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At Las Pozas

Mike Jay: Edward James’s Sculpture Garden, 21 May 2020

... situations, often having used his wealth to make them happen. In 1931, he was the first to publish John Betjeman, who had been a fellow student at Oxford. In 1933 he financed the final collaboration between Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. When Salvador Dalí was nearly suffocated by the diving suit he wore to the International Surrealist Exhibition in London in ...

Decorations and Contingencies

John Bayley, 16 September 1982

Pea Soup 
by Christopher Reid.
Oxford, 65 pp., £4.50, September 1982, 0 19 211952 4
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... to ornament with appropriate curlicues the exposition of order and harmony in a poem like Sir John Davies’s Orchestra. In what might be called the new decorated style, or modern Elizabethan, the decoration has become an end in itself, serving only to embellish the sense of time passing, water dripping, bells ringing, clothes flying on the line. There is ...

Stifled Truth

Wyatt Mason: Tobias Wolff and fictions of the self, 5 February 2004

Old School 
by Tobias Wolff.
Bloomsbury, 195 pp., £12.99, February 2004, 0 7475 6948 7
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... Book of Contemporary American Stories. Writing fiction about a writer who is writing the fiction we are reading, Wolff would have us understand, is obscene. A writer reaching out from behind the curtain of the page to wave at the crowd undermines the enterprise: the rich illusion of reality is ruined. The writers whom Wolff esteems most – among them ...

Sterling and Strings

Peter Davies: Harold Wilson and Vietnam, 20 November 2008

... a man, not a gun, must be sent from this country to defend French colonisation in Indo-China … we must not join or in any way encourage an anti-Communist crusade in Asia under the leadership of the Americans or anyone else.’ Later the same day, in a speech in Manchester, he had gone even further, proclaiming that ‘at the moment the danger to a ...

The Forty Years’ Peace

Keith Kyle, 21 October 1993

The United States and the End of the Cold War: Implications, Reconsiderations and Provocations 
by John Lewis Gaddis.
Oxford, 301 pp., £19.50, July 1992, 0 19 505201 3
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Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years, 1953-71 
by Douglas Brinkley.
Yale, 429 pp., £22, February 1993, 0 300 04773 8
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The Quest for Stability: Problems of West European Security 1918-1957 
edited by Rolf Ahmann, A.M. Birke and Michael Howard.
Oxford, 546 pp., £50, June 1993, 0 19 920503 5
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... was devoted to East-West relations. At its first session a musty-looking gentleman called Sir John Lawrence proposed that we begin from the assumption that the decline of the Soviet economic system had passed the point of no-return. Any policy recommendations must therefore reckon with the consequences of its collapse ...

One for Uncle

John Bayley, 5 April 1990

Robert Graves: The Years with Laura 1926-1940 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Weidenfeld, 380 pp., £25, March 1990, 0 297 79672 0
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... of young men, especially as he threw in, gratuitously, the information that he descends from Dean, Rector, Bishop, Von Ranke etc etc, only in order to say that he despises them. I tried, perhaps, to curry favour, as my weakness is. L was adamant. Then we were offered a ticket for the Cup Tie, to see which Graves has ...

Bosh

E.S. Turner: Kiss me, Eric, 17 April 2003

Dean Farrar and ‘Eric’: A Study of ‘Eric, or Little by Little’, together with the Complete Text of the Book 
by Ian Anstruther.
Haggerston, 237 pp., £19.95, January 2003, 1 869812 19 0
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... Book of Boys’ and Girls’ Names. Then in 1858 the schoolmaster Frederic Farrar, not yet a dean, published that passionately morbid tale Eric, or Little by Little. This was the book which, in the face of much mockery, put the wind up two generations of youth. Parents, seizing the wrong end of the stick, at once saw Eric as the ideal baptismal name, to ...

No more pretty face

Philip Horne, 8 March 1990

Emotion Pictures: Reflections on the Cinema 
by Wim Wenders, translated by Sean Whiteside and Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 148 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 0 571 15271 6
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Scorsese on Scorsese 
by Martin Scorsese, edited by David Thompson and Ian Christie.
Faber, 178 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 9780571141036
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... the American Ry Cooder as composer/performer of the music; the American actors Harry Dean Stanton and Dean Stockwell as the central Henderson brothers, the French Aurore Clément and the German Nastassia Kinski as their wives. For Wenders, a long-time lover of the Western and of American rock music, it was, as ...

Outfoxing Hangman

Thomas Jones: David Mitchell, 11 May 2006

Black Swan Green 
by David Mitchell.
Sceptre, 371 pp., £16.99, May 2006, 0 340 82279 1
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... of us boys, plus Dawn Madden’ are introduced to the reader in a bewildering welter of names: Dean Moran, Nick Yew, Gilbert Swinyard, Nicholas Briar, Floyd Chaceley, Neal Brose, Pete Redmarley, Ross Wilcox, Gary Drake, ‘Squelch’, Grant Burch, Philip Phelps, Lee Biggs, the Tookey brothers, Ant Little, Darren Croome. There are too many to take in, but ...

Was Swift a monster?

Denis Donoghue, 5 June 1986

Jonathan Swift: A Hypocrite Reversed 
by David Nokes.
Oxford, 427 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 19 812834 7
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... he said: ‘I think it horrible, shameful, unmanly, blasphemous; and giant and great as this Dean is, I say we should hoot him.’ But Thackeray removed the issue from morality by consigning it to nature and narrating Swift’s life in the readiest available style for such a transformation. The life became a melodrama ...

Lost in Beauty

Michael Newton: Montgomery Clift, 7 October 2010

The Passion of Montgomery Clift 
by Amy Lawrence.
California, 333 pp., £16.95, May 2010, 978 0 520 26047 4
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... car crash that wrecked his face. There are three kinds of classic American crash: the James Dean, Eddie Cochran legend-sealer; the Bob Dylan at Woodstock disaster turned into an opportunity for reinvention; and the sweet Gene Vincent long martyrdom. Clift could have been another James Dean. Instead he was granted the ...

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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... and had to go to hospital. Stephen Sondheim remembers seeing her in Ravello during the shooting of John Huston’s madcap movie Beat the Devil. ‘I recall her sitting at an umbrella table in the square,’ Sondheim says, ‘rehearsing a scene with Edward Underdown, who played her husband. Above the surface of the table she was bantering blithely with him, but ...

Self-Extinction

Russell Davies, 18 June 1981

Short Lives 
by Katinka Matson.
Picador, 366 pp., £2.50, February 1981, 9780330262194
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... There is nothing very mysterious about the interest we take in self-destructive personalities. To be callous about it – and we are all callous when it comes to disasters relived on the printed page – their lives make excellent biographies. Not only do they suffer in a dramatic way: they do it more purposefully than the rest of us, with our dull sense of un-satisfactoriness, can manage ...

Cartwheels over Broken Glass

Andrew O’Hagan: Worshipping Morrissey, 4 March 2004

Saint Morrissey 
by Mark Simpson.
SAF, 224 pp., £16.99, December 2003, 0 946719 65 9
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The Smiths: Songs that Saved Your Life 
by Simon Goddard.
Reynolds/Hearn, 272 pp., £14.99, December 2002, 1 903111 47 1
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... with her friend Katherine. They wrote it most evenings in the desolate hours between the end of John Craven’s Newsround and the arrival of the ice-cream van on their housing estate, a period marked by the combustion of chip pans in the kitchens of the negligent, pans then carried hurriedly onto doorsteps and thrown into the air like torches at a Viking ...

The Moronic Inferno

Martin Amis, 1 April 1982

The Dean’s December 
by Saul Bellow.
Secker, 312 pp., £7.95, March 1982, 0 436 03952 4
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... and Pig Bodine (where the effect is slangy, jivey, cartoonish); at the other end of the scale, John Braine offers us Tom Metfield, Jack Royston, Jane Framsby (can these people really exist, in our minds or anywhere else, with such leadenly humdrum, such dead names?). Saul Bellow’s inventions are Dickensian in their resonance and relish. But they also ...

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