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5 December 1985
An Eton Schoolboy’s Album 
by Mark Dixon.
Debrett, 118 pp., £10.95, November 1985, 0 905649 78 8
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... I didn’t learn much history at Eton, but one of the first things we were taught was that Henry VI founded Eton, his “College Roiall of oure Lady Eton”, in the year 1440.’ So says MarkDixon in An Eton Schoolboy’s Album. He may or may not have learned much history, but somewhere along the line Dixon, who left Eton in 1980, has learned how to write in an entertaining and elegant way. I ...
17 July 1997
Mason & Dixon 
by Thomas Pynchon.
Cape, 773 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 9780224050012
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... away into the brisk Wind off Delaware’ – that’s what it says right now in the window of my local bookshop. It’s been painted on the glass by hand. It’s from the first sentence of Mason – Dixon. Thomas Pynchon was born on Long Island, New York in 1937. He studied engineering, physics and, later, English literature, at Cornell University, then worked as a technical writer for Boeing until ...

Lachrymatics

Ferdinand Mount: British Weeping

17 December 2015
Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears 
by Thomas Dixon.
Oxford, 438 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 0 19 967605 7
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... the choice to cry or not to cry could be a noble one: ‘If you have tears, prepare to shed them now’; ‘Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail or knock the breast.’ Samson’s father, like Mark Antony, assumes that his audience could choose to mourn their dead hero either by weeping or not weeping, and that he can offer cogent reasons to move them one way or the other. In that sense, ‘a ...

At the Nailya Alexander Gallery

August Kleinzahler: George Tice

11 October 2018
... the lit interior of Locust Antiques, Locust, New Jersey or Houses along Broadway, Hannibal, Missouri or the faded and layered signage against a brick background of Pentimento, Galena Avenue, Dixon, Illinois, the front of the ‘Lewis’ Restaurant, Main Street, Fairmount, Indiana or the Lincoln Triplex Cinema, North Arlington, New Jersey. The light is very particular in these small-town ...
7 March 2013
Words of the World: A Global History of the ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ 
by Sarah Ogilvie.
Cambridge, 241 pp., £17.99, November 2012, 978 1 107 60569 5
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... unglossed. I could find igloowik only in two places: Patrick William Browne’s 1909 history of Labrador and the 1933 Supplement. In ‘deleting’ these items (‘dropping’ might be nearer the mark), was Burchfield banishing words that had earned a rightful place in the OED or was he simply removing ones that had never merited inclusion? We get an idea of what he thought he was doing from his ...

When the beam of light has gone

Peter Wollen: Godard Turns Over

17 September 1998
The Films of Jean-Luc Godard 
by Wheeler Winston Dixon.
SUNY, 290 pp., £17.99, March 1997, 0 7914 3285 8
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Speaking about Godard 
by Kaja Silverman and Harun Farocki.
New York, 256 pp., $55, July 1998, 0 8147 8066 0
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... be seen as the direct sequel to Otto Preminger’s Bonjour tristesse. The central character of the film, the petty criminal played by Belmondo, modelled his self-image on that of Humphrey Bogart in Mark Robson’s The Harder They Fall. These films were not even ‘classics’ – they were little-regarded films dating from the mid-Fifties, movies which Andrew Sarris, a leading historian of Hollywood ...

Don’t you care?

Michael Wood: Richard Powers

22 February 2007
The Echo Maker 
by Richard Powers.
Heinemann, 451 pp., £17.99, January 2007, 978 0 434 01633 4
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... At one moment in Thomas Pynchon’s novel named after them, Mason and Dixon pause to wonder what history’s verdict on their most famous work is likely to be, its ‘assessment of the Good resulting from this Line, vis-à-vis the not-so-good’. A voice, apparently coming ...

Here you are talking about duck again

Mark​ Ford: Larkin’s Letters Home

20 June 2019
Philip Larkin: Letters Home, 1936-77 
edited by James Booth.
Faber, 688 pp., £40, November 2018, 978 0 571 33559 6
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... the world is still its old beautiful self.’Between​ August 1948 and September 1950 Larkin wrote only a handful of letters to Mop, and that is because for these two years they lived together at 12 Dixon Drive, an address that would furnish the surname of Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim Dixon. Was there an element of malice in Amis’s allusion? There certainly was in his portrayal of Monica Jones – ...

Shag another

Katrina Forrester: In Bed with the Police

7 November 2013
Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police 
by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis.
Faber and Guardian Books, 346 pp., £12.99, June 2013, 978 0 571 30217 8
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... on perceived state-subversives – began sending weekly reports to the Home Office predicting what protesters would do next. In one report, a Special Branch chief inspector, Conrad Hepworth Dixon, claimed that the city faced the threat of demonstrators carrying ‘ball-bearings, fireworks, hat pins and banner poles for use as weapons’. Ministers considered deploying the army. Senior police ...

Kerfuffle

Zoë Heller: Ronald Reagan

2 March 2000
Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan 
by Edmund Morris.
HarperCollins, 874 pp., £24.99, October 1999, 0 00 217709 9
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... of credulity-defying coincidences, has repeatedly crossed paths with the President’s. As an adolescent, ‘Morris’ first encounters Reagan playing right guard in a high-school football game in Dixon, Illinois. It is a brief thing – the future leader’s wet sleeve brushes his hand – but ‘Morris’ still manages, aged 14, to register Reagan’s exact height and weight, his ‘shallow chest ...

Diary

Tobias Jones: Campaigning at the Ministry of Sound

6 March 1997
... boasts of his clubbing credentials, gasping for credibility each time he does so. This combination of the carefree and the caring may not be Utopian, but it’s full of Blair’s millenarian ardour: Mark Rodol, managing director of the Ministry of Sound, calls the phenomenon ‘the biggest collaboration of young people since the Sixties’. ‘Tony Blair’s speech brought tears to my eyes ...

Between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines

Tim Parks: Guelfs v. Ghibellines

13 July 2016
Dante: The Story of His Life 
by Marco Santagata, translated by Richard Dixon.
Harvard, 485 pp., £25, April 2016, 978 0 674 50486 8
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... on meeting his beloved go far beyond conventional accounts of romantic fainting, and, along with similar episodes elsewhere in his work, could suggest epilepsy. But rather than consider these fits a mark of the devil, the standard interpretation at the time, Dante takes them as a sign of ‘a predestination decreed by a supreme power’. He had been chosen. Various details in the Vita nova contribute ...

That’s America

Stephen Greenblatt

29 September 1988
‘Ronald Reagan’, the Movie, and Other Episodes in Political Demonology 
by Michael Rogin.
California, 366 pp., £19.95, April 1987, 0 520 05937 9
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... national-security state conjures up, not a dangerous working class, but the invisible agents of the international Communist conspiracy. It could be argued, against Rogin, that these three phases mark quite distinct institutional and psychological structures in American experience, just as a more optimistic account of the history of the United States would insist upon a counter-tradition of ...

Mixed Up

Joanna Kavenna: In the génocidaire’s wake

3 March 2005
The Optimists 
by Andrew Miller.
Sceptre, 313 pp., £16.99, March 2005, 9780340825129
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... tone is not an inevitable result of moving from one period to another. Roughly speaking, Pynchon in the present is as maniacal as Pynchon in the past: The Crying of Lot 49 is as outlandish as Mason & Dixon. Miller is entitled to switch anything he likes; they’re his novels and he can romp it up in ruffs or sober it up in jeans, as he prefers. But the question of why he does it is an interesting one ...
18 July 1996
Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot 
by Michael Rogin.
California, 320 pp., $24.95, May 1996, 0 520 20407 7
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... heroes for an increasingly urban America, so the blackface minstrel show developed as ‘the first and most pervasive form of American mass culture’, playing to audiences on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. For some cultural historians, America is founded on the original sin of genocide; for Rogin, the sin is slavery. Blackface is a product of European imperialism and worse – a shocking form of ...

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