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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Miami Vice’

17 August 2006
Miami Vice 
directed by Michael Mann.
August 2006
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... no world, just the set or the simulation where the conversations take place. When directors like Michael Mann, whose movie version of Miami Vice has just opened, say they want to make episodes of television series as if they were movies, they mean, among other things, that they want to create a world, a location which is a kind of character. This is as ...

The Old Question

W.G. Runciman

19 February 1987
The Sources of Social Power. Vol I: A History of Power from the Beginning to AD 1760 
by Michael Mann.
Cambridge, 549 pp., £37.50, July 1986, 0 521 30851 8
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... psychology or whatever it may be is the master key to the explanation of the whole long story. Michael Mann, however, deliberately places himself mid-way in-between. As a result, he risks being simultaneously attacked by one set of readers for writing potted history at a safe distance from the sources, and by another for theorising at an ...

Ultimate Choice

Malcolm Bull: Thoughts of Genocide

9 February 2006
The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing 
by Michael Mann.
Cambridge, 580 pp., £17.99, January 2005, 0 521 53854 8
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Genocide in the Age of the Nation State. Vol. I: The Meaning of Genocide 
by Mark Levene.
Tauris, 266 pp., £24.50, August 2005, 1 85043 752 1
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Genocide in the Age of the Nation State: Vol. II: The Rise of the West and the Coming of Genocide 
by Mark Levene.
Tauris, 463 pp., £29.50, August 2005, 1 84511 057 9
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... which thereby excluded the mass killings of Stalin and Pol Pot, has been criticised by many. Michael Mann chooses to call such massacres ‘classicide’ or ‘politicide’, and reserves ‘genocide’ for the destruction of ethnic or religious groups. Mark Levene, on the other hand, includes all of these within his definition of genocide as ‘the ...

Going Wrong

Michael Wood

7 March 1996
Casino 
directed by Martin Scorsese.
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Heat 
directed by Michael Mann.
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Seven 
directed by David Fincher.
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... the soundtrack treats us to ‘The House of the Rising Sun’. Over the final credits, Hoagy Carmichael talks his way through ‘Stardust’. It’s not just that we are in a world of clichés and old songs: it’s that these very clichés and old songs, with their invariable, unexplained images of failure and decline, point us to the movie’s own rather ...

No Grand Strategy and No Ultimate Aim

Stephen Holmes: US policy in Iraq

6 May 2004
Incoherent Empire 
by Michael Mann.
Verso, 278 pp., £15, October 2003, 1 85984 582 7
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... with volumes devoted to the American ‘empire’. But how appropriate is this evocative term? Michael Mann has been working for two decades as ‘a historical sociologist on the nature of power in human societies’. In this dense and lively volume, composed ‘at breakneck speed’, he analyses and evaluates the main strands of US global ...

Mann v. Mann

Colm Tóibín: The Brother Problem

3 November 2011
House of Exile: War, Love and Literature, from Berlin to Los Angeles 
by Evelyn Juers.
Allen Lane, 400 pp., £25, May 2011, 978 1 84614 461 5
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... The imposing house on Stockton Street in Princeton where Thomas Mann lived between 1938 and 1941 is these days owned by the Catholic Church. The main room is large enough for a congregation to assemble, and now contains pews and an altar. At either end of this room there are two beautiful smaller rooms with walls of glass, one made for summer light and the other designed for the winter ...
5 September 1996
Thomas MannEros and Literature 
by Anthony Heilbut.
Macmillan, 636 pp., £20, June 1996, 9780394556338
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Thomas MannA Biography 
by Ronald Hayman.
Bloomsbury, 672 pp., £20, March 1996, 0 7475 2531 5
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Thomas MannA Life 
by Donald Prater.
Oxford, 554 pp., £20, September 1995, 0 19 815861 0
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... Adrian Leverkuhn, Felix Krull – are shaped by their uneasy and ambiguous homosexuality. For Mann being German came first, and he learned, as Anthony Heilbut rather quaintly puts it, to read German history as one long queer epic – he alluded to Frederick the Great’s homosexuality and depicted Bismarck as ‘hysterical and high-pitched’. When ...

I Could Sleep with All of Them

Colm Tóibín: The Mann Family

6 November 2008
In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story 
by Andrea Weiss.
Chicago, 302 pp., £14.50, May 2008, 978 0 226 88672 5
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... Thomas and Katia Mann had six children. It was clear from early on that Katia most loved the second child, Klaus, who was born in 1906, and that Thomas loved Erika, the eldest, born in 1905, and also Elisabeth, born in 1918. The other three – the barely tolerated ones – were Golo, born in 1909, Monika, born in 1910, and Michael, born in 1919 ...
28 June 1990
Confessions of a Reluctant Theorist 
by W.G. Runciman.
Harvester, 253 pp., £30, April 1990, 0 7450 0484 9
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... The works of Perry Anderson, Ernest Gellner, Anthony Giddens, Geoffrey Hawthorn, Steven Lukes, Michael Mann and Runciman himself, not to mention many others, take up the challenge of the classical sociologists, often on the terrain of world history. Runciman’s own response to the question of what sociology must do is similar in scope to those of the ...

Impossible Wishes

Michael Wood: Thomas Mann

6 February 2003
The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Mann 
edited by Ritchie Robertson.
Cambridge, 257 pp., £45.50, November 2001, 9780521653107
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Thomas MannA Biography 
by Hermann Kurzke, translated by Leslie Willson.
Allen Lane, 582 pp., £30, January 2002, 0 7139 9500 9
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... only a writer of very High Modernist tendencies would take this remark as a compliment, but Thomas Mann certainly did, and it wasn’t even addressed to him. He found it in Harry Levin’s little book on Joyce, which he read in 1944. He was also much drawn to another sentence in the same work: ‘The best writing of our contemporaries is not an act of ...

How to Hiss and Huff

Robert Alter: Mann’s Moses

2 December 2010
The Tables of the Law 
by Thomas Mann, translated by Marion Faber and Stephen Lehmann.
Haus, 113 pp., £10, October 2010, 978 1 906598 84 6
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... Thomas Mann wrote this engaging novella in a few weeks in 1943. (The new translation by Marion Faber and Stephen Lehmann, which is brisk and direct, is a welcome replacement of the fussier and less accurate English version done by Helen Lowe-Porter for the original publication.) The novella was written after Mann helped pitch a film on the Ten Commandments to MGM ...

Post-Nationalism

Geoffrey Hawthorn

3 December 1992
English Questions 
by Perry Anderson.
Verso, 370 pp., £39.95, May 1992, 0 86091 375 9
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A Zone of Engagement 
by Perry Anderson.
Verso, 384 pp., £39.95, May 1992, 0 86091 377 5
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... of essays, some of which first appeared in this paper, and are now reprinted in Engagement, on Michael Mann, Norberto Bobbio, Roberto Unger, W.G. Runciman. Andreas Hillgruber, Max Weber, Ernest Gellner, Carlo Ginzburg, Isaiah Berlin, Fernand Braudel and Francis Fukuyama. More recently (LRB, 24 September and 22 October), he has extended himself to ...

Her Boy

R.W. Johnson: Mark Thatcher

16 November 2006
Thatcher’s Fortunes: The Life and Times of Mark Thatcher 
by Mark Hollingsworth and Paul Halloran.
Mainstream, 415 pp., £7.99, July 2006, 1 84596 118 8
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The Wonga Coup: The British Mercenary Plot to Seize Oil Billions in Africa 
by Adam Roberts.
Profile, 304 pp., £9.99, June 2006, 1 86197 934 7
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... Town and Table Mountain. Among those who have bought houses here are Earl Spencer, Elton John and Michael Douglas, but the oddity is that, while you might assume, as you drive through its wonderful avenues, that Constantia’s residents are nothing if not respectable, you’d be dead wrong, because not only did Mark set himself up in palatial style here but ...

Proust? Ha!

Michael Hofmann

21 August 1997
A Book of Memories 
by Péter Nádas, translated by Ivan Sanders and Imre Goldstein.
Cape, 706 pp., £16.99, August 1997, 9780224035248
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... as A Book of Memories, wildly oversold (‘claiming and extending the legacy of Proust and Mann’, ‘one of the great novels of modern times’), fantastically turgid, an all but unreadable version of the versnobter bonkbuster it so unmistakably remains. Had I not been reviewing it, there is no stage at which I would not have stopped reading A Book ...

What does a chicken know of bombs?

David Thomson: A Key to Brando

25 November 2019
The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando 
by William J. Mann.
HarperCollins, 718 pp., £22, November 2019, 978 0 06 242764 9
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... not to mention a pain in the neck. Imagine what it’s like for the writer. Or for Marlon.William Mann does not have the field to himself. There are at least a dozen biographies of Brando, or memoirs that depend on his presence. The weightiest of these is Peter Manso’s, published in 1994, when Brando still had ten years to live. (...

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