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Who does that for anyone?

Adam Shatz: Jean-Pierre Melville, 20 June 2019

Jean-Pierre Melville: Le Solitaire 
by Bertrand Teissier.
Fayard, 272 pp., €22, October 2017, 978 2 213 70573 6
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Jean-Pierre Melville, une vie 
by Antoine de Baecque.
Seuil, 244 pp., €32, October 2017, 978 2 02 137107 9
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... The first seven minutes of Le Samouraï (1967), in which Alain Delon plays the hitman Jef Costello, unfold silently; the heist in Le Cercle rouge (1970) goes on for half an hour without a sound, until Yves Montand’s character disables the security system of a jewellery store with a single rifle shot. Men, almost always men, are quietly, diligently ...

Sunshine

David Goldie: Morecambe and Wise, 15 April 1999

Morecambe and Wise 
by Graham McCann.
Fourth Estate, 416 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 1 85702 735 3
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... and Wise began, mimicking the hard-edged wise-guy contentiousness of Abbott and Costello and writing it small on the British variety stage. Very small. Their partnership was established in 1940 when both, already seasoned entertainers, were in their mid-teens. As Morecambe would later recall, they were at this point ‘two boys of 14 with ...

Chinaberry Pie

D.A.N. Jones, 1 March 1984

Modern Baptists 
by James Wilcox.
Secker, 239 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 9780436570988
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Speranza 
by Sven Delblanc, translated by Paul Britten Austin.
Secker, 153 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 9780436126802
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High Spirits 
by Robertson Davies.
Penguin, 198 pp., £2.50, January 1984, 0 14 006505 9
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Hanabeke 
by Dudley St John Magnus.
Angus and Robertson, 133 pp., £6.95, January 1984, 0 207 14565 2
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Train to Hell 
by Alexei Sayle.
Methuen, 152 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 413 52460 4
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The English Way of Doing Things 
by William Donaldson.
Weidenfeld, 229 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 297 78345 9
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... house – and together they make rather an unfair sort of comedy team. Not Hope-Crosby, nor Abbott-Costello, more like Martin-Lewis. As his initials suggest, F.X. is the son of a Roman Catholic mother and he is (by Tula Springs standards) almost as slick and Italianate as Dean Martin – ‘Hey, brothers, pour the wine!’ – while Bobby Pickens is as ...

Two Sharp Teeth

Philip Ball: Dracula Studies, 25 October 2018

Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote ‘Dracula’ 
by David J. Skal.
Norton, 672 pp., £15.99, October 2017, 978 1 63149 386 7
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The Cambridge Companion to ‘Dracula’ 
edited by Roger Luckhurst.
Cambridge, 219 pp., £17.99, November 2017, 978 1 316 60708 4
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The Vampire: A New History 
by Nick Groom.
Yale, 287 pp., £16.99, October 2018, 978 0 300 23223 3
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... feral figures became our familiar louche aristocrats and sapphic seductresses, most notably in John William Polidori’s The Vampyre (the other story written during that famous summer on Lake Geneva in 1816), Keats’s ‘Lamia’, Coleridge’s ‘Christabel’ and Le Fanu’s Carmilla. Groom calls Dracula a ‘brilliant culmination’ and ...

How They Brought the Good News

Colin Kidd: Britain’s Napoleonic Wars, 20 November 2014

In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 739 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 571 26952 5
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... Napoleonic Wars, a patriotic mythology fixated on the achievements of Nelson, Wellington and Sir John Moore at Corunna tends to filter out fear and uncertainty in favour of a seemingly inevitable procession of victories. As Jenny Uglow stresses in her gripping account of Britain during the Napoleonic era, contemporaries had no such feeling of security. There ...

The Lie-World

James Wood: D.B.C. Pierre, 20 November 2003

Vernon God Little 
by D.B.C. Pierre.
Faber, 279 pp., £10.99, January 2003, 0 571 21642 0
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... Neither prize-winner, under the new regime, has been a crowd-displeaser, nor a crowd-puzzler. John Carey, a serious man except when he is writing literary journalism, chaired this year’s jury, and announced that he was in favour of ‘widening what might be looked on as the Booker’s scope’. He and his judges had, he thought, a preference for ...

Steamy, Seamy

David Margolick: The Mob’s Cuban Kleptocracy, 20 March 2008

The Havana Mob: Gangsters, Gamblers, Showgirls and Revolutionaries in 1950s Cuba 
by T.J. English.
Mainstream, 400 pp., £17.99, September 2007, 978 1 84596 192 3
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... reverberations from those events reached a long way: as far as the Cold War, the assassination of John F. Kennedy (maybe), Watergate and, every four years to this day, the American presidential election. It is a story that reminds us of the bond – political, cultural, economic, sentimental – between the United States and Cuba, a bond that tightened in the ...

Clutching at Railings

Jonathan Coe: Late Flann O’Brien, 24 October 2013

Plays and Teleplays 
by Flann O’Brien, edited by Daniel Keith Jernigan.
Dalkey, 434 pp., £9.50, September 2013, 978 1 56478 890 0
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The Short Fiction of Flann O’Brien 
edited by Neil Murphy and Keith Hopper.
Dalkey, 158 pp., £9.50, August 2013, 978 1 56478 889 4
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... at the Abbey Theatre for ‘nearly two months’ in 1943, though he adds in a footnote that Peter Costello and Peter van de Kamp, in Flann O’Brien: An Illustrated Biography, give the length of the run as only two weeks. Cronin also says that it ‘ran for two weeks’, and perhaps the most reliable source of all, the Abbey Theatre’s online archive, gives ...

Ahead of the Game

Daniel Finn: The Official IRA, 7 October 2010

The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party 
by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar.
Penguin, 658 pp., £9.99, April 2010, 978 0 14 102845 3
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... who first tried to assassinate a unionist politician, shooting the hardline Stormont minister John Taylor six times yet failing to kill him. All this meant the Officials could compete with the Provos for support in Derry and West Belfast, but it didn’t sit well with the nominal goal of the movement, which was the reform of the Northern Irish state, not ...

Reader, he married her

Christopher Hitchens, 10 May 1990

Tom Driberg: His Life and Indiscretions 
by Francis Wheen.
Chatto, 452 pp., £18, May 1990, 0 7011 3143 8
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... poetry; had been anointed as the diabolic successor to Aleister Crowley; had nearly interested John Betjeman in socialism and A.J.P. Taylor in incense. But he was one of those modernists who could only have been formed by an observance of tradition: he needed an anchor as much as he wanted a sailor. I only knew him at the fag-end of his career, when the ...

Diary

Tom Nairn: The Australian elections, 13 December 2007

... when an unhealed wound remains? Not long before the vote, the point was cruelly rubbed in. John Howard’s Liberal-Coalition government made the unusual decision to invade its own country, by sending the Australian Defence Force into the Northern Territory. His aim was to deal decisively with concerns about child abuse and corruption among the mainly ...

He knew he was right

John Lloyd, 10 March 1994

Scargill: The Unauthorised Biography 
by Paul Routledge.
HarperCollins, 296 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 0 300 05365 7
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... A long-serving labour correspondent, Routledge did much of his work at the Times. With Mick Costello of the Morning Star, he was the leader of the leftist tendency within the labour and industrial correspondents’ group and for many years the strongest influence within that group. As such, he did what he could to mobilise support for the Left in the ...

His Spittin’ Image

Colm Tóibín: John Stanislaus Joyce, 22 February 2018

... how Stephen Dedalus, disowning his own parent, searches for another father. Portrait of John Stanislaus Joyce by Patrick Tuohy (1923) Just as Oscar Wilde began to become himself the year after his father’s death, when he was 21, and John Butler Yeats managed, figuratively, to kill his son by going into exile in ...

That’s what Wystan says

Seamus Perry, 10 May 2018

Early Auden, Later Auden: A Critical Biography 
by Edward Mendelson.
Princeton, 912 pp., £27.95, May 2017, 978 0 691 17249 1
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... and comical vividness is the hallmark of Audenian experience, which occurs within situations, as John Bayley once charmingly put it, ‘which we can imagine occurring to the poet as he closes his eyes for a liberating instant between two minutes of actual living’. The poem plays with the idea of knowing things and conveys the feeling of being puzzled by ...

Berenson’s Elixir

Simon Schama, 1 May 1980

Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur 
by Ernest Samuels.
Harvard, 477 pp., £9.50, June 1979, 0 674 06775 4
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Being Bernard Berenson 
by Meryle Secrest.
Weidenfeld, 473 pp., £8.50, January 1980, 0 297 77564 2
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... document the biography. Once the book appeared, it was given short shrift in eminent quarters. Sir John Pope-Hennessy, writing in the life-enhancing Now!, described it as ‘tawdry’, while working up a tremendous lather of indignation at the impertinence of the whole enterprise. Professor Sidney Freedberg availed himself of the Boston Globe to lay about the ...

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