301 80 3
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The Harder Path: The Autobiography 
by John Birt.
Time Warner, 532 pp., £20, October 2002, 0 316 86019 0
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... Monday night fixture for between six and eight million people … The current muster has Robin Day, tenacious as a badger; Ludovic Kennedy, whose line is artistic, faintly raffish melancholy; James Mossman, the ardent Galahad who will never take for granted that men are sometimes wicked on purpose; Robert Kee, the hot-eyed public prosecutor … When John Birt arrived at the BBC as Deputy ...

Triples

Michael Neve

8 November 1990
The Double in 19th-Century Fiction 
by John Herdman.
Macmillan, 174 pp., £35, August 1990, 9780333490242
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Romanticism and the Sciences 
edited by Andrew​ Cunningham and Nicholas Jardine.
Cambridge, 345 pp., £40, June 1990, 0 521 35602 4
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Schizophrenia: A Scientific Delusion? 
by Mary Boyle.
Routledge, 248 pp., £35, September 1990, 0 415 04096 5
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... It is the great merit of the literature on ideas of ‘the double’ that asking questions about the mysteries of the Devil gets such good historical answers. From Tymms (1949) to Miller (1985) to the touchingly named Herdman (is he trying to keep us safe, inside the yard?) the literary study of doubles roots itself in Christian accounts of the world, describing how, by trick, by ...
7 January 1993
The Life of Geoffrey Chaucer 
by Derek Pearsall.
Blackwell, 365 pp., £19.95, September 1992, 1 55786 205 2
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A Wyf ther was: Essays in Honour of Paule Mertens-Fonck 
edited by Juliette Dor.
University of Liège, 300 pp., June 1992, 2 87233 004 6
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Hochon’s Arrow: The Social Imagination of 14th-Century Texts 
by Paul Strohm.
Princeton, 205 pp., £27.50, November 1992, 0 691 06880 1
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... civil servant with good connections to power, and from a family almost typically English in its concentration not on literary matters but on moving up the social scale. Chaucer’s great-grandfather, Andrew ‘le Taverner’, thus seems to have kept a pub in Ipswich, while his great-great-grandson, Richard Duke of Suffolk, nicknamed ‘Blanche Rose’, was accepted as King of England – but, alas, only ...

Bard of Friendly Fire

Robert Crawford: The Radical Burns

25 July 2002
Robert Burns: Poems 
edited by Don Paterson.
Faber, 96 pp., £4.99, February 2001, 0 571 20740 5
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The Canongate Burns: The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns 
edited by Andrew​ Noble and Patrick Scott Hogg.
Canongate, 1017 pp., £40, November 2001, 0 86241 994 8
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... to Dunbar’s Lowland ear; a ‘brybour’ was a vagabond; a ‘baird’ was a limited sub-poet, not a ‘makar’. A century later in his how-to-be-a-king book, the Basilikon Doron, the versifying James VI of Scotland claimed that he had ‘not spared to play the bairde against all the estaitis of my kingdome’. When James boarded the English throne in 1603, his Scots had to be translated for ...

St Marilyn

Andrew​ O’Hagan: The Girl and Me

6 January 2000
The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe 
Christie’s, 415 pp., $85, September 1999, 0 903432 64 1Show More
The Complete Marilyn Monroe 
by Adam Victor.
Thames and Hudson, 339 pp., £29.95, November 1999, 0 500 01978 9
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Marilyn Monroe 
by Barbara Leaming.
Orion, 474 pp., £8.99, October 1999, 0 7528 2692 1
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... fibs of Hollywood scribe Nunnally Johnson. There have been plenty of biographies by people who worked for Marilyn, by her housekeeper Eunice Murray, her cleaner Lena Pepit-one, by a fan called James Haspiel who used to stand outside her apartment, by one or two guys who slept with her, by any numbers of guys who wanted to sleep with her, and by a tittle-tattle lifeguard at the Ambassador Hotel ...

The Excursions

Andrew​ O’Hagan

16 June 2011
... are seen to shiver and quake as they catch their death.Two decades ago, when I came down from a suburban version of MacDiarmid’s pastures to work at the London Review of Books, the editor, Karl Miller, had a powerful sense of what connected literature to the land, and even the urban writers he liked – Kingsley Amis, for instance – were filled with a sense of hinterland, or winterland, of ...

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