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Because it’s pink

Stephen Mulhall: John Hyman’s objective eye, 25 January 2007

The Objective Eye: Colour, Form and Reality in the Theory of Art 
by John Hyman.
Chicago, 286 pp., £20, June 2006, 0 226 36553 0
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... aesthetic excellence in the way it depicts something, we must first perceive what it depicts. And John Hyman is interested in how depiction is even possible. This question has fascinated philosophers for a long time, but it can very quickly get a grip on any reflective person. However familiar we are with the business of linguistic communication, for ...

Tons of Sums

Michael Mason, 16 September 1982

Charles Babbage: Pioneer of the Computer 
by Anthony Hyman.
Oxford, 287 pp., £12.50, July 1982, 9780198581703
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... economist, inventor, reformer of scientific institutions, craftsman, even salon host. But Anthony Hyman does not seek to displace the computers from centre-stage in Babbage’s life, and this seems correct. They provide the most sustained theme in his variegated career, and may be seen as a point of convergence for most of the tendencies of his mind. To ...

Figures in Rooms, Rooms with Figures

Peter Campbell: Bonnard, 19 March 1998

Bonnard 
by Timothy Hyman.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £7.95, February 1998, 0 500 20310 5
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Bonnard 
by Sarah Whitfield and John Elderfield.
Tate Gallery, 272 pp., £35, June 1998, 1 85437 243 2
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... and secretive – only when they finally married in 1925 did he find out her real name. Timothy Hyman quotes descriptions of her: ‘a touchy elf’, ‘muse and gaoler’, ‘an uneasy tormenting sprite’, a person with a ‘persecution complex’ who didn’t want other painters visiting Bonnard to ‘steal his tricks’. She had a ‘weirdly ...

Downhill Racer

John Sutherland, 16 August 1990

Lying together 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 255 pp., £13.95, June 1990, 0 575 04802 6
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The Neon Bible 
by John Kennedy Toole.
Viking, 162 pp., £12.99, March 1990, 0 670 82908 0
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Solomon Gursky was here 
by Mordecai Richler.
Chatto, 576 pp., £13.95, June 1990, 0 394 53995 8
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Death of the Soap Queen 
by Peter Prince.
Bloomsbury, 277 pp., £13.99, April 1990, 0 7475 0611 6
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... a powerful comic novelist. Kington Aimes must look to his laurels. The circumstances surrounding John Kennedy Toole’s fictions are as pure American Gothic as even Flannery O’Connor could devise. Without any of his friends suspecting he had authorial ambitions, Toole wrote A Confederacy of Dunces in the early Sixties, while doing his national service in ...

Breeding too fast

John Ziman, 4 February 1982

The Nuclear Barons 
by Peter Pringle and James Spigelman.
Joseph, 578 pp., £12.95, January 1982, 0 7181 2061 2
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... nuclear submarine propulsion systems bullied into existence in the mid-Fifties by Admiral Hyman Rickover, and use fuel that has been enriched with U235 separated from natural uranium in vast plants built primarily for the production of weapon material. Almost inevitably, the initial boom was followed by a severe slump in orders, with another boom in ...

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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... or gangsters or gamblers. Or we remember them from The Godfather II – on the balcony of one, Hyman Roth slices up a birthday cake with a frosting map of Cuba as Michael Corleone and other Mob chieftains look on – or from the classic Soviet-era agitprop film I Am Cuba, in which rich Americans frolic around rooftop swimming-pools. Meantime, a few storeys ...

Better off in a Stocking

Jamie Martin: The Financial Crisis of 1914, 21 May 2014

Saving the City: The Great Financial Crisis of 1914 
by Richard Roberts.
Oxford, 320 pp., £20, November 2013, 978 0 19 964654 8
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... paper notes – so-called ‘Bradburys’ (the name of the Treasury official who signed them was John Bradbury) – to get more money into circulation. Now that war had been declared it was even less likely that the City’s banks would receive payment for prewar bills of exchange, so the Bank of England offered to take £120 million of unmarketable assets ...

Grieve not, but try again

N.A.M. Rodger: Submarines, 21 September 2016

The Silent Deep: The Royal Navy Submarine Service since 1945 
by Peter Hennessy and James Jinks.
Allen Lane, 823 pp., £12.99, June 2016, 978 1 84614 580 3
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... missiles would make both merchant ships and surface warships dangerously vulnerable. (John Nott, for one, was persuaded.) The Americans assumed that the Russians were aiming for a great fleet battle – what other purpose could a large navy have? – but a battle fought largely by submarines and aircraft. Only later did it become clear that the ...

Liquored-Up

Stefan Collini: Edmund Wilson, 17 November 2005

Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature 
by Lewis Dabney.
Farrar, Straus, 642 pp., £35, August 2005, 0 374 11312 2
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... Andrewes, for example, he can break in on his own prose and say, ‘I was writing last week on John Dos Passos,’ and then go on to make a comparison between the two authors’ respective forms of revulsion from industrial society. Describing himself as ‘a concision fetishist’, Wilson recommended that the literary journalist should steer a path ...

The Unrewarded End

V.G. Kiernan: Memories of the CP, 17 September 1998

The Death of Uncle Joe 
by Alison Macleod.
Merlin, 269 pp., £9.95, May 1997, 0 85036 467 1
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Enemy Within: The Rise and Fall of the British Communist Party 
by Francis Beckett.
Merlin, 253 pp., £9.95, August 1998, 0 85036 477 9
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... the people she spoke to, Monty Johnstone’s is a name that recurs, along with the philosopher Hyman (Hymie) Levy, Peter Fryer the journalist, and Brian Pearce, well known today as a translator of historical works from French and Russian. Levy she remembers as a very persuasive public speaker, whose Edinburgh accent ‘made everything sound ...

On the Secret Joke at the Centre of American Identity

Michael Rogin: Ralph Ellison, 2 March 2000

Juneteenth 
by Ralph Ellison, edited by John Callaghan.
Hamish Hamilton, 368 pp., £16.99, December 1999, 0 241 14084 6
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... over for the last forty years of his life and failed to finish. When his literary executor John Callahan appended some of these jottings to the end of ‘Juneteenth’, the ‘novel’ he extracted from two thousand manuscript pages, he gave Ellison the last word: the final note reproaches the editor from beyond the grave, along with the readers ...

I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters, 24 January 2013

Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... facilely grouped as a cetacean school of Great White Males (Styron, Norman Mailer, James Jones, John Updike, Saul Bellow, Gore Vidal, J.D. Salinger, Joseph Heller, the recently retired Philip Roth), whose ghostly father and bearded Neptune disturbing the liquor cabinet deep into the night was Ernest Hemingway. Even those least influenced by Hemingway’s ...

Enemies For Ever

James Wolcott: ‘Making It’, 17 May 2017

Making It 
by Norman Podhoretz.
NYRB, 368 pp., £13.98, May 2017, 978 1 68137 080 4
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... for class insecurity. This underdog cockiness persisted for decades, serving as the driver of John Travolta’s sidewalk strut in 1977’s Saturday Night Fever, where disco prince Tony Manero eventually tires of Bay Ridge Brooklyn and his mooky friends as the magic spires of Manhattan beckon. A product of the jukebox era, Podhoretz belonged to an older ...

An Example of the Good Life

Steven Shapin: Michael Polanyi, 15 December 2011

Michael Polanyi and His Generation: Origins of the Social Construction of Science 
by Mary Jo Nye.
Chicago, 405 pp., £29, October 2011, 978 0 226 61063 4
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... seemed to understand it, as it were, from the outside. When one of the Martians, the mathematician John von Neumann, was appointed to the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study at the age of 29, a story went around that he was ‘a demigod but had made a thorough, detailed study of human beings and could imitate them perfectly’. In Britain and America, the ...

A Short History of the Trump Family

Sidney Blumenthal: The First Family, 16 February 2017

... round number pulled out of a hat. In the New York Times the PR spokesman identified himself as ‘John Barron’. In the Associated Press story the same publicity man called himself ‘Donald Baron’ and was quoted as saying that ‘the merit of these stones was not great enough to save them.’ Both ‘John’ and ...

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