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He speaks too loud

David Blackbourn: Brecht

2 July 2014
Bertolt Brecht: A Literary Life 
by Stephen Parker.
Bloomsbury, 704 pp., £30, February 2014, 978 1 4081 5562 2
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... World War, became a successful writer in the years before Hitler’s rise to power, spent 16 years as an émigré, and returned to Berlin only to clash with the East German apparatchiks. Stephen Parker’s superb biography of a great iconoclastic writer is impressively sourced, rich in detail, well-paced, highly readable yet serious. His Brecht was chastened by the dark times, but remained what his ...

Maughamisms

Elizabeth Mavor

18 July 1985
A Traveller in Romance 
by W. Somerset Maugham, edited by John​ Whitehead.
Muller, Blond and White, 275 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 85634 184 3
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... writing. Rather than the pregnant sigh and the scent of roses there are the busy sounds of the saw and the hammer, the smell of boiling fish glue. In the course of these pieces the work of Dorothy Parker is discussed, the letters of Madame de Sévigné, the personalities of Marie Tempest, Noel Coward, Eddie Marsh, the Aga Khan; there are pensées on playing bridge, the reasons why the American ...

Joining up

Angus Calder

3 April 1986
Soldier, Soldier 
by Tony Parker.
Heinemann, 244 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 434 57770 7
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Echoes of the Great War: The Diary of the Reverend Andrew Clark 1914-1919 
edited by James Munson.
Oxford, 304 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 19 212984 8
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The Unknown Army: Mutinies in the British Army in World War One 
by Gloden Dallas and Douglas Gill.
Verso, 178 pp., £18.50, July 1985, 0 86091 106 3
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Soldiers: A History of Men in Battle 
by John​ Keegan and Richard Holmes.
Hamish Hamilton, 288 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 241 11583 3
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... A major in the Royal Anglian Regiment talks to Tony Parker about battle: I’ve only been in that kind of situation where someone’s been shooting at me, a total of about twelve times altogether – in Ireland, in Aden, and we had a couple of dust-ups with ...

Not in My House

Mark Ford: Flannery O’Connor

23 July 2009
Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor 
by Brad Gooch.
Little, Brown, 448 pp., £20, May 2009, 978 0 316 00066 6
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... of the New Critics from Austin Warren, who was at work with René Wellek on A Theory of Literature and teaching at Iowa at the time, and became familiar with the ideas of Southern Agrarians such as John Crowe Ransom and Allen Tate, whose wife, Caroline Gordon, would become an astute reader of drafts of O’Connor’s stories, and a staunch literary advocate. T.S. Eliot, the great hero of the New ...

Don’t Sing the High C

Roger Parker: Unsung Operas

13 December 2007
Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera 
by Philip Gossett.
Chicago, 675 pp., £22.50, September 2006, 0 226 30482 5
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... to do with the earning power of musicians such as Christina Aguilera and Barry Manilow; they may not help Rossini and Verdi. Added to this, the operatic caravan is moving on. While the success of John Adams gives hope to those who think that contemporary opera has a future, the cultural pessimists are going further back in time to renew the repertory. Perhaps the Italian 19th century has hit a ...

Crypto-Republican

Simon Adams: Was Mary Queen of Scots a Murderer?

11 June 2009
Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I 
by Stephen Alford.
Yale, 412 pp., £25, May 2008, 978 0 300 11896 4
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... was the victim of conspiracies by her enemies and her Victorian defenders had no doubt Cecil was chief among them. The case against Cecil has recently been revived by Alford’s former supervisor, John Guy, in his biography of Mary, My Heart is my Own (2004). Any subsequent biographer is forced to address Guy’s case against Cecil. Alford has not done so explicitly, but he has accepted some of Guy ...

Puffed up, Slapped down

Rosemary Hill: Charles and Camilla

6 September 2017
Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life 
by Sally Bedell Smith.
Michael Joseph, 624 pp., £25, April 2017, 978 0 7181 8780 4
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The Duchess: The Untold Story 
by Penny Junor.
William Collins, 320 pp., £20, June 2017, 978 0 00 821100 4
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... she reaches for a comparison with Downton Abbey. Like Penny Junor, she has written other royal biographies (of the queen and Princess Diana). Junor, however, is a career journalist, daughter of John Junor, the former editor in chief of the Sunday Express, and she is much closer to her material. She has written two lives of Charles and one each of Diana, Prince William and Prince Harry, as well ...

All about Me

Kevin Kopelson: Don Bachardy

8 April 2015
Hollywood 
by Don Bachardy.
Glitterati, 368 pp., £45, October 2014, 978 0 9913419 2 4
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... reviewing for this very publication – a biography of Franz Liszt by Alan Walker.* I was also reading – for amusement – the biography of Lytton Strachey by Michael Holroyd and one of Dorothy Parker by Marion Meade. In Holroyd’s book, I was most struck by some portraits – reproduced in full colour – that had been done of Strachey; there’s one by Simon Bussy, drawn in 1904 (the year of ...

London Review of Crooks

Robert Marshall-Andrews

15 July 1982
Rough Justice: The Extraordinary Truth about Charles Richardson and his Gang 
by Robert Parker.
Fontana, 352 pp., £1.95, October 1981, 0 00 636354 7
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Web of Corruption: The Story of John​ Poulson and T. Dan Smith 
by Raymond Fitzwalter and David Taylor.
Granada, 282 pp., £12.50, October 1981, 0 246 10915 7
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Inside Boss: South Africa’s Secret Police 
by Gordon Winter.
Penguin, 640 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 9780140057515
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Crime in Wartime: A Social History of Crime in World War II 
by Edward Smithies.
Allen and Unwin, 219 pp., £12.50, January 1982, 0 04 364020 6
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... sadistic and resourceful criminals is an unhappy fact of life, and even if the author goes to considerable pains to underline their culpability and to scorn their protestations of innocence, which Mr Parker certainly does, there is no doubt that this type of highly personalised saga (it is ‘Charlie’ and ‘Eddy’ throughout) invites a substantial degree of sympathy with the villains and dignifies ...

Purchase and/or Conquest

Eric Foner: Were the Indians robbed?

9 February 2006
How the Indians Lost Their Land: Law and Power on the Frontier 
by Stuart Banner.
Harvard, 344 pp., £18.95, November 2005, 0 674 01871 0
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... with individual tribes. As the 19th century progressed, however, recognition of Indian property rights diminished. In Johnson v. M’Intosh (1823), a pivotal Supreme Court decision, Chief Justice John Marshall declared that Indians had a ‘right of occupancy’, but were not full owners of their land as whites understood it. Nonetheless, to the end of the 19th century, even as the federal ...

Diary

Eric Hobsbawm: My Days as a Jazz Critic

27 May 2010
... I owe my years as a jazz reporter to John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, which made the British cultural establishment of the mid-1950s take notice of a music so evidently dear to the new and talented Angry Young Men. When, needing some ...

Homage to Braudel

Geoffrey Parker

4 September 1980
Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme, XVe – XVIIIe siécle 
by Fernand Braudel.
Armand Colin, 544 pp.
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... only to whisky. Perhaps, one day, Braudel’s writings will stand in the export figures beside butter and broiler-chickens. Beatification has already begun. The Mediterranean was hailed in 1973 by John Bossy, a most sober and respectable English scholar, as ‘probably the best history book ever written’. Braudel was the first living historian to have his life and works scrutinised in the ...
5 February 1987
Jane Austen 
by Tony Tanner.
Macmillan, 291 pp., £20, November 1986, 0 333 32317 3
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... of a work of art. This happens all the time, and is all to the good, provided that critic and author are in real sympathy, and can thus complement one another. In a celebrated inaugural lecture, John Carey suggested nonetheless that the process had gone too far, and that even giants like Empson and C.S. Lewis could be guilty in this way of serious distortions of a text: he instanced a bravura ...

Diary

Adam Shatz: Ornette Coleman

15 July 2015
... much beauty continues to exist here.’ Perhaps, he wondered, ‘it is because of the vileness, or call it adversity, that such beauty does exist.’ Baraka made the observation in his liner notes to John Coltrane’s album Live at Birdland, which includes ‘Alabama’, an elegy for the four girls murdered in the 1963 Birmingham Church bombing.I thought of Baraka’s words at New York’s Riverside ...

Distant Sheep

Penelope Fitzgerald

21 July 1994
Alice 
by John​ Bayley.
Duckworth, 192 pp., £14.99, May 1994, 0 7156 2618 3
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... John Bayley’s new novel is largely about those who are had on, or taken in, and this may well include his readers, who need to keep their wits about them. To begin with, he conjures up a couple of ...

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