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The Real Johnny Hall

Penelope Fitzgerald, 3 October 1985

Our Three Selves: A Life of Radclyffe Hall 
by Michael Baker.
Hamish Hamilton, 386 pp., £13.95, June 1985, 0 241 11539 6
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... is doomed. Whatever else the novel does, it doesn’t show the lesbian life as recommendable. Michael Baker has taken on the task of relating The Well to John’s own life. ‘It is arguable,’ he writes, ‘that had John drawn more on her own personal knowledge, a better novel would have resulted.’ But she would have had, of course, to ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Miles Ahead’, 18 May 2016

Miles Ahead 
directed by Don Cheadle.
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... thought by many to be an oxymoron, was making itself heard in the persons of Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Shelly Manne and Dave Brubeck. Davis made the albums Birth of the Cool in 1957 and Kind of Blue in 1959. A few years earlier, in 1953, Baker had won the DownBeat magazine award for Best Trumpet of the Year, and Davis had ...

Mon Pays

Michael Rogin: Josephine Baker, 22 February 2001

The Josephine Baker Story 
by Ean Wood.
Sanctuary, 327 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 1 86074 286 6
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Negrophilia: Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s 
by Petrine Archer-Straw.
Thames and Hudson, 200 pp., £14.95, September 2000, 0 500 28135 1
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... Travelling to Paris recently, I was surprised to see advertisements for ‘Joséphine Baker, Music-hall et paillettes’, an exhibition at the Espace Drouot-Montaigne commemorating the 75th anniversary of her electrifying Paris debut and the 25th anniversary of her death. With its pictures of Baker costumed and nude (and often both at the same time), with some fantastic outfits she actually wore and film of her dancing on stage, with snapshots of her among friends and admirers, the show recaptures the self-knowingly playful acrobatics and the heart-stopping clothed elegance of this unthreatening sexual being, a femme vitale but not fatale ...

Michael Gove recommends …

Robert Hanks: Dennis Wheatley, 20 January 2011

The Devil Is a Gentleman: The Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley 
by Phil Baker.
Dedalus, 699 pp., £25, October 2009, 978 1 903517 75 8
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... in his lifetime is widely accepted, though the basis for it is elusive – the only source Phil Baker cites in his exhaustive biography is Wheatley’s own memoirs, and Wheatley was a relentless self-aggrandiser; but it sounds about right. In the mid-1960s, three decades into his career, he had 55 books in print, which collectively accounted for one seventh ...

Rubbing Up

Michael Church, 7 June 1984

Growing Up 
by Russell Baker.
Sidgwick, 278 pp., £9.95, February 1984, 0 283 99056 2
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Scouse Mouse, or I never got over it: An Autobiography 
by George Melly.
Weidenfeld, 208 pp., £8.95, March 1984, 0 297 78277 0
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The Haunted Mind 
by Hallam Tennyson.
Deutsch, 238 pp., £12.95, May 1984, 0 233 97618 3
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... for their mothers’ repressed artistic ambitions: the early histories of George Melly and Russell Baker run strikingly in parallel. Their books reveal an even more striking coincidence of form. Melly chooses, in his closing paragraph, to play affectionately along with his mother’s happy delusion that she is fifty years back in the past and the conjuror is ...

Three Poems

Michael Hofmann, 21 July 1994

... of the Pléiade, planets in love, mouthsounds, genie, come. Hyde Park twenty-four hours apart, Baker Street from the top of a bus, the curve of the overground train past your house, past mine, nowhere to grip in the slippery city. The London plane tree by my window hangs its green leatherette sleeves, exhausted by a hard May. My varsity jacket. The sky ...

Ronbo

Michael Rogin, 13 October 1988

Guts and Glory: The Rise and Fall of Oliver North 
by Ben Bradlee.
Grafton, 572 pp., £14.95, September 1988, 0 246 13364 3
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For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington 
by Donald Regan.
Hutchinson, 397 pp., £16.95, June 1988, 0 09 173622 6
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... were the doubles of the President they served. ‘I am bringing you a playmate your own age,’ Michael Deaver is supposed to have said when he informed the President that his Secretary of the Treasury, Regan, and his Chief of Staff, Jim Baker, were trading places. Struck at their very first meeting by the similarity in ...

Diary

Conor Gearty: Reasons for Loathing Michael Howard, 31 October 1996

... It is easy to loathe Michael Howard. It is less easy – because more intimidating in its implications – to loathe him for the right reasons. His record as Home Secretary before Her Majesty’s judges is appalling. He has lost a succession of cases to do with prisoners, immigrants and criminal injuries compensation ...

The Party in Government

Conor Gearty, 9 March 1995

... reads like the cast-list of some bizarre Antipodean soap: Allan Stewart, wielder of the pick-axe; Michael Mates, sender of the famous watch; Norman Lamont, evictor (with some help from the tax-payer) of the tenant with too colourful a professional life; Patrick Nicholls, suspected drunk driver; Nicholas Ridley, too loquacious an advocate of anti-German ...

London Lefties

Paul Foot, 17 September 1987

If voting changed anything, they’d abolish it 
by Ken Livingstone.
Collins, 367 pp., £12, August 1987, 0 00 217770 6
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A Taste of Power: The Politics of Local Economics 
edited by Maureen Mackintosh and Hilary Wainwright.
Verso, 441 pp., £22.95, July 1987, 0 86091 174 8
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... transport frontbenchers in the Commons, up-and-coming young hopefuls called Margaret Thatcher and Michael Heseltine, welcomed the transfer, and specifically stated that this would enable the Council, if it felt like it, to hold transport fares down with a subsidy from the rates. Labour won back the GLC in 1973, but lost it to the Tories in 1977, when the new ...

Changing Places

Avi Shlaim, 9 January 1992

... has the advantage of speaking in the soundbites beloved by American television interviewers. As Michael Sheridan wrote in the Independ ent on 2 November. the Israelis possessed the best organised, most efficient, least flustered, public relations team at the conference, with Mr Netanyahu, its intellectual bruiser, rushing before the CNN cameras every other ...

Bogey’s Clean Sweep

Michael Holroyd, 22 May 1980

The Life of Katherine Mansfield 
by Antony Alpers.
Cape, 466 pp., £9.50, May 1980, 0 224 01625 3
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... the bewildering number of names she gave herself and those near her (most famously changing Ida Baker into ‘I Lesley Moore’) was an indication of how she used her experiences as experiments to be made real through fiction. Her engagement to a musician, her strange one-day marriage to George Bowden, her subsequent pregnancy by the musician’s ...

Jewish Blood

Michael Church, 7 February 1985

Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince 
by Budd Schulberg.
Penguin, 500 pp., £4.95, September 1984, 0 14 006769 8
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Baku to Baker Street: The Memoirs of Flora Solomon 
by Barnet Litvinoff.
Collins, 230 pp., £11.95, June 1984, 0 00 217094 9
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Wilfrid Israel: German Jewry’s Secret Ambassador 
by Naomi Shepherd.
Weidenfeld, 286 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 297 78308 4
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The Smiths of Moscow: A Story of Britons Abroad 
by Harvey Pitcher.
Swallow House Books, 176 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 905265 01 7
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Family Secrets 
by David Leitch.
Heinemann, 242 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 434 41345 3
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... grandmother had fled from Cossack persecution at Dvinsk. Flora Solomon, the author of Baku to Baker Street, was brought up in Minsk, a nearby town in the Jewish Pale of Settlement. She, too, had a gambler-philanderer-millionaire for a father, and she too, was impelled by her upbringing to become a socialist, and even to pass on the contagion to her son ...

The Ugly Revolution

Michael Rogin: Martin Luther King Jr, 10 May 2001

I May Not Get there with You: The True Martin Luther King Jr 
by Michael Eric Dyson.
Free Press, 404 pp., £15.99, May 2000, 0 684 86776 1
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The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr. Vol. IV: Symbol of the Movement January 1957-December 1958 
edited by Clayborne Carson et al.
California, 637 pp., £31.50, May 2000, 0 520 22231 8
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... Lincoln and King transformed these figures in national memory from trouble-makers into healers, as Michael Eric Dyson puts it in I May Not Get there with You, an attempt to bring King back to political life. But while Lincoln turned in his last months from racial justice to national reconciliation, King had been moving in the opposite direction at the time of ...

Fancy Patter

Theo Tait: Holmes and the Holocaust, 31 March 2005

The Final Solution 
by Michael Chabon.
Fourth Estate, 127 pp., £10, February 2005, 0 00 719602 4
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... gangs as once I watched the criminal world of London.’ These few lines supply the background to Michael Chabon’s novella, which begins thirty years later on the South Downs. The main character is an ‘old man’, once a famous detective, now devoted to his bees. He remains unnamed throughout, but given that he wears an Inverness cape and hunting cap, and ...

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