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A Conversation with Gore Vidal

Thomas Powers: Meeting Gore Vidal, 30 July 2014

... liked them very much, but still didn’t know why Wilson had been fired by the New Republic. Michael Straight was his sister’s husband – can that be right? the chains of relation are sometimes bewildering in Vidal’s world, where literally everybody seems to know everybody – but when Vidal had asked him, Straight simply said: ‘Well, he ...

In Memory of Michael Rogin

Stephen Greenblatt, 3 January 2002

... isn’t true, at least not for me. I have had other deaths, but the death last month of my friend Michael Rogin was a shock. It’s not that we had, in recent years, spent much time together. I left Berkeley, where we taught together on the faculty of the University of California, in the mid-1990s, and almost immediately lost touch with most of my network of ...

Daddy’s Boy

Michael Ignatieff, 22 December 1983

The Shoemaker: Anatomy of a Psychotic 
by Flora Rheta Schreiber.
Allen Lane, 432 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 7139 1636 2
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... 38-year-old shoemaker from Philadelphia was finally arrested in 1975, he and his 14-year-old son Michael had murdered and then castrated a little Puerto Rican boy, José Collazo, whom they happened to meet on the street; they had tied another of Joe’s sons, Joey, to a ladder and watched him drown in a pool of water on an abandoned building site; they had ...

Don’t you care?

Michael Wood: Richard Powers, 22 February 2007

The Echo Maker 
by Richard Powers.
Heinemann, 451 pp., £17.99, January 2007, 978 0 434 01633 4
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... Just doing their job. There aren’t too many significant resemblances between Pynchon and Richard PowersPowers’s imagination is deeply invested in the local and in Pynchon the local is always about to become something else – but the passage about the Line and the Good finds an interesting and no doubt unintended ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Rebecca’, 20 July 2006

Rebecca 
directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
June 2006
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... the way was barred to me. Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden with supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me . . . On and on wound the poor thread that had once been our drive.’ But of course in the film we see what she is talking about, and it isn’t a dream at all, it’s a shifting picture of a dark ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Spider-Man 3’, 24 May 2007

Spider-Man 3 
directed by Sam Raimi.
May 2007
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... quite believe. Pieces of plot float in from nowhere, supernatural characters develop new sets of powers in mid-scene, all the most soppy and obvious scenes are played as if they were Ibsen and all the jokes have been replaced by weary memories of what the movies used to be like – what the two previous Spider-Man movies were like, I mean. American critics ...

Unaccommodated Man

Christopher Tayler: Adventures with Robert Stone, 18 March 2004

Bay of Souls 
by Robert Stone.
Picador, 250 pp., £16.99, February 2004, 0 330 41894 7
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... but without it life would be meaningless as well. Or so the characters come to suspect. Michael Ahearn, the leading man of Stone’s new novel, Bay of Souls, starts out as one of these worldly protagonists. Quietly dissatisfied, fond of the bottle but sustained by the unexamined vestiges of Catholic faith, he teaches American literature in a sterile ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Shape of Water’, 22 March 2018

... but all that seems to happen in this line is that the agent, Richard Strickland, played by Michael Shannon with fabulously nasty relish, tortures him with a cattle prod – and loses two fingers in the process. The creature is referred to as ‘the asset’, indeed ‘the most sensitive asset’ the facility has entertained, but this is wishful ...

War within wars

Paul Addison, 5 November 1992

War, Strategy and International Politics: Essays in Honour of Sir Michael Howard 
edited by Lawrence Freedman, Paul Hayes and Robert O’Neill.
Oxford, 322 pp., £35, July 1992, 0 19 822292 0
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... As he looks forward to his 70th birthday Sir Michael Howard can also look back over a distinguished career which began with Wellington, Christ Church and the Coldstream Guards. In 1943, as Lieutenant Howard, fresh from the University, he led his platoon in a dangerous uphill charge against a German position north of Salerno ...

Warfield

José Harris, 24 July 1986

Wallis and Edward: Letters 1931-1937 
edited by Michael Bloch.
Weidenfeld, 308 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 297 78804 3
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Rat Week: An Essay on the Abdication 
by Osbert Sitwell.
Joseph, 78 pp., £7.95, May 1986, 0 7181 1859 6
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... a mediocre character of limited intelligence and scant scruple, remarkable only for his gigantic powers of self-deception. But no amount of academic documentation is likely to dissuade people a hundred years hence from seeing him as the very mirror of a tragic prince – an ikon of modern royalty as exemplified by Sickert’s dazzling portrait painted, at ...

Who speaks for the state?

Frederick Wilmot-Smith: Brexit in Court, 1 December 2016

... under the royal prerogative. In an influential statement of the principle of the separation of powers, Montesquieu wrote that ‘when the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person … there can be no liberty.’ The United Kingdom’s commitment to this ideal has never been wholehearted – Walter ...

Judges and Ministers

Anthony Lester, 18 April 1996

... law, by interfering with judicial independence? Is the Government minded to hobble the judges’ powers to review the way in which ministers and other public officers exercise their powers? Should British courts be given greater powers to remedy breaches of basic human rights and ...

The Art of Arno Schmidt

Michael Irwin, 2 October 1980

Evening Edged in Gold 
by Arno Schmidt.
Marion Boyars, 215 pp., £60, September 1980, 9780714527192
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Confessions of a Lady-Killer 
by George Stade.
Muller, 374 pp., £6.95, September 1980, 0 584 31057 9
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Seahorse 
by Graham Petrie.
Constable, 169 pp., £5.95, August 1980, 0 09 463710 5
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... by an ascetic 20-year-old girl named Ann‘Ev’, who appears to be a visionary with supernatural powers. Her two henchmen are the Bastard Marwenne, a giant, physically and priapically, and a sketchily-drawn trickster named Egg. The householders are fascinated and appalled by the anties of their visitors. Least influenced of the six is Major Fohrbach, a ...

Death of the Hero

Michael Howard, 7 January 1988

The Mask of Command 
by John Keegan.
Cape, 366 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 9780224019491
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... social analysis. Increasingly they have been tilting towards the latter, but it is his descriptive powers as a historian which will continue to hold the attention – as in The Mask of Command. This book is intended as a complement to The Face of Battle, a brilliant work in which Keegan tried to analyse, through three case-studies, what really happens when ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Pandora’s Box’, 21 June 2018

... number. This is the one moment in the work where she does seem to be a femme fatale. She has her powers of enchantment, and she uses them. But for every irresistible person there is someone failing to resist, and the arrogant, monocled lover is almost likeable here, a victim of desire rather than the pompous preacher he otherwise is. Now he decides he has to ...

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