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Diary

Ruth Dudley Edwards: Peddling Books

21 January 1988
... is one thing to have your history* record that the firm’s founder – like Bodley Head’s John Lane – tried to avoid paying his authors. It would be quite another to have it alleged that the present management had inherited those proclivities. The distinguished journalist J.W. Lambert was certainly thorough and honest, but for the later period, together ...

Mixed Blood

D.A.N. Jones

2 December 1982
Her Victory 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 590 pp., £8.95, September 1982, 0 246 11872 5
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This Earth of Mankind 
by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, translated by Max Lane.
Penguin, 338 pp., £2.50, August 1982, 9780140063349
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... It was surprising to see the resemblances between Her Victory and This Earth of Mankind. Alan Sillitoe’s new novel is about 50-year-old Britons feeling rootless. Pramoedya Ananta Toer is concerned with young people of the Dutch East Indies in the 1890s, almost choked with different roots – religions, races, cultures, classes – all sprouting wildly ...

God wielded the buzzer

Christian Lorentzen: The Sorrows of DFW

11 October 2012
Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace 
by D.T. Max.
Granta, 352 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 84708 494 1
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... misremembering or paraphrasing a line of Virginia Woolf’s about Henry James) grew out of D.T. Max’s post-mortem profile of Wallace for the New Yorker, and is very much the version of his life as seen from Times Square. ‘Every story has a beginning and this is David Wallace’s’ is Max’s first sentence. It’s a ...

Eye-Popping

Ian Jackman: Killer SUVs

7 October 2004
High and Mighty: SUVs, the World’s Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way 
by Keith Bradsher.
PublicAffairs, 464 pp., $14, December 2003, 1 58648 203 3
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... well and missed the worst of the traffic out of New York City, we will be doing 65 in the middle lane. Even so there’ll be a steady stream of vehicles passing us to left and right, many of them SUVs (sports utility vehicles), the truck-based four-wheel-drive giants that rule America’s roads. Other than the unironic Suburban, a name that has been in ...

Diary

Patrick Hughes: What do artists do?

24 July 1986
... in Edmund Leach’s review of Lévi-Strauss’s latest, The View from Afar, that ‘the essay on Max Ernst contains an analysis of that artist’s celebrated construction of a sewing-machine and an umbrella on a dissection table.’ It does not. I have been to the British Library and looked at The View from Afar. The essay in question refers, and presumes ...

Lucky Boy

Kevin Kopelson

3 April 1997
Shine 
directed by Scott Hicks.
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Shine: The Screenplay 
by Jan Sardi.
Bloomsbury, 176 pp., £7.99, January 1997, 0 7475 3173 0
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The Book of David 
by Beverley Eley.
HarperCollins, 285 pp., £8.99, March 1997, 0 207 19105 0
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Love You to Bits and Pieces: Life with David Helfgott 
by Gillian Helfgott, with Alissa Tanskaya.
Penguin, 337 pp., £6.99, January 1997, 0 14 026546 5
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... male pianists speak? King Vidor’s A Song to Remember (1945) exerted no such pressure. Nor did Max Ophuls’s Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948). Yet, while Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993) presented a woman incapable of speech, François Girard’s Thirty-Two Short Films about Glenn Gould (1994) presented a man who was abnormally articulate – one who ...

Simply too exhausted

Christopher Hitchens

25 July 1991
Edwina Mountbatten: A Life of Her Own 
by Janet Morgan.
HarperCollins, 509 pp., £20, July 1991, 0 00 217597 5
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... as is the immediately-following intelligence that Edwina, after a shift or two helping ‘Max’ Beaverbrook strike-break at the Daily Express, ‘looked drawn and pale with dark shadows under her eyes: “Quite dead!” she wrote, on her Saturday morning off, “stayed in bed till 11.” ’ This tone – when ghastly things happen to sweet people ...
21 November 1991
Almost a Gentleman. An Autobiography: Vol. II 1955-66 
by John Osborne.
Faber, 273 pp., £14.99, November 1991, 0 571 16261 4
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... is, however, a riveting spectacle. On the cover of Almost a Gentleman Osborne wears a miscellanea of camp togs, and an expression at once quizzical, combative and prissy. As with the first volume, frail jokes and bad puns decorate the text. We know the writer is on form by page 20, when we read of ‘Binkie Beaumont, most powerful of the unacceptable ...

Going on the air

Philip French

2 May 1985
Orwell: The War Broadcasts 
edited by W.J. West.
Duckworth/BBC, 304 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 7156 1916 0
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... in 1968 by Ian Angus and Sonia Orwell) by a single enticing paragraph from a 1940 review of Max Miller at the Holborn Empire, attached as a footnote to ‘The Art of Donald McGill’. The same four-volume collection contains 20 pieces Orwell contributed to newspapers, anthologies and magazines while on the BBC staff, but includes nothing he wrote as a ...

Coup de Guinness

Robert Morley

5 December 1985
Blessings in Disguise 
by Alec Guinness.
Hamish Hamilton, 238 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 241 11681 3
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... and fluffy slippers.    ‘You will have to imagine the music. We are in a big theatre, Drury Lane ... Do you hear the fiddles?’    ‘No.’    ‘Use your imagination. Hark at the cymbals! And the tinkling bells. And here come the drums! You must applaud, boy. Clap your hands! I am a Persian Princess ... dancing in the Harem to please my ...

The Bloody Sixth

Joshua Brown: The Real Gangs of New York

23 January 2003
TheGangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld 
by Herbert Asbury.
Arrow, 366 pp., £6.99, January 2003, 0 09 943674 4
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Gangs of New York 
directed by Martin Scorsese.
December 2002
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... of the nativist gang (adorned and equipped, like their adversaries, in Braveheart meets Mad Max style), the Rabbits are outlawed and Priest’s young son, Amsterdam Vallon (soon to be Leonardo DiCaprio), is bundled off to a reformatory. In 1862, during the Civil War, the grown-up Vallon returns to the unchanged frontier town of Five Points, still run ...

Golden Dolly

John Pemble: Rich Britons

24 September 2009
Who Were the Rich? A Biographical Directory of British Wealth-Holders. Vol. I: 1809-39 
by William Rubinstein.
Social Affairs Unit, 516 pp., £20, May 2009, 978 1 904863 39 7
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... Irish company, and she’d caught the eye of Thomas Coutts after she’d graduated to Drury Lane and was performing for Sheridan on £12 a week. They married after the death of his first wife (the mother of his daughters) in 1815, when she was 37 and he was 79. She was trounced as a predator and lampooned as a parvenue. Disraeli portrayed her as the ...

Diary

August Kleinzahler: My Last Big Road Trip

2 December 2010
... a clear radio channel to accommodate his iPod. To my alarm, in the dark of night on a narrow two-lane road, in the middle of truly-fucking-nowhere, the Maestro pulls over to the shoulder and puts his head in his hands. This is not good. He maintains that posture for some time. But then he rallies. He takes a deep breath and attacks the radio in earnest until ...

A Dreadful Drumming

Theo Tait: Ghosts

6 June 2013
The Undiscovered Country: Journeys among the Dead 
by Carl Watkins.
Bodley Head, 318 pp., £20, January 2012, 978 1 84792 140 6
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A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof 
by Roger Clarke.
Particular, 360 pp., £20, November 2012, 978 1 84614 333 5
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... in the form of a badger or white rabbit, invaded his rectory. The Age of Reason had the Cock Lane Ghost, a celebrated hoax, found to have been the work of a teenage girl. Around this time, ancient terrors begin to be reborn as mass entertainment – Defoe wrote a popular veridical tale, The Apparition of Mrs Veal, about a Mrs Bargrave in Canterbury who ...

Gabble, Twitter and Hoot

Ian Hacking: Language, deafness and the senses

1 July 1999
I See a Voice: A Philosophical History of Language, Deafness and the Senses 
by Jonathan Rée.
HarperCollins, 399 pp., £19.99, January 1999, 0 00 255793 2
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... Rée seems to say in passing that metaphysics consists of ‘the more or less unconscious myths, maxims and metaphors we live by’, Oh. One of the pleasures of the book is that its topics are made personal. They are not the topics formally studied in the schools, but the thoughts of fascinated (and fascinating) individuals with childlike curiosities. The ...

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