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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. The Americans ...

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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... but a long secret affair with a young woman who married her adopted son, thus becoming her daughter-in-law. 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 ...

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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... early thirties. In Pergamon, he was physician to a company of gladiators, treating the wounds they 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 ...

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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... Nonetheless, out of the blue, he suddenly feels all his old confidence return: ‘he imagined 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 ...

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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... author of biographies of Sartre and the art dealer Leo Castelli, has written a compact book about Rothko’s 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 ...
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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... that ‘To his Coy Mistress’ has a grim urgency unexpected in the conventional carpe diem lyric; 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 ...
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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... but necessary to the full understanding of fanaticism. But Shakespeare will have difficulty with 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 ...

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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... embarrassment at my own callow unresponsiveness. It was as though they had always been with me, and I 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 ...

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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... late 1980s (in fact its disappearance had more to do with a falling out between the producers and United 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 ...

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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... failed more completely to be the hero of his own life than the painter Benjamin Robert Haydon, for 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 ...

Cat Poems

Gavin Ewart

25 October 1990
... Catwoman Tattooed Thief Prowls Streets In Tony Neighbourhoods, Eludes Police for Years. American news item. All words in italics are quoted from this. James, the yardman, was working out back,  Maude, the maid, was tossing a salad – what better beginning, if you’re having a crack   at writing a criminal ballad? And I do want to make it plain ...

Demon Cruelty

Eric Foner: What was it like on a slave ship?

31 July 2008
The Slave Ship: A Human History 
by Marcus​ Rediker.
Murray, 434 pp., £25, October 2007, 978 0 7195 6302 7
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... end of the Civil War in 1865. (This perhaps explains why Americans all but ignored the anniversary of their own country’s outlawing of the trade on 1 January 1808.) Also lost, of late, according to Marcus Rediker, has been the human experience of slavery. Historical debate has focused on the trade’s economic impact, the causes of abolition and the precise numbers transported from Africa. The most ...
17 June 2015
Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero 
by James​ Romm.
Knopf, 290 pp., £18.45, March 2014, 978 0 307 59687 1
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Seneca: A Life 
by Emily Wilson.
Allen Lane, 253 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 1 84614 637 4
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... have abided by their own teachings, which has made the teachings more persuasive – imagine a hypocritical Jesus, and you get a sense of the devastation that would be wrought on the faithful. Even Marcus Aurelius belongs in this company: he held a degree of political power unusual for a moral philosopher but his apparently private notes to himself, the Meditations, show him to be troubled by 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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... go down in history, yet history does not fill up’ (‘Toutes les révolutions entrent dans 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 ...

On the white strand

Denis Donoghue

4 April 1991
The Selected Writings of Jack B. Yeats 
edited by Robin Skelton.
Deutsch, 246 pp., £12.99, March 1991, 0 233 98646 4
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... back to Ireland, and in 1910 he went first to Greystones, then to Dublin, and stayed there for the rest of his life. Jack Yeats had ambitions as a writer, too. He wrote miniature plays, starting with James Flaunty, or the Terror of the Western Seas in 1901. And novels, of which The Amaranthers (1936) is the best. But it is hard to see how Robin Skelton’s claim for JBY as a writer could be sustained ...

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