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Foursomes and so on

Steven Mithen: Prehistory of Inequality

11 April 2013
The Creation of Inequality: How Our Prehistoric Ancestors Set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery and Empire 
by Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus.
Harvard, 631 pp., £29.95, May 2012, 978 0 674 06469 0
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... on the Polynesian island of Tikopia in 1929 would have addressed their chiefs, as originally documented by the anthropologist Raymond Firth. Having read about such encounters in Kent Flannery and JoyceMarcus’s book I am left in no doubt that they are the archaeological and anthropological chiefs of social evolution to whom I must show the utmost deference. And so should everyone else, for this ...

Gloomy Sunday Afternoons

Caroline Maclean: Modernists at the Movies

10 September 2009
The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period 
by Laura Marcus.
Oxford, 562 pp., £39, December 2007, 978 0 19 923027 3
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... will be necessary’ because the ‘swift’ scene changes on film were more effective than the ‘heavy, long-drawn-out kind of writing to which we are accustomed’. In The Tenth Muse, Laura Marcus gives a lively account of the impact of moving images on a wide range of writers and critics in the first three decades of the 20th century. As David Trotter notes in Cinema and Modernism,* his ...

Willesden Fast-Forward

Daniel Soar: Zadie Smith

21 September 2000
White Teeth 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 462 pp., £12.99, January 2000, 9780241139974
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... haunts outside the school, their harried headmaster sends Irie and Millat on a course of improvement at Joshua’s house. To everyone’s surprise, the arrangement works well – initially at least. Joyce, the mother, quickly takes to Millat, the street gangster, and in more than a motherly way; and Irie, much in love with the easy life, helps Marcus, the father, with his filing. The Chalfens are an ...
6 May 1982
The Young Rebecca: Writings of Rebecca West 1911-17 
by Jane Marcus.
Macmillan, 340 pp., £9.95, April 1982, 0 333 25589 5
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The Harsh Voice 
by Rebecca West, introduced by Alexandra Pringle.
Virago, 250 pp., £2.95, February 1982, 0 86068 249 8
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The Meaning of Treason 
by Rebecca West.
Virago, 439 pp., £3.95, February 1982, 0 86068 256 0
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by Rebecca West.
Weidenfeld, 190 pp., £10, February 1982, 9780297779636
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... The Young Rebecca is a collection of the writings of Rebecca West from 1911 to 1917, selected and introduced by Jane Marcus, with just the right amount of explanation and comment. In one respect it is an unfortunate title, suggesting an item from the cast-list of almost any black-and-white film about almost any celebrity ...

Thirty Years Ago

Patrick Parrinder

18 July 1985
Still Life 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 358 pp., £9.95, June 1985, 0 7011 2667 1
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Wales’ Work 
by Robert Walshe.
Secker, 279 pp., £8.95, July 1985, 9780436561450
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... and history stewed in the brain of a precocious adolescent. In Still Life ‘the awful Frederica’ (the family pressure-cooker) goes on to read English at Cambridge, leaving her young brother Marcus and older sister Stephanie at home in Yorkshire. Mean-while, the ‘art’ to which the novel ostensibly addresses itself is no longer literature but painting. Alexander Wedderburn, the white hope of ...

‘What is your nation if I may ask?’

Colm Tóibín: Jews in Ireland

30 September 1999
Jews in 20th-century Ireland: Refugees, Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust 
by Dermot Keogh.
Cork, 336 pp., £45, March 1998, 9781859181492
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... portrayal of Irish womanhood in The Playboy of the Western World and the pogrom in Limerick occurred in the same few years; they were both organised by the same forces. Nor is it a coincidence that Joyce made the hero of Ulysses a Jew in full possession of the streets of Dublin; Joyce understood perfectly that his book would be received, among other things, as an assault on an insular version of ...

Good Fibs

Andrew O’Hagan: Truman Capote

2 April 1998
Truman Capote: In which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career 
by George Plimpton.
Picador, 498 pp., £20, February 1998, 0 330 36871 0
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... s. Exactly. Truman used to come over all the time and watch me put make-up on before I went out … There’s an awful lot of me in Holly Golightly. There is much more of me than there is of Carol Marcus and a girl called Bee Dabney, a painter. More of me than either of these two ladies. I know. You wouldn’t especially want to argue with what Doris Lilly knows; she once wrote a book called How to ...

The Spree

Frank Kermode

22 February 1996
The Feminisation of American Culture 
by Ann Douglas.
Papermac, 403 pp., £10, February 1996, 0 333 65421 8
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Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the Twenties 
by Ann Douglas.
Picador, 606 pp., £20, February 1996, 0 330 34683 0
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... to alcohol, while the blacks were on the whole more temperate in that respect. Douglas regards their efforts at artistic autonomy as more successful than their political initiatives, which included Marcus Garvey’s campaign for a mass return to Africa, and a new claim, subsequently reinforced, to be originators rather than imitators of American culture. She records with considerable vivacity the ...
8 June 1995
Christina Stead: A Biography 
by Hazel Rowley.
Secker, 646 pp., £12.99, January 1995, 0 436 20298 0
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... which indicates her awareness of how sensitive a subject it then was. She is speaking of Australian radicalism: CS: We know how it was formed and this very gloomy background which is expressed by Marcus Clarke in For the Term of his Natural Life, you know that, everybody knows that ...? INT.: Yes. CS: ... forms a background, or did then, the background to an Australian’s thoughts. So she was ...
21 August 1997
Anton Chekhov: A Life 
by Donald Rayfield.
HarperCollins, 674 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 00 255503 4
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... and filled his fiction with hypocrites. The ghost of Pavel can be found everywhere in Chekhov, in the complacent Dr Ragin in ‘Ward 6’, who lectures his abused patients at the local asylum about Marcus Aurelius and the importance of stoicism, and in the fatuous priest in ‘In the Ravine’ who, at dinner, comforts a woman who has lost her baby while pointing at her with ‘a fork with a pickled ...

‘It was everything’

Eliot Weinberger: The Republican Convention

10 August 2016
... a violent predator kicks in the door. He’s a three-time loser who never should have been released from prison early. But he was, because some politician wanted to show their “compassion”.’ Marcus Luttrell, a Navy Seal known from the Afghanistan invasion for his (possibly exaggerated) heroism, host of a television talk show produced by the conspiracist Glenn Beck and a former ‘special guest ...

Paradise Syndrome

Sukhdev Sandhu: Hanif Kureishi

18 May 2000
Midnight All Day 
by Hanif Kureishi.
Faber, 224 pp., £9.99, November 1999, 0 571 19456 7
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... fifteen feet ahead of them when out shopping, dreading the moment when they’d call out to us in loud Hindi or Urdu. We rechristened ourselves – Davinder became Dave, Baljit Trevor. We learned Joyce Grenfell comic monologues off by heart, read short stories by Arthur Quiller-Couch – anything we thought would make us truly English. Not only would we laugh at malicious jokes – ‘Why do Pakis ...

The Best Stuff

Ian Jack: David Astor

1 June 2016
David Astor: A Life in Print 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 400 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 0 224 09090 2
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... and smoked big cigars and entertained a loyal audience that included the proprietor, the courtly Waldorf, and writers such as C.A. Lejeune, hired as film critic from the Manchester Guardian, and Joyce Grenfell, who as David’s cousin had presumably been taken on as the paper’s radio critic at her uncle’s suggestion. Waldorf wanted Garvin to like David, and Garvin did his best, but any warmth ...

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