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The Benefactor

Nicholas Wade, 19 April 1984

Alexander Fleming: The Man and the Myth 
by Gwyn Macfarlane.
Chatto, 304 pp., £12.50, February 1984, 0 7011 2683 3
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... discovered how to keep diabetic dogs alive with extracts of pancreas. An excellent recent study by Michael Bliss,* a historian at the University of Toronto, establishes that a. the dogs were probably kept alive because Banting, in trying to make them diabetic, failed to remove their own pancreases entirely; b. Banting and Best did little that hadn’t ...

The Pissing Evile

Peter Medawar, 1 December 1983

The Discovery of Insulin 
by Michael Bliss.
Paul Harris, 304 pp., £15, September 1983, 0 86228 056 7
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... doctor, Bouchardat, also noted that exercise increased a diabetic’s tolerance of carbohydrate. Bliss, who has a nice sense of what is important and what is not, describes how it comes about that the metabolism of fat in the extremities of diabetic starvation imparts a sweetish odour to the breath – the ‘ketosis’ which I remember J.B.S. Haldane’s ...

Bliss

Michael Neve, 16 October 1980

My Guru and his Disciple 
by Christopher Isherwood.
Eyre Methuen, 338 pp., £8.50, July 1980, 0 413 46930 1
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... that have been transcended, or at least left behind. His extraordinary journey, from Berlin to Bliss, suggests a powerful inner discipline, a private strength at work long before the arrival in California and the meeting with various people interested in the setting up of a Vedanta Society of Southern California. Each of these works, of which A Single ...

On the Secret Joke at the Centre of American Identity

Michael Rogin: Ralph Ellison, 2 March 2000

Juneteenth 
by Ralph Ellison, edited by John Callaghan.
Hamish Hamilton, 368 pp., £16.99, December 1999, 0 241 14084 6
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... mysterious bond between Alonzo Hickman, former gambler and jazz trombonist turned preacher, and Bliss, a boy of mysterious parentage raised in the black church, who has fled North, passed as white, and become Adam Sunraider, the racist New England Senator. As Callahan has put it together, the novel begins with the failed effort of Hickman and his flock to ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: Max Ophuls, 9 October 2008

... husband in La Ronde, played by Fernand Gravey, talks in just the same way – that their marital bliss is ‘made in their image’: ‘It is only superficially that it is superficial.’ What he would like to mean is that there is no reason to go looking for more depths than they have. What he turns out to mean, to his and her distress, is that their life ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Awful Truth’, 24 May 2018

... indeed made for each other, as the film goes on to show, although he needs to escape from his bliss now and again. He’s been in New York while pretending to be in Florida, not up to much, as far we can tell, apart from exercising his freedom. The proof of his lying is the basket of California oranges he bought for her, the first of a set of jokes about ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Gone Girl’, 22 October 2014

Gone Girl 
directed by David Fincher.
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... overspending on her credit cards, traces of blood in the kitchen, a diary detailing the early bliss and late bust-up of the marriage. Even without a body, the police will have to conclude he killed her, and he will get the death penalty, one of the accidental benefits of the shift to Missouri. This isn’t what happens finally, but the scheme makes it ...

Is Michael Neve paranoid?

Michael Neve, 2 June 1983

... Certainly it doesn’t appear in the striking list of words for mad states reproduced in Michael Macdonald’s Mystical Bedlam, a study of 17th-century English sources. Instead we have ‘mad’, ‘lunatic’, ‘melancholy’, ‘stubborn’, ‘suspicious’, ‘fancies and conceits’, ‘frightening dreams’. This disappearance of the Classical ...

The Schoolmen ride again

Richard Mayne, 15 May 1980

Cinema: A Critical Dictionary: The Major Film-Makers 
edited by Richard Roud.
Secker, 1120 pp., £25, February 1980, 9780436428302
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The Dream that Kicks: The Prehistory and Early Years of Cinema in Britain 
by Michael Chanan.
Routledge, 356 pp., £12.50, January 1980, 0 7100 0319 6
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... new wave. Reread today, Sequence seems impressionistic, zesty, untouched by glum foreign dogmas. Bliss was it in that dark to be alive. Now, the new wave has become the Establishment – making films, writing for them, flying between Tangier and Hollywood, or editing less ephemeral magazines. Over the pebbly beach, fresh new waves curl constantly ...

Hidden Privilege

Michael Irwin, 16 September 1982

Russian Journal 
by Andrea Lee.
Faber, 239 pp., £8.95, May 1982, 0 571 11904 2
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... Komsomol member who yet despises most things Russian and is moved to an anguished pitch of envious bliss when smuggled into a dance at the Marine Bar in the US Embassy. There are longer sections on two notabilities with whom Andrea Lee gets caught up by chance. At a restaurant in Leningrad she finds herself sharing a table with a middle-aged man who inspires ...

What happened to Flora?

Michael Wood: Nabokov’s Cards, 7 January 2010

The Original of Laura: (Dying is Fun) A Novel in Fragments 
by Vladimir Nabokov.
Penguin, 278 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 14 119115 7
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... that madness in Pale Fire. When in his afterword to Lolita he defined his ideal of ‘aesthetic bliss’ in literature he was speaking as a reader and a writer – to be precise as ‘neither a reader nor a writer of didactic fiction’ but of something else – and when late in life he told the New York Times what he was currently reading he listed three ...

Babylon with Bananas

Michael Newton: Tarzan's best friend, 29 January 2009

Me Cheeta: The Autobiography 
by Cheeta.
Fourth Estate, 320 pp., £16.99, October 2008, 978 0 00 727863 3
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... this was merely another move in the literary hoax. Unequipped with revelations from the Times, the blissfully ignorant reader inevitably speculates: who could the ghost-writer be? A washed-up child actor? A chain-smoking media studies lecturer? An animal-rights activist with doubts? Actually, the idea that the book might be ghost-written is one gag absent from ...

Homo Sexualis

Michael Ignatieff, 4 March 1982

Sex, Politics and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality since 1800 
by Jeffrey Weeks.
Longman, 306 pp., £11, October 1981, 0 582 48333 6
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Sexual Preference: Its Development in Men and Women 
by Alan Bell, Martin Weinberg and Sue Kiefer Hammersmith.
Indiana, 242 pp., £9, October 1981, 9780253166739
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Pornography and Silence 
by Susan Griffin.
Women’s Press, 277 pp., £4.75, October 1981, 0 7043 3877 7
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The History of Sexuality. Vol. 1 
by Michel Foucault, translated by Robert Hurley.
Penguin, 176 pp., £2.25, May 1981, 0 14 022299 5
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... who have difficulty recognising their own sexual experience in this mythology of modern carnal bliss have been tempted to rewrite the story as one of tightening and intensifying patriarchal domination. This is the temptation to which Mary Jane Sherfey succumbs in The Nature and Evolution of Female Sexuality, where ‘the rise of modern civilisation’ is ...

Flights of the Enchanter

Noël Annan, 4 April 1991

A Traveller’s Alphabet: Partial Memoirs 
by Steven Runciman.
Thames and Hudson, 214 pp., £16.95, February 1991, 9780500015049
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... for corresponding with her brother the Kaiser: ‘a sad fate for someone whose whole idea of bliss had been to spend a week or two at Eastbourne’. His favourite was Queen Marie of Romania. She wrote the best of all royal memoirs and, remembering Disraeli, he used to murmur to her: ‘We historians, Ma’am ... ’ She once sent for him to her ...

The Wrong Sex

Felipe Fernández-Armesto, 7 October 1993

Isabel the Queen: Life and Times 
by Peggy Liss.
Oxford, 398 pp., £19.95, January 1993, 0 19 507356 8
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... appear as united equals. The iconography is strewn with knots and yokes, images of connubial bliss and perfect union. ‘Each to the other equal,’ sings the motto, ‘stand Isabel and Ferdinand.’ The sources conspire to frustrate historians who want to distinguish the royal pair from each other, in terms of power and policy. The cosy image was a ...

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