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Michael​ Dobson

8 June 1995
Edmond Malone, Shakespearean Scholar: A Literary Biography 
by Peter Martin.
Cambridge, 298 pp., £40, April 1995, 0 521 46030 1
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... Anyone who has ever taken the slightest interest in Shakespeare and his times owes a great deal to Edmond Malone. It was Malone who in a single month, June 1789, discovered not only the papers of the theatrical entrepreneur Philip Henslowe, on which most of our knowledge of the working practices of the Elizabethan theatre is ...

See you in court, pal

John Lanchester: The Microsoft Trial

30 September 1999
The Nudist on the Late Shift 
by Po Bronson.
Secker, 248 pp., £10, August 1999, 0 436 20477 0
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Infinite Loop: How Apple, the World’s Most Insanely Great Computer Company, Went Insane 
by Michael Malone.
Aurum, 598 pp., £18.99, April 1999, 1 85410 638 4
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Burn Rate: How I Survived the Gold Rush Years on the Internet 
by Michael​ Woolf.
Orion, 364 pp., £7.99, June 1999, 0 7528 2606 9
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The Cathedral and the Bazaar: revised edition 
by Eric S. Raymond.
O'Reilly, 256 pp., £11.95, February 2001, 0 596 00108 8
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... this rich neighbour called Xerox, and you broke in to steal the TV set, found I’d been there first, and said: “No fair, I wanted to steal the TV set.”’ The striking thing about this – as MichaelMalone points out in his ultra-detailed history of Apple, Infinite Loop – is that there isn’t a shred of truth in the idea that Gates had the GUI first. It was pure gorilla-think. ‘In his ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: ‘Inherent Vice’

5 February 2015
Inherent Vice 
directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
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... voiceover, but it’s hard, and a movie plot that keeps getting lost is apt to feel just lost. There are some great performances here from Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Katherine Waterston, Jena Malone, Owen Wilson. Phoenix is Doc Sportello, the private detective. His vast sideburns and crumpled denims make him look like a sheriff who has strayed from the old West and gone further west. Gone to pot ...

Life of Brian

Kevin Barry

25 January 1990
No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O’Brien 
by Anthony Cronin.
Grafton, 260 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 246 12836 4
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... Between 1947 and 1950 Samuel Beckett and Francis Stuart produced a clutch of novels which extend Irish fiction into the world of Europe. Beckett’s life in wartime Paris is not irrelevant to Molloy, Malone dies and The Unnamable, nor is Stuart’s in wartime Berlin to The Pillar of Cloud, Redemption and The Flowering Cross. Ten years earlier Brian O’Nolan, alias Flann O’Brien, had written At Swim ...

Cardenio’s Ghost

Charles Nicholl: The Bits Shakespeare Wrote

2 December 2010
The Arden Shakespeare: Double Falsehood 
edited by Brean Hammond.
Arden Shakespeare, 443 pp., £16.99, March 2010, 978 1 903436 77 6
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... suggesting that Theobald may after all have been telling the truth, if not quite the whole truth. The discoverer of this new information was the great Shakespearean editor and biographer Edmond Malone. He was initially a sceptic: he thought Theobald had tricked up an old play, perhaps by Philip Massinger, with Shakespearean touches. His own copy of Double Falsehood survives, tartly annotated ...

Beware Kite-Flyers

Stephen Sedley: The British Constitution

12 September 2013
The British Constitution: A Very Short Introduction 
by Martin Loughlin.
Oxford, 152 pp., £7.99, April 2013, 978 0 19 969769 4
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... supervision of the common law courts’. To do this the courts had to recognise, in defiance of Diceyan orthodoxy, ‘a conceptual distinction between public law and private law’. Loughlin uses the Malone case as a barometer of the constitutional changes we have undergone. Malone was an antique dealer who was charged in 1977 with handling stolen property. At his first trial, which ended inconclusively ...

Bard of Tropes

Jonathan Lamb: Thomas Chatterton

20 September 2001
Thomas Chatterton and Romantic Culture 
by Nick Groom.
Palgrave, 300 pp., £55, September 1999, 0 333 72586 7
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... Mary Robinson, Henry Headley and later John Clare – were all of one mind about this. Chatterton, they thought, had died by his own hand in poverty and despair, neglected by the metropolitan world. Michael Suarez’s account here shows that Chatterton’s relations with the book trade after he arrived in London were far busier and more profitable than is commonly supposed. In the early summer of 1770 ...
1 September 1988
Mother London 
by Michael​ Moorcock.
Secker, 496 pp., £9.95, June 1988, 0 436 28461 8
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The Comforts of Madness 
by Paul Sayer.
Constable, 128 pp., £9.95, July 1988, 0 09 468480 4
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Sweet Desserts 
by Lucy Ellmann.
Virago, 154 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 9780860688471
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by Theodore Zeldin.
Collins Harvill, 320 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 00 271302 0
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... Michael Moorcock’s novel honours the loonies of London. It seems there are more of them every year, especially since – by one of the more perverse acts of enlightenment – the asylums were emptied in ...

On Needing to Be Looked After

Tim Parks: Beckett’s Letters

1 December 2011
The Letters of Samuel Beckett: 1941-56 
edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn and Lois More Overbeck.
Cambridge, 791 pp., £30, September 2011, 978 0 521 86794 8
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... First Love, the novella Mercier et Camier and the play Eleutheria; then, in 1947, his French apprenticeship over, he launches into Molloy, which he finishes in just six months, immediately begins Malone Dies, finished in 1948, takes a break from fiction to write Waiting for Godot (in four months), then writes The Unnameable, which he completes in January 1950. In three years, and all in French, this ...

Eric’s Hurt

David Craig

7 March 1985
Eric Linklater: A Critical Biography 
by Michael​ Parnell.
Murray, 376 pp., £16, October 1984, 0 7195 4109 3
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... point of brutality. And this was no random outburst. It drew on settled attitudes. A quarter of a century later, in the story ‘A Sociable Plover’, the central character, a writer called Torquil Malone whose ‘circumstances and life-views’, as Mr Parnell allows, ‘are so similar to Eric’s own’, flytes against the very same bugbears: ‘They talk – it’s all talk and criticism now: no ...
21 October 1982
Palmerston: The Early Years, 1784-1841 
by Kenneth Bourne.
Allen Lane, 749 pp., £25, August 1982, 0 7139 1083 6
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... idolatry; Johnson’s in Texas goes well beyond it. But in England, the old genre has withered. Of recent Cabinet Ministers, only Ernest Bevin (two vols down, one to go) and Nye Bevan (canonised by Michael Foot) have received extended treatment, while the massive life of Churchill is unique in its Victorian dimensions. Today, the best way for a politician to guarantee this much-coveted form of life ...

There are some limits Marlowes just won’t cross

Christopher Tayler: Banville’s Marlowe

2 April 2014
The Black-Eyed Blonde 
by Benjamin Black.
Mantle, 320 pp., £16.99, February 2014, 978 1 4472 3668 9
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... words to them, over and over again, and yet each time it seemed real, like something actually happening, and for the first time.’ Coming round after being blackjacked he can sound like Molloy or Malone: ‘Is that what I mean? What the hell do I care what I mean? Okay, better men than me have meant less.’ So it’s possible to see how commissioning a Marlowe novel from John Banville, whose agent ...

Hoarder of Malt

Michael​ Dobson: Shakespeare

7 January 1999
Shakespeare: A Life 
by Park Honan.
Oxford, 479 pp., £25, October 1998, 0 19 811792 2
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Shakespeare: The ‘Lost Years’ 
by E.A.J. Honigmann.
Manchester, 172 pp., £11.99, December 1998, 0 7190 5425 7
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... appearances in ecclesiastical records, court account books, legal documents and so on), set in a narrative largely devoted to explaining their nature and their provenance. In the tradition of Edmond Malone and Sir Sidney Lee, Schoenbaum was minutely conversant with the written records of Shakespeare’s life and career, but this antiquarian proficiency was complicated by his equally formidable ...

Whatever you do, buy

Michael​ Dobson: Shakespeare’s First Folio

15 November 2001
The Shakespeare First Folio: The History of the Book Vol. I: An Account of the First Folio Based on Its Sales and Prices, 1623-2000 
by Anthony James West.
Oxford, 215 pp., £70, April 2001, 0 19 818769 6
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... a utilitarian matter, cannot go very far towards explaining the rise and continuing rise in the prices fetched by the Folio. It is true that Pope, Theobald, Hanmer, Capell, Dr Johnson, Steevens and Malone all did their bit for demand by treating themselves to copies at some time or another, but so did many other people far less qualified to savour its press-variants or tut-tut over its instances of ...


Marina Warner: Literary Diplomacy

16 November 2017
... The active imagination in literature looks forward as much as it looks backwards, often in a manoeuvre to forestall the worst. Writers keep asking, what might happen? The opening of Beckett’s Malone Dies expresses this stratagem most perfectly, being bleak and comical at the same time: ‘I shall soon be quite dead at last in spite of all.’ It’s striking, as always with Beckett, how the ...

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