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Alma’s Alter

Gabriele Annan, 11 June 1992

Oscar Kokoschka: Letters 
translated by Mary Whittall.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £24.95, March 1992, 0 500 01528 7
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... yellow, shoots out of the painting, and the immense, radiant mass of colour (radiant as stained glass, Rouault never manages to do anything like it, Van Gogh is matt and whitish-grey by comparison!) begins to tremble like a living organism in action. This is ‘action painting’ in the true sense of the word, and there ...

Diary

Clancy Martin: My Life as a Drunk, 9 July 2009

... dosage), shows no signs of alcohol addiction and claims even to be able to drink an occasional glass of wine without experiencing any subsequent craving. There are two basic theories of addiction: the ‘possession’ theory and the ‘tragic’ theory. Like most alcoholics, I prefer, but am suspicious of, the possession theory. This story goes that the ...

That Wild Mercury Sound

Charles Nicholl: Dylan’s Decade, 1 December 2016

The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-66 
by Bob Dylan.
Columbia, £60, November 2015
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... it seems he first thought of it as ‘Dillon’, possibly after the hard-bitten Dodge City lawman Matt Dillon, hero of the TV Western Gunsmoke. He was twenty years old, skinny and scruffy in jeans and a ‘Huck Finn cap’. In an early article in the New York Times, his future biographer Robert Shelton described him as ‘resembling a cross between a choirboy ...

The Amazing …

Jonathan Lethem: My Spidey, 6 June 2002

Spider-Man 
directed by Sam Raimi.
May 2002
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... mixed teenage grandiosity with even the mildest persecution complex, let alone real persecution. Matt Groening once proposed a magazine called ‘Sullen Teen’. Long before the trench-coat mafia, The Amazing Spider-Man was that magazine. Spider-Man was also the first superhero who, as a civilian, probably read comic books. The ...

Ropes, Shirts or Dirty Socks

Adam Smyth: Paper, 15 June 2017

Paper: Paging through History 
by Mark Kurlansky.
Norton, 416 pp., £12.99, June 2017, 978 0 393 35370 9
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... paper is coated with a mixture of clay and calcium carbonate. Its name is StellaPress HB: it is matt with a light coating which helps ink brightness and readability, and also gives (try it now) that smoothness to the page. But of course you may not be reading this on paper. Kurlansky’s sense of history as benign cultural development carries him ...

Vertiginous

Nicholas Penny, 12 December 1996

Grands Décors français 1650-1800 
by Bruno Pons.
Faton, 439 pp., £130, June 1995, 2 87844 023 4
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The Rococo Interior 
by Katie Scott.
Yale, 342 pp., £39.95, November 1995, 0 300 04582 4
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Chardin 
by Marianne Roland Michel, translated by Eithne McCarthy.
Thames and Hudson, 293 pp., £60, March 1996, 0 500 09259 1
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... explaining how the wood was prepared and carved. She then considers how the invention of plate glass made mirrors available in large sheets (and discusses their cost in relation to that of painting and tapestry – their rivals as wall covering); notes how dyes of a richer tonal range were introduced by a painter into the silk and wool used by the tapestry ...

Vuvuzelas Unite

Andy Beckett: The Trade Union Bill, 22 October 2015

Trade Union Bill (HC Bill 58) 
Stationery Office, 32 pp., July 2015Show More
Trade Union Membership 2014: Statistical Bulletin 
Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, 56 pp., June 2015Show More
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... always trying to add things to our contract: clean the ceilings, which are very tall, or clean the glass ceiling lamps from the inside … There can’t be any dirt, the building has to be spotless. We work at night, and in the winter it’s very very cold. In the summer, it’s extremely hot. You get sick from the changes in temperature.’ If illness ...

Speak for yourself, matey

Adam Mars-Jones: The Uses of Camp, 22 November 2012

How to Be Gay 
by David Halperin.
Harvard, 549 pp., £25.95, August 2012, 978 0 674 06679 3
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... for saving Cavaradossi’s life became a query about how much had been paid for the rotgut in the glass. Or Galupe-Borszkh, this time singing Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana, might belatedly realise she’s appearing in a production so cheap that her costume has been made from the same bolt of material as the gingham tablecloth in Lucia’s wine shop. I felt ...

A Rumbling of Things Unknown

Jacqueline Rose: Marilyn Monroe, 26 April 2012

... no mouth. She was luminous – on that much everyone seems to agree. Hers is not the flawless matt beauty of Dietrich or Garbo. She is, as one might say, more curvy – I am of course referring to her face, on which, unlike Dietrich, Garbo or indeed Elizabeth Taylor (whom she saw as a rival), there isn’t a single straight line. There is no flattening ...

On the library coffee-table

Clive James, 17 March 1983

An Illustrated History of Interior Decoration 
by Mario Praz, translated by William Weaver.
Thames and Hudson, 396 pp., £35, March 1982, 0 500 23358 6
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Degas 
by Keith Roberts.
Phaidon, 48 pp., £10.50, March 1982, 0 7148 2226 4
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Monet at Argenteuil 
by Paul Tucker.
Yale, 211 pp., £15, April 1982, 0 300 02577 7
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... more latitude for the interplay of massed text and white space, tipped-in colour plate against matt black page, gold classical capital letters on ivory buckrum binding, and all the other characteristic devices which Goldscheider brought to perfection while time ran out. Meanwhile Dr Horovitz, the pioneer of coproduction, arranged for the translation of the ...

The Shock of the Pretty

James Meek: Seventy Hours with Don Draper, 9 April 2015

... Don Draper, Sterling Cooper’s top ideas man. The creator and chief writer of Mad Men is a man, Matt Weiner. But Weiner aside, the 15 women writers who have worked on the series rack up almost twice as many episode credits as the 14 men. Weiner may have worked on The Sopranos, and AMC had another award magnet with Breaking Bad, but nobody gets whacked in ...

Somerdale to Skarbimierz

James Meek, 20 April 2017

... corner of the factory exhorted employees to work, have fun, and live safely. I peered through the glass entrance doors. Another poster read connected through joy. A quizzical security guard wandered towards me. I hadn’t told Mondelez I was coming. I made myself scarce.Just behind the factory, the remains of the old runway are still there. Driving along the ...

Travels with My Mom

Terry Castle: In Santa Fe, 16 August 2007

... days – making strange looking necklaces out of polymer clay. Notwithstanding the huge magnifying glass she uses to see what she’s doing, most of these recent concoctions – alas for those who receive them as gifts – have a pendulous, lop-sided, somewhat barbaric look: the perfect thing for a stylish Aztec to wear to a human sacrifice. But she spends ...

A Feeling for Ice

Jenny Diski, 2 January 1997

... of hours before my mother ran out of steam and went on her way. The library had a large plate-glass window, and my mother, instead of turning left to the nearest tube and bus stop when she got to the High Street, inexplicably turned right and walked right past it. Not actually past. She was already screaming when she pushed through the doors. I sat in ...

Where will we live?

James Meek: The Housing Disaster, 9 January 2014

... The green bosses studding the façades of the towers were originally made of concrete faced with glass beads that glittered in the sun; the council replaced them with aluminium boxes. Now when it rains, residents are driven mad by the sound of the drops rattling on the metal. The Historical Society’s repeated efforts to get Cranbrook listed have been ...

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