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Ravishing Atrocities

Patrick Maynard, 7 January 1988

Realism, Writing, Disfiguration: On Thomas Eakins and Stephen Crane 
by Michael Fried.
Chicago, 215 pp., £23.95, April 1987, 0 226 26210 3
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Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology 
by W.J.T. Mitchell.
Chicago, 226 pp., £7.25, October 1987, 0 226 53229 1
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... upturned face.’ Mr Fried says that such passages conform to the intentions of Crane’s friend Joseph Conrad: ‘My task,’ wrote Conrad, ‘is, by the power of the written word ... before all, to make you see.’ What we actually see are words upon a page, but normally reading these words will induce us to imagine we are seeing something else, such as a ...

Comedy is murder

Thomas Powers: Joseph Heller, 8 March 2012

Just One Catch: The Passionate Life of Joseph Heller 
by Tracy Daugherty.
Robson, 548 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 1 84954 172 5
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Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller was Dad and Life was a Catch-22 
by Erica Heller.
Vintage, 272 pp., £8.99, October 2011, 978 0 09 957008 0
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... The longest years of Joseph Heller’s writing life fell between his first book and his second. He set no records but the delay eventually got his name into magazine pieces about one-book authors, a cautionary roster of the silent that included Margaret Mitchell, J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee and Ralph Ellison ...

Dipper

Jason Harding: George Moore, 21 September 2000

George Moore, 1852-1933 
by Adrian Frazier.
Yale, 604 pp., £29.95, May 2000, 0 300 08245 2
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... Adrian Frazier’s painstakingly researched new biography of Moore marks a considerable advance on Joseph Hone’s respectful but pedestrian 1936 standard biography and Tony Gray’s lively but unscholarly 1996 Life. Moore was born in 1852 into the West of Ireland ‘hard-riding country gentry’ idolised by Yeats. His childhood playgrounds were the ...

Outside Swan and Edgar’s

Matthew Sweet: The life of Oscar Wilde, 5 February 1998

The Wilde Album 
by Merlin Holland.
Fourth Estate, 192 pp., £12.99, October 1997, 1 85702 782 5
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Cosmopolitan Criticism: Oscar Wilde’s Philosophy of Art 
by Julia Prewitt Brown.
Virginia, 157 pp., $30, September 1997, 9780813917283
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The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde 
edited by Peter Raby.
Cambridge, 307 pp., £37.50, October 1997, 9780521474719
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Wilde The Novel 
by Stefan Rudnicki.
Orion, 215 pp., £5.99, October 1997, 0 7528 1160 6
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Oscar Wilde 
by Frank Harris.
Robinson, 358 pp., £7.99, October 1997, 1 85487 126 9
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Moab is my Washpot 
by Stephen Fry.
Hutchinson, 343 pp., £16.99, October 1997, 0 09 180161 3
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Nothing … except My Genius 
by Oscar Wilde.
Penguin, 82 pp., £2.99, October 1997, 0 14 043693 6
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... film – which, rather mysteriously, refers in the titles to ‘an original screenplay by Julian Mitchell from Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellmann’ – shows a phalanx of unpainted male prostitutes, leaning on some railings. Watching for a cab, Stephen Fry’s Wilde makes eye contact with one of them. ‘Looking for someone?’ asks the lad (identified as ...

Past Its Peak

Robert Vitalis: The Oil Curse, 17 December 2009

Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil 
by Peter Maass.
Allen Lane, 276 pp., £20, October 2009, 978 1 84614 246 8
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... a precipitous decline following a series of crippling strikes in the oilfields led by a young Joseph Stalin, and rebellion was spreading across the Caucasus. Dodds wrote of the waves of ‘inter-racial savagery’ between Muslim Tatars and Armenian Christians that had laid waste to the refineries and the surrounding boom town. Crude World is Peter ...

Time to Rob the Dead

Jeremy Adler: Simplicius Simplicissimus, 16 March 2017

The Adventures of Simplicius Simplicissimus 
by Johann Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, translated by Mike Mitchell.
Dedalus, 433 pp., £13.99, April 2017, 978 1 903517 42 0
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... essence of Romanticism, because ‘it represents the whole of human life.’ But the lyric poet Joseph von Eichendorff, whose ‘Moonlit Night’ was set to music by Schumann, grasped it best: ‘Simple is a faithful, poetic fellow, a representative of the people … and it’s a joy to see how the author knows how to overcome this bestial world with ...

Staying in power

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 7 January 1988

Mrs Thatcher’s Revolution: The Ending of the Socialist Era 
by Peter Jenkins.
Cape, 411 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 224 02516 3
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De-Industrialisation and Foreign Trade 
by R.E. Rowthorn and J.R. Wells.
Cambridge, 422 pp., £40, November 1988, 0 521 26360 3
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... 43. Notwithstanding the new blue suits and roses, it is increasingly clear, as Austin Mitchell wrote in July, that Labour is ‘being relegated to the peripheries of British life, because our structures, ethos and attitudes tie us to a world that is dying’. In Britain, as elsewhere, we may be seeing, in Jenkins’s own subtitle, ‘the ending of ...

Robin’s Hoods

Patrick Wormald, 5 May 1983

Robin Hood 
by J.C. Holt.
Thames and Hudson, 208 pp., £8.95, May 1982, 0 500 25081 2
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The Early History of Glastonbury: An Edition, Translation and Study of William of Malmesbury’s ‘De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie’ 
by John Scott.
Boydell, 224 pp., £25, January 1982, 9780851151540
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Megalithomania 
by John Michell.
Thames and Hudson, 168 pp., £8.50, March 1982, 9780500012611
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... series of Robin Hood stories was compiled, complete with pseudo-historical introduction, by Joseph Ritson in 1795, and it was Ritson, inspired by the French Revolution, who first introduced the notion that Robin robbed the rich to give to the poor. It remained for Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe to create the figure who underlies the children’s stories ...

‘The Meeting of the Waters’

John Barrell, 26 July 2017

... defeated by the British. In September at Aughrim, a few miles to the west of the Meeting, General Joseph Holt led his United Irishmen to victory over the British. This history must have been present to Moore when, in a footnote to the first printing of the song, he wrote that ‘The Meeting of the Waters forms a part of that beautiful scenery which lies ...

Oxford University’s Long Haul

Sheldon Rothblatt, 21 January 1988

The History of the University of Oxford. Vol. I: The Early Oxford Schools 
edited by J.I. Catto.
Oxford, 684 pp., £55, June 1984, 0 19 951011 3
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The History of the University of Oxford. Vol. III: The Collegiate University 
edited by James McConia.
Oxford, 775 pp., £60, July 1986, 9780199510139
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The History of the University of Oxford. Vol. V: The 18th Century 
edited by L.S. Sutherland and L.G. Mitchell.
Oxford, 949 pp., £75, July 1986, 0 19 951011 3
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Learning and a Liberal Education: The Study of History in the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester, 1880-1914 
by Peter Slee.
Manchester, 181 pp., £25, November 1986, 9780719018961
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... Volume V is a great mélange. One can only sympathise with the task of the editors, L.G. Mitchell and the late Dame Lucy Sutherland. There is no general theme that ties the history of the 18th century together, nor are there solid historiographical precedents for writing a history of Oxford in relation to society. The bewildering events of the reigns ...

The Tarnished Age

Richard Mayne, 3 September 1981

David O. Selznick’s Hollywood 
by Ronald Haver.
Secker, 425 pp., £35, December 1980, 0 436 19128 8
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My Early life 
by Ronald Reagan and Richard Hubler.
Sidgwick, 316 pp., £7.95, April 1981, 0 283 98771 5
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Naming Names 
by Victor Navasky.
Viking, 482 pp., $15.95, October 1980, 0 670 50393 2
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... Amid the hyperbole it’s refreshing to hear that one Selznick employee thought Margaret Mitchell’s novel ‘ponderous trash’ and that another, John Van Druten, was sacked after calling it ‘a fine book for bellhops’. Well, there must be lots of bellhops. The world sales of the novel now total some ten million; and the film had already grossed ...

Subject, Spectator, Phantom

J. Hoberman: The Strangest Personality Ever to Lead the Free World, 17 February 2005

Nixon at the Movies: A Book about Belief 
by Mark Feeney.
Chicago, 422 pp., £19.50, November 2004, 0 226 23968 3
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... an impressive roster of American writers, including Robert Coover, Don DeLillo, Philip K. Dick, Joseph Heller, Thomas Pynchon, Ishmael Reed, Philip Roth and Garry Wills – whose analyses of Nixon, Reagan and Wayne blazed the trail for Nixon at the Movies – took him on as a character. Pundits have searched for literary antecedents (Uriah ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... one book but not the other. Kathleen Raine and Ruth Pitter cannot be found in O’Brien, but Elma Mitchell and Martin Bell cannot be found in Armitage and Crawford. Elma Mitchell’s ‘Thoughts after Ruskin’ is a revelation, and to put her in is to do exactly the sort of thing anthologies are meant to do: extend the ...

Laertes has a daughter

Bee Wilson: The Redgraves, 6 June 2013

The Redgraves: A Family Epic 
by Donald Spoto.
Robson, 361 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 1 84954 394 1
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The House of Redgrave: The Lives of a Theatrical Dynasty 
by Tim Adler.
Aurum, 336 pp., £20, July 2012, 978 1 84513 623 9
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... Changing tack, he directed Werther and La Bohème at Glyndebourne. He put in a powerful cameo in Joseph Losey’s The Go-Between in 1970 as the old man, Leo Colston, who recalls his summer as the little boy running between the secret lovers, Julie Christie and Alan Bates. Redgrave’s gaze in that film is watery and blank, which seems right for a man so ...

Seeing Things Flat

Jenny Turner: Tom McCarthy’s ‘C’, 9 September 2010


by Tom McCarthy.
Cape, 310 pp., £16.99, August 2010, 978 0 224 09020 9
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... Believer, then in 2008 Zadie Smith wrote about it in the New York Review of Books, in tandem with Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland. Smith immediately got the point of the McCarthy project, its vehemence, its attack on the plushy poshlust of what she called ‘lyrical realism’. Although, as she admitted, ‘I have written in this tradition myself, and ...

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