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Fathomless Strangeness of the Ordinary

Stephen Greenblatt: Disenchantment

7 January 1999
Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 
by Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park.
Zone, 511 pp., £19.95, June 1998, 0 942299 90 6
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... It is the concatenation that is comically unsettling, the conjunction of disparate things and heterogeneous categories. The physical arrangement of the Wunderkammern, about which Lorraine Daston and KatharinePark write with great learning, was often calculated to heighten the sense of that heterogeneity, and the objects were typically chosen or fashioned to emphasise category confusion, to exemplify ...

Bored Hero

Alan Bell

22 January 1981
Raymond Asquith: Life and Letters 
by John Jolliffe.
Collins, 311 pp., £10.95, July 1980, 9780002167147
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... arose, but fortunately there is even more of his later correspondence in which we can see how the brittle cleverness of the youthful letters was tempered, but not muzzled, by Asquith’s courtship of Katharine Horner and particularly by his experiences in the trenches. Many of the early letters have traces of what he himself called ‘the prize essay manner’, displayed least agreeably in a disdainful ...

Icicles by Cynthia

Clarence Brown

21 March 1996
The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov 
edited by Dmitri Nabokov.
Knopf, 659 pp., $35, October 1995, 0 394 58615 8
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... as a vague patch of delicious lachrymal warmth just beyond the limit of iconographic memory.’ ‘Recruiting’ starts as a story. A helpless old Russian émigré named Vasily Ivanovich sits on a park bench to recuperate his strength after going to a funeral. The narrator sits down beside him and ‘recruits’ him as just the type needed to fill out a chapter of a novel he has been working on for ...

A Use for the Stones

Jacqueline Rose: On Being Nadine Gordimer

20 April 2006
Get a Life 
by Nadine Gordimer.
Bloomsbury, 187 pp., £16.99, November 2005, 0 7475 8175 4
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... and/or sexually abusive male characters (although he is not an Afrikaner); hard, too, not to be impressed by Gordimer’s literary transvestism. ‘Do I really want to be a man?’ she wrote to Katharine White, the fiction editor of the New Yorker, in 1958. ‘I can’t believe I do.’ But this allusion to the earlier work, with its heavily ironic title, acts as a caution against the more romantic ...

The Olympics Scam

Iain Sinclair: The Razing of East London

19 June 2008
... blossom, bridal abundance of cherry: pink and white. Yellow pom-poms of japonica, horticultural cheerleaders. In a corner, under a high wall that gives away the previous identity of this public park as a decommissioned energy-generating plant, retired workers sway, stiffly and slowly, in t’ai chi ballets. I’m fascinated by the elderly Chinese couple who circle every morning for more than an ...

Mr and Mrs Hopper

Gail Levin: How the Tate gets Edward Hopper wrong

24 June 2004
Edward Hopper 
edited by Sheena Wagstaff.
Tate Gallery, 256 pp., £29.99, May 2004, 1 85437 533 4
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... we now know from his wife’s diaries about its rich intellectual and autobiographical content. For example, she accompanies her essay with a quotation from Hopper’s interview with the critic Katharine Kuh in 1962: ‘There is a sort of elation about sunlight on the upper part of the house. You know, there are many thoughts, many impulses, that go into a picture . . . I was more interested in the ...

A Minimum of Charity

Katharine​ Fletcher: The obstacles to seeking asylum

17 March 2005
... been staying told him he had to leave. His solicitor said there was nothing to be done. ‘I slept for two nights outside, my solicitor gave me money and a blanket. I slept in a train station and a park.’ Another solicitor, found for him by the Refugee Council, put in for an injunction against the decision to refuse support. It failed, and Ibrahimi was once again on the streets, ‘for fifteen ...
14 May 1992
Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years 
by Brian Boyd.
Chatto, 783 pp., £25, January 1992, 0 7011 3701 0
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... the card of a French polisher from Marseilles on the top (put there by his friend Maxime du Camp), knew the indestructible irony that plays around life and death: he had seen his surgeon father park a cigar between the toes of a stiff. Nabokov shared the same knowledge. In hospital with chronic diarrhoea and vomiting, he not only observed his own throes, but also an old dying man: ‘all very ...
23 April 1992
Madonna Unauthorised 
by Christopher Andersen.
Joseph, 279 pp., £14.99, December 1991, 0 7181 3536 9
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... success she had. But he describes with diligence her early sexual relationships with boys and girls: in one case, a beau ‘asked her if she wanted to take a walk through Samuel A. Howlett Municipal Park’. And she did, it seems; she did not deem it too exciting. One of her swains reports: I realised I’d actually kissed a girl, though in my case it happened to be Madonna.’ However, when party ...

It was sheer heaven

Bee Wilson: Just Being British

9 May 2019
Exceeding My Brief: Memoirs of a Disobedient Civil Servant 
by Barbara Hosking.
Biteback, 384 pp., £9.99, March, 978 1 78590 462 2
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... in limited circles, that she was ‘queer’. As late as the 1980s, she was amazed to discover one night on holiday in Spain that her group of closest friends, which included the journalist Katharine Whitehorn and the Conservative peer Heather Brigstocke, had had no idea about her sexuality until she mentioned it. ‘If I had produced a gun and fired it through the roof the reaction couldn’t ...

Seeing Stars

Alan Bennett: Film actors

3 January 2002
... thought she inhabited the same universe as these seen-twice-weekly stars and that any of us would ever come across them in the flesh was as unlikely as coming across Gulliver pegged out in Gott’s Park or Horatio keeping the bridge over the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. When, years later, I was playing in Beyond the Fringe on Broadway and wrote home to say I had actually met Rosalind Russell and Alexis ...
4 October 2017
... but hasn’t actively sought to make an impression on the consciousness of the public. The same cannot be said of Michaela Community School, a free school that opened in Brent in 2014. Its head, Katharine Birbalsingh, came to prominence with a speech at the 2010 Conservative Party Conference in which she denounced a ‘culture of excuses, of low standards’. In 2016 there was a fuss when Michaela ...

Seductress Extraordinaire

Terry Castle: The vampiric Mercedes de Acosta

24 June 2004
‘That Furious Lesbian’: The Story of Mercedes de Acosta 
by Robert Schanke.
Southern Illinois, 210 pp., £16.95, June 2004, 0 8093 2579 9
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Women in Turmoil: Six Plays 
by Mercedes de Acosta, edited by Robert Schanke.
Southern Illinois, 252 pp., £26.95, June 2003, 0 8093 2509 8
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... Yet such was de Acosta’s sinister allure she managed to bed just about everybody who was anybody in the sapphic world of her time: from Isadora Duncan, Alla Nazimova, Pola Negri, Tamara Karsavina, Katharine Cornell, Marie Laurencin, Michael Strange and Eva Le Gallienne in the 1920s and 1930s to Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Hope Williams, Libby Holman, Ona Munson (Belle Watling in Gone with the Wind ...

Magnifico

David Bromwich: This was Orson Welles

3 June 2004
Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life 
by Peter Conrad.
Faber, 384 pp., £20, September 2003, 0 571 20978 5
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... world was being watched closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own.’ The station cut away to a weather report, and then to a swing band in the Meridian Room of the Park Plaza Hotel, playing, with numbing tediousness, a tango, ‘La Cumparsita’, sodden at half-tempo, followed by a sleepwalk through that ‘perennial favourite, "Stardust"’. The music was ...

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