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Apollo’s Ethylene

Peter Green: Delphi

2 July 2014
Delphi: A History of the Centre of the Ancient World 
by Michael Scott.
Princeton, 422 pp., £19.95, February 2014, 978 0 691 15081 9
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... the idea of the Delphic Oracle as a clever political scam, run by cynical realists as a financially profitable business, is very much flourishing. The fashionable term for this operation – which MichaelScott in his new study mentions approvingly more than once – is ‘management consultancy’. In other words, the religious element has been, as far as possible, leached out of the concept. Since ...

Dream Leaps

Tessa Hadley: Alice Munro

25 January 2007
The View from Castle Rock 
by Alice Munro.
Chatto, 349 pp., £15.99, November 2006, 0 7011 7989 9
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... its poverty and inaccessibility, conferring all kinds of advantages on those who belong to it. Shepherds were supposed to have hunted down and murdered Merlin in these woods; the valley was home to MichaelScott, a wizard who appears in Dante’s Inferno. The area was in unruly border country, and it is also on the spine of Scotland, where the waters divide to flow west or east. James Laidlaw’s ...

Cooking it up

Rupert Christiansen

19 January 1989
Maria: Callas Remembered 
by Nadia Stancioff.
Sidgwick, 264 pp., £13.95, April 1988, 0 283 99645 5
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Callas at Juilliard: The Master Classes 
by John Ardoin.
Robson, 300 pp., £16.95, April 1988, 0 86051 504 4
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Callas as they saw her 
edited by David Lowe.
Robson, 264 pp., £6.95, April 1988, 9780860514961
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The Great Caruso 
by Michael Scott.
Hamish Hamilton, 322 pp., £16.95, June 1988, 0 241 11954 5
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Chaliapin 
by Victor Borovsky.
Hamish Hamilton, 630 pp., £25, April 1988, 0 241 12254 6
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... Melba, for instance – now sound faintly ridiculous to the untutored ear. But Caruso is still effortlessly modern, the unsurpassed role model of any tenor who signs the Italian repertory. A third of MichaelScott’s decent but pedestrian biography is taken up with a discography and chronology; the other two thirds follow the familiar story down the familiar path – of the 18th child of poor Neapolitan ...

The Stamp of One Defect

David Edgar: Jeremy Thorpe

29 July 2015
Jeremy Thorpe 
by Michael​ Bloch.
Little, Brown, 606 pp., £25, December 2014, 978 0 316 85685 0
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Closet Queens: Some 20th-Century British Politicians 
by Michael​ Bloch.
Little, Brown, 320 pp., £25, May 2015, 978 1 4087 0412 7
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... after Thorpe’s death on 4 December 2014, the BBC journalist Tom Mangold presented a half-hour radio documentary about the other side of Thorpe’s life, his affair with a stable groom called Norman Scott in the early 1960s, when homosexuality was still illegal, which eventually led Thorpe to the dock of the Old Bailey, charged with conspiracy to murder. For Mangold, the important thing about Thorpe ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: The gangster movie

13 December 2007
American Gangster 
directed by Ridley Scott.
November 2007
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... Ridley Scott is always a director to watch. This proposition includes watching for things to avoid, especially when he goes for history and costume, as in 1492 and The Kingdom of Heaven. But there were also The ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: ‘Prometheus’

5 July 2012
Prometheus 
directed by Ridley Scott.
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... Ridley Scott says his new film, Prometheus, is not a prequel to his 1979 Alien. It just has ‘certain strands of Alien’s DNA, so to speak’. Fans of the first movie and its recurring avatars have been worried ...
18 April 1996
Scott​ Inquiry Report 
by Richard Scott.
HMSO, 2386 pp., £45, February 1996, 0 10 262796 7
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... The most remarkable aspect of the Scott Report is its simplicity. The famous length and the differing interpretations to which it has been subjected since its publication suggest a learned and complex treatise full of ambiguity and complex ...

Erratic Star

Michael​ Foot

11 May 1995
Moral Desperado: A Life of Thomas Carlyle 
by Simon Heffer.
Orion, 420 pp., £20, March 1995, 0 297 81564 4
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... the writers who had carried the reputation of English literature across the continent of Europe, Swift, Milton and Byron. Grierson had a special title to speak about Scotland. Another lecture, on ‘Scott and Carlyle’, begins: ‘The lives of the three greatest of Scottish imaginative writers – Burns, Scott and Carlyle – overlapped in an interesting and, for each successor, an influential manner ...

The Thing

Michael​ Wood: Versions of Proust

6 January 2005
In Search of Lost Time: Vol. I: The Way by Swann’s 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Lydia Davis.
Penguin, 496 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118031 5
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol.II: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by James Grieve.
Penguin, 576 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118032 3
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. III: The Guermantes Way 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Mark Treharne.
Penguin, 640 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118033 1
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. IV: Sodom and Gomorrah 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by John Sturrock.
Penguin, 576 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 9780141180342
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. V: ‘The Prisoner’ and ‘The Fugitive’ 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Carol Clark and Peter Collier.
Penguin, 720 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118035 8
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. VI: Finding Time Again 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Ian Patterson.
Penguin, 400 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118036 6
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The Proust Project 
edited by André Aciman.
Farrar, Straus, 224 pp., $25, November 2004, 0 374 23832 4
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... and at one point implies that almost anything may be paradise if it keeps us out. The life of the Duchess of Guermantes, the narrator says, ‘appeared to me to be a paradise I would never enter’. Scott Moncrieff, the earlier and best-known translator of Proust, is in this case quite literal about the famous sentence, and gives us ‘the true paradises are the paradises that we have lost ...

Wonder

Michael​ Wood

10 November 1994
The Love of the Last Tycoon: A Western 
by F. Scott​ Fitzgerald, edited by Matthew Bruccoli.
Cambridge, 352 pp., £30, June 1994, 9780521402316
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The Great Gatsby 
by F. Scott​ Fitzgerald, edited by Matthew Bruccoli.
Cambridge, 225 pp., £27.95, October 1991, 0 521 40230 1
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Scott​ Fitzgerald: A Biography 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Macmillan, 400 pp., £17.50, June 1994, 0 333 59935 7
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... from his mother.’ All his absurd behaviour? When Fitzgerald, anxious to meet Conrad, whom he greatly admires, gets drunk and dances on the lawn, it doesn’t seem quite enough to say that ‘Scott did not seem to realise that a drunken dance was not the best way to impress the formal old sea captain.’ I have no independent information about this event but I’m prepared to bet Fitzgerald got ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: ‘The Taking of Pelham One Two Three’

6 August 2009
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three 
directed by Tony Scott.
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... to mind, but this one makes us want to rethink Grease entirely, and maybe the whole genre of the musical. This is a heist movie, but the caper itself gets a little blurred, because the director, Tony Scott, is not very interested in the planning or execution of crime, only in the psychodrama of criminality, and its counterpointing with the travails of the good man, in this case Denzel Washington ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: ‘Milk’

1 January 2009
... as a form of punctuation of his story. It’s very musically done, a refrain that keeps returning just when you feel you need a reminder of the timeframe. Now we move back to 1970, when Milk picks up Scott Smith (James Franco – last seen, by me at least, in the Spider-Man movies) in the New York subway, finds himself in a lasting relationship, comes out of the closet and moves to California, shedding ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: ‘The Martian’

21 October 2015
The Martian 
directed by Ridley Scott.
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... longer than most of us can remember; but when did we invade them? Or when did we become certain that there were no Martians to invade or be invaded by? The time setting of the story told by Ridley Scott’s The Martian is scrupulously unmentioned in the film or in the Andy Weir book it is based on, but nerdy fans have figured it out from internal evidence centring on the astral timing of ...

At the Movies

Michael​ Wood: ‘Swing Time’

4 April 2019
... Time); and there are the differences among Irving Berlin (Top Hat), Jerome Kern (Swing Time) and George Gershwin (Shall We Dance) as composers. There is some amazing dialogue (in this case by Allan Scott and Ernest Pagano – Allan Scott is credited on all three movies): ‘What are the grounds for divorce in New Jersey?’ ‘Marriage’; ‘To tell you the truth, I don’t know you well enough to ...
13 May 1993
Changing Faces: The History of the ‘Guardian’, 1956-88 
by Geoffrey Taylor.
Fourth Estate, 352 pp., £20, March 1993, 1 85702 100 2
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... that one of my future colleagues pinned his bus-tickets to his expenses sheets. But just how hard-up it was was mercifully unknown to me. Above all, I did not know that the company chairman, Laurance Scott – a Scott of Scotts and therefore a man who could be assumed to be committed to the idea of C.P. Scott’s Manchester Guardian – had effectively lost faith in the paper’s ability to survive ...

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