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Neal Ascherson

8 February 1996
The Collected Works of John​ Reed 
Modern Library, 937 pp., $20, February 1995, 0 679 60144 9Show More
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... put his life where his laptop is, and formally enlisted with the people he is supposed to be writing about. Yesterday’s bourgeois media correspondent becomes today’s revolutionary press officer. JohnReed was not the first or the last journalist to follow this trajectory. But he remains the most spectacular. He went to report Russia after the February Revolution in 1917, made straight for the ...

Sea Creatures

Peter Campbell

23 July 1987
Sidney Nolan: Such is life 
by Brian Adams.
Hutchinson, 275 pp., £16.95, June 1987, 0 09 168430 7
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Andrew Wyeth: The Helga Pictures 
by John​ Wilmerding.
Viking, 208 pp., £25, September 1987, 9780670817665
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Faces 1966-1984 
by David Hockney and Marco Livingstone.
Thames and Hudson, 96 pp., £8.95, June 1987, 0 500 27464 9
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... enough draughtsman to win a scholarship. Sir Keith Murdoch, the newspaper proprietor, offered bursaries, but his advisers also wanted evidence of skill. One of them, however, suggested he see JohnReed. Reed was a solicitor, interested in Modernism. He lived with his wife Sunday in a house called Heide, in Heidelberg, a semi-rural community outside Melbourne – it had given its name to the ...

I was the Left Opposition

Stuart Middleton: Max Eastman

22 March 2018
Max Eastman: A Life 
by Christoph Irmscher.
Yale, 434 pp., £35, August 2017, 978 0 300 22256 2
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... was an essay on ‘The New Art of Healing’ which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 1908. By then Eastman was living in New York with Crystal, and through a friend of hers became an assistant to John Dewey at Columbia. Dewey was one of the leading philosophers in America, and his prestige beyond university philosophy departments was such that, as Eastman recalled, ‘rays of his influence may ...

Grey Eminence

Edward Said

5 March 1981
Walter Lippmann and the American Century 
by Ronald Steel.
Bodley Head, 669 pp., £8.95, February 1981, 0 370 30376 8
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... had a sheltered and privileged childhood in New York, ‘learning Latin and Greek by gaslight and riding a goat cart in Central Park’ before going off to Harvard, where his classmates included JohnReed, T.S. Eliot and Conrad Aiken. From birth to death, Fortune – in the form of knowing nearly everyone who counted and being able to defend at least two sides of every major public issue of his ...

Fuentes the Memorious

John​ Sutherland

19 June 1986
The Old Gringo 
translated by Margaret Sayers Peden and Carlos Fuentes, by Carlos Fuentes.
Deutsch, 199 pp., £8.95, May 1986, 0 233 97862 3
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Where the air is clear 
by Carlos Fuentes, translated by Sam Hileman.
Deutsch, 376 pp., £4.95, June 1986, 0 233 97937 9
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Farewell to the Sea 
by Reinaldo Arenas, translated by Andrew Hurley.
Viking, 412 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 670 52960 5
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Digging up the mountains 
by Neil Bissoondath.
Deutsch, 247 pp., £8.95, May 1986, 0 233 97851 8
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...  Pancho Villa. Fuentes makes his gringo ‘historical’. There was a wide range of candidates for the novelist to choose from. He could, for instance, have picked on the investigative journalist John Kenneth Turner, who travelled to Mexico in 1908 and discovered that Diaz’s wonderfully healthy economy was based on massive slavery and the slaughter of the Yaqui Indians. Turner wrote up his ...

The Style It Takes

Mark Ford: John​ Cale

16 September 1999
What’s Welsh for Zen? The Autobiography of John​ Cale 
by Victor Bockris.
Bloomsbury, 272 pp., £20, January 1999, 0 7475 3668 6
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... that irresistible sticker ‘Contains Previously Unreleased Material’) of out-takes and rehearsal sessions, although it seems no live recordings survive from their heyday – that is, before Lou Reed kicked John Cale out of the band, ending three years of almost symbiotic closeness. John Cale was born in the small Welsh coal town of Garnant, between Swansea and Carmarthen, in 1942. His father was ...


A.J.P. Taylor: Death of a Historian

30 December 1982
... we use one finger, sometimes two, sometimes three.’ She ends by straying across into a forbidden zone when she is shot by a frontier guard. Before this I had tried Reds, a film allegedly about JohnReed. This film had only normal intercourse. It also had a good deal of political nonsense and little hint that Reed wrote the finest account there is of the Bolshevik revolution. I have been cured ...

Edgar and Emma

John​ Sutherland

20 February 1986
World’s Fair 
by E.L. Doctorow.
Joseph, 275 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 7181 2685 8
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The Adventures of Robina 
edited by Emma Tennant.
Faber, 165 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 571 13796 2
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... don’t stab him. The narrative ends with the World’s Fair of 1939. There in the General Motors Futurama, Edgar is vouchsafed a vision of the ‘World of Tomorrow’. Like an infant and apolitical JohnReed, he emerges dazzled, holding a button declaring: ‘I have seen the future.’ In other ways, the World’s Fair crowns Edgar’s childhood. He wins an honourable mention in the essay contest on ...

The Looting of Asia

Chalmers Johnson: Japan, the US and stolen gold

20 November 2003
Gold Warriors: America’s Secret Recovery of Yamashita’s Gold 
by Sterling Seagrave and Peggy Seagrave.
Verso, 332 pp., £17, September 2003, 1 85984 542 8
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... Nobusuke Kishi, for example, was prime minister from 1957 to 1960). The US keeps many of its archives concerned with postwar Japan highly classified, in violation of its own laws. Most important, John Foster Dulles, President Truman’s special envoy to Japan charged with ending the occupation, wrote the peace treaty of 1951 in such a way that most former POWs and civilian victims of Japan are ...
9 September 1993
The Ern Malley Affair 
by Michael Heyward.
Faber, 278 pp., £15, August 1993, 0 571 16781 0
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... He was 25 years and four months old, the same age at death as the most famous of all doomed Romantics: ‘Yet we are as the double almond concealed in one shell,’ he broods in ‘Colloquy with John Keats’, going on to predict his own equally untimely demise in harsh demotic terms – ‘Look! My number is up!’ After his cremation at Rookwood Cemetery Ethel opened his trunk and set about ...

Let every faction bloom

John​ Patrick Diggins

6 March 1997
For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism 
edited by Joshua Cohen.
Beacon, 154 pp., $15, August 1996, 0 8070 4313 3
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For Love of Country: An Essay on Patriotism and Nationalism 
by Maurizio Viroli.
Oxford, 214 pp., £22.50, September 1995, 0 19 827952 3
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Bonds of Affection: Americans Define Their Patriotism 
edited by John​ Bodnar.
Princeton, 352 pp., £45, September 1996, 0 691 04397 3
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Buring the Flag: The Great 1989-90 American Flag Desecration Controversy 
by Robert Justin Goldstein.
Kent State, 453 pp., $39, July 1996, 0 87338 526 8
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... of equality and justice. Among intellectuals, patriotism, not truth, is often a war’s first casualty. Before the First World War, the Greenwich Village rebels Randolph Bourne, Max Eastman and JohnReed regarded themselves as nationalistic liberators willing to draw on the country’s intellectual traditions. Eastman defined himself as an ‘American lyrical socialist – a child of Walt Whitman ...

Goethe In Britain

Rosemary Ashton

19 March 1981
Goethe’s Plays 
translated by Charles Passage.
Benn, 626 pp., £12.95, July 1980, 0 510 00087 8
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The Classical Centre: Goethe and Weimar 1775-1832 
by T.J. Reed.
Croom Helm, 271 pp., £14.95, November 1979, 0 85664 356 4
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Goethe on Art 
translated by John​ Gage.
Scolar, 251 pp., £10, March 1980, 0 85967 494 0
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The Younger Goethe and the Visual Arts 
by W.D. Robson-Scott.
Cambridge, 175 pp., £19.50, February 1981, 0 521 23321 6
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... for a young girl in the Marienbad Elegies. This characteristic of Goethe’s art – seeking in each work the right form to express poetically his own recent raw experience – is one to which T.J. Reed, in his excellent account of Goethe in Weimar, The Classical Centre, pays close attention. As he says, Goethe’s poetry ‘was all born of particular occasions’. Reed persuasively shows how Goethe ...

The Right Kind of Pain

Mark Greif: The Velvet Underground

22 March 2007
The Velvet Underground 
by Richard Witts.
Equinox, 171 pp., £10.99, September 2006, 9781904768272
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... and a corrective to all sorts of illnesses in the genre. Witts, author of a biography of Nico and interviewer at one time or another (for Radio 3) of all the principals in the band except Lou Reed, could just as easily have produced a fan letter or a recitation of myths. Instead, he manages to defamiliarise the band and its career, while communicating all the necessary information. This is the ...


Evan Kindley: Modernist Magazines

23 January 2014
The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume I: Britain and Ireland 1880-1955 
edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker.
Oxford, 976 pp., £35, May 2013, 978 0 19 965429 1
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The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume II: North America 1894-1960 
edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker.
Oxford, 1088 pp., £140, July 2012, 978 0 19 965429 1
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The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume III: Europe 1880-1940 
edited by Peter Brooker, Sascha Bru, Andrew Thacker and Christian Weikop.
Oxford, 1471690 pp., £145, March 2013, 978 0 19 965958 6
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... War, philanthropic organisations like the Rockefeller Foundation meted out grants to a few of the more distinguished magazines left standing ($2400 to Scrutiny in 1949, and a whopping $22,500 to John Crowe Ransom’s Kenyon Review over the course of five years, from 1947 to 1952). Literary prestige was, on occasion, converted into capital, as in the case of Cid Corman’s Origin, an important ...

I myself detest all Modern Art

Anne Diebel: Scofield Thayer

8 April 2015
The Tortured Life of Scofield Thayer 
by James Dempsey.
Florida, 240 pp., £32.50, February 2014, 978 0 8130 4926 7
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... last chance to burn a finger in her ‘white flame’). When Thayer learned of their marriage, he was ‘nettled’, even though he was already engaged to the beautiful 18-year-old Elaine Orr, whom John Dos Passos described as a ‘poet’s dream’ and about whom Cummings would write hundreds of poems. Thayer was less annoyed, it seems, at losing Vivien than at Eliot’s sense of superiority. He ...

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