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Goings-on in the Tivoli Gardens

Christopher Tayler: Marlon James

5 November 2015
A Brief History of Seven Killings 
by Marlon James.
Oneworld, 688 pp., £8.99, June 2015, 978 1 78074 635 7
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... developments that sprang up in Kingston in the 1960s and 1970s.) The killings in the title of Marlon James’s novel – a novel that’s built around the attempt on Marley’s life much as Don DeLillo’s Libra (1988) and James Ellroy’s American Tabloid (1995) are built around the Kennedy assassination – turn ...

What does a chicken know of bombs?

David Thomson: A Key to Brando

25 November 2019
The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando 
by William J. Mann.
HarperCollins, 718 pp., £22, November 2019, 978 0 06 242764 9
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... Cinema as a medium urges us to view ourselves as actors presenting ourselves. Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando in ‘On the Waterfront’ (1954). So Marlon Brando could be a paraplegic after the war, he could be Zapata, Napoleon, a mafia don, or Lee Clayton, swanning around the Missouri Breaks country in a dress, a bonnet ...

Never Mainline

Jenny Diski: Keith Richards

16 December 2010
Life 
by Keith Richards, with James Fox.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £20, October 2010, 978 0 297 85439 5
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... whiner.’ In fact, Mr Richards doesn’t write at all. The author produced the book ‘with James Fox’, a journalist and friend of Richards’s, but we aren’t told how the collaboration worked. I’d guess that Keith talked into a recorder over a long period of time, prompted and unprompted by his ghost-writer, and then Fox took the recordings and ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Michael Jackson’s frailties

31 March 2005
... fallen idols of American popular culture, challenging listeners to ‘name the last good film that Marlon Brando made/While trying to keep his kid from going to jail.’ ‘Too late to crash, too late to burn, too late to die young,’ goes the chorus. The song is softened somewhat by the singer’s sense of his own life lacking much direction or purpose; and ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Flirtation, Seduction and Betrayal

5 September 2002
... he means those over forty – ‘make the best subjects,’ which would explain the contents (James Hewitt to Henry Kissinger by way of Geoffrey Boycott, Charlton Heston, Dave Lee Travis and Norman Tebbit), but you have to wonder how much of a coincidence it is that men over forty not only ‘make the best subjects’ but also make the best Telegraph ...
20 October 1994
Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me 
by Marlon Brando and Robert Lindsey.
Century, 468 pp., £17.99, September 1994, 0 7126 6012 7
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Greta & Cecil 
by Diana Souhami.
Cape, 272 pp., £18.99, September 1994, 0 224 03719 6
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... as a bonus, a small gasp of astonishment. But once you start to think of them as Greta and Marlon you’re back with a bump to the absurdity of real life. There’s nothing more certain to wreck a lazy daydream of being taken roughly into the arms of your chosen idol than the moment when you have to imagine yourself whispering, ‘Oh, Clint ...

Just one of those ends

Michael Wood: Apocalypse Regained

13 December 2001
Apocalypse Now Redux 
directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
August 2001
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Marlon Brando 
by Patricia Bosworth.
Weidenfeld, 216 pp., £12.99, October 2001, 0 297 84284 6
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... murmurs: ‘I don’t see any method at all, sir.’ It’s true that between them Coppola and Marlon Brando, playing Kurtz, had by now thoroughly overdosed on the various brooding mysteries Conrad so helpfully provides, losing whatever storyline they had to sheer, contentless atmosphere. But the methods of Kurtz, as they have been evoked for us in the ...

Top Sergeant

D.A.N. Jones

23 April 1992
An Autobiography 
by Fred Zinnemann.
Bloomsbury, 256 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 7475 1131 4
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... for invasion and insurrection than those surprised Americans at Pearl Harbor. The movie (and James Jones’s novel, on which it was based) presented that peace-time army as a community wherein a vicious and slothful officer might neglect his duties, turning over his responsibilities to the Top Sergeant, while the Other Ranks (or the Enlisted Men, as the ...

Strange Stardom

David Haglund: James Franco

17 March 2011
Palo Alto: Stories 
by James Franco.
Faber, 197 pp., £12.99, January 2011, 978 0 571 27316 4
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... a type of celebrity now.’ He contrasts Ledger, who died three years ago at the age of 28, with James Dean, who died 55 years ago at the age of 24 and became the standard against which all young, handsome, would-be acting geniuses in Hollywood are measured. It’s not only, Thomson says, that Ledger wasn’t the actor Dean was. It’s that movies, and their ...
6 July 1995
Selected Poems 
by Carol Ann Duffy.
Penguin, 151 pp., £5.99, August 1994, 0 14 058735 7
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... Get engaged. Probably work in Safeways worst luck. I haven’t lost it yet because I want respect. Marlon Frederic’s nice but he’s a bit dark. I like Madness. The lead singer’s dead good. My mum is bad with her nerves. She won’t let me do nothing. Michelle. It’s just boring. This may be convincing as a transcript of a classroom discussion, but as a ...

Bow. Wow

James Wolcott: Gore Vidal

3 February 2000
Gore Vidal 
by Fred Kaplan.
Bloomsbury, 850 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 7475 4671 1
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... of Gore Vidal. Kaplan, a professor of English in New York whose taxidermies include Henry James, Dickens and Carlyle (they hardly get deader than Carlyle), understands that it’s much easier to get the paperwork done if you don’t have the living-breathing item second-guessing you at every turn or trying to use you as a ventriloquist’s ...

Lost in Beauty

Michael Newton: Montgomery Clift

7 October 2010
The Passion of Montgomery Clift 
by Amy Lawrence.
California, 333 pp., £16.95, May 2010, 978 0 520 26047 4
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... spectacular car crash that wrecked his face. There are three kinds of classic American crash: the James Dean, Eddie Cochran legend-sealer; the Bob Dylan at Woodstock disaster turned into an opportunity for reinvention; and the sweet Gene Vincent long martyrdom. Clift could have been another James Dean. Instead he was ...

Little Lame Balloonman

August Kleinzahler: E.E. Cummings

8 October 2014
E.E. Cummings: The Complete Poems, 1904-62 
edited by George James Firmage.
Liveright, 1102 pp., £36, September 2013, 978 0 87140 710 8
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E.E. Cummings: A Life 
by Susan Cheever.
Pantheon, 209 pp., £16, February 2014, 978 0 307 37997 9
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... professor and Unitarian minister, his mother came from a distinguished Boston family. William James introduced the pair and became one of Edward Estlin’s godfathers. As well as the grand house at 104 Irving Street where he was born, Cummings’s family had a summer house in New Hampshire, which he would enjoy until the end of life. He died there in 1962 ...

Family Values

Michael Wood

17 October 1996
The Last Don 
by Mario Puzo.
Heinemann, 482 pp., £15.99, October 1996, 0 434 60498 4
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... so compelling, so remote from the slightly mawkish moments in the first, where that lovable old Marlon Brando collapses to his death while playing with a grandchild in the garden, is the sense of deeper and deeper implication in horror. Godfather III (1990) is a different story altogether, a wandering tale of conspiracy and disaster, a movie which is not ...

Look on the Bright Side

Seamus Perry: Anna Letitia Barbauld

25 February 2010
Anna Letitia Barbauld: Voice of the Enlightenment 
by William McCarthy.
Johns Hopkins, 725 pp., £32, December 2008, 978 0 8018 9016 1
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... and poetic traditions of the earlier 18th century, especially the philologist-philosopher James Harris and the poet James Thomson, author of The Seasons. Actually, it might be truer to say that Barbauld’s most remarkable achievement was to complicate the tenor of most Unitarian writing by including stuff that its ...

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