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John Bayley

19 May 1988
... also recommended what I think he called ‘disjunction’ and ‘prolepsis’. He would illustrate both with arm movements, in his faded blue denim jacket. He was a serious young man, in glasses with matt black metal rims. I sometimes thought that if his arms could produce masterpieces on their own he wouldn’t have to be teaching us. Elevation led to the epiphany. I remember that. You quietly worked ...

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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... from Eastern Europe. The name he chose has often been said to be a tribute to Dylan Thomas, but 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 ...

The Amazing …

Jonathan Lethem: My Spidey

6 June 2002
directed by Sam Raimi.
May 2002
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... A.E. van Vogt’s Slan, Spider-Man was a wunderkind-outcast identification available to anyone who’d 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 ...
14 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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... generally spruce) from sustainable forests is made into pulp to which starch binders are added. The 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 ...


Clancy Martin: My Life as a Drunk

9 July 2009
... Alcohol thoughts no longer occur.’ Five years later, he is still taking baclofen (now at a much lower 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 ...


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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by Marianne Roland Michel, translated by Eithne McCarthy.
Thames and Hudson, 293 pp., £60, March 1996, 0 500 09259 1
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... less formal way of life among the rich. Her first chapter opens with an introduction to wood panelling, 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 ...

Vuvuzelas Unite

Andy Beckett: The Trade Union Bill

21 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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... from Ocean came for our entire shift and timed how long it took us to do every job. Ocean are 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 ...

A Rumbling of Things Unknown

Jacqueline Rose: Marilyn Monroe

26 April 2012
... Like any creative human being, I would like a bit more control. Actress must have 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 ...
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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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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... Phaidon-Ausgabe, was thus already half-established. But the larger format, naturally enough, gave 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 ...

The Shock of the Pretty

James Meek: Seventy Hours with Don Draper

8 April 2015
... name. If there’s a single leading character with primacy, the first face of the series, it is 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 ...

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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... at the wine she was drinking, so that a question about what recompense Scarpia would want in exchange 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 ...
19 April 2017
... 6 Sigma, designed to reduce defects on the production line. A slogan in multicoloured letters on the 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 ...

Travels with My Mom

Terry Castle: In Santa Fe

16 August 2007
... little embossing guns, and a myriad other implements she uses for her main artistic pursuit these 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 ...

Where will we live?

James Meek: The Housing Disaster

9 January 2014
... off the view from inside and, from outside, echo the bleak appearance of a row of shuttered shops. 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 ...
2 January 1997
... with me, so I wandered down to Camden High Street and sat in the library, prepared to give it a couple 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 ...

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