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A Moustache Too Far

Danny Karlin: Melville goes under, 8 May 2003

Herman Melville: A Biography. Vol. II: 1851-91 
by Hershel Parker.
Johns Hopkins, 997 pp., £31, May 2002, 0 8018 6892 0
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... helplessly, hopelessly entangled in his earthly travail, mired and clogged where he should be swift; our view of him is blurred just where it should be clearest and most vivid. Parker’s tremendous outlay on props, costumes and scenery very nearly results in distracting us altogether from the action of the drama. Melville, the great ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2012, 3 January 2013

... bewildered) Duke of Kent. We have an awkward few minutes but the day is saved by Clive Swift, whose son Joe has just won a medal at Chelsea. HRH knows about Chelsea and so brightens considerably. Meanwhile lurking by the door HMQ is due to come through is Kate O’Mara and when I next look lining up to meet Her ...

Gotcha, Pat!

Terry Castle: Highsmith in My Head, 4 March 2021

Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires: The Life of Patricia Highsmith 
by Richard Bradford.
Bloomsbury, 258 pp., £20, January, 978 1 4482 1790 8
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... lovers, he writes, may not have been real people at all. Interviewed fifty years after the fact, Kate Kingsley Skattebol, Highsmith’s closest friend at Barnard, could not, he points out, recall her mentioning (let alone dating) anyone called Virginia when they were at college, even though a woman bearing that name appears as a major pash in Highsmith’s ...

Jungle Joys

Alfred Appel Jr: Wa-Wa-Wa with the Duke, 5 September 2002

... rehearsal. Ellington had never before performed ‘God Bless America’ (famously recorded by Kate Smith in 1939) and would never repeat this airing. Why did he offer it at Fargo? If you accept Ellington’s truncated ‘God Bless America’ as a delayed coda to ‘St Louis Blues’, it introduces the idea of producing multicultural medleys for regions in ...

Crocodile’s Breath

James Meek: The Tale of the Tube, 5 May 2005

The Subterranean Railway: How the London Underground Was Built and How It Changed the City For Ever 
by Christian Wolmar.
Atlantic, 351 pp., £17.99, November 2004, 1 84354 022 3
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... murk of Yerevan’s central station and into a doorway. In an instant there was light, power, a swift transaction involving tokens, a set of escalators, and at their foot, the familiar declining whine of a clean, brightly lit underground train. We got in; the carriage was full of neatly dressed Armenians who were, in spite of everything, going somewhere ...

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