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Torches for Superman

Raymond Williams

21 November 1985
By the Open Sea 
by August Strindberg, translated by Mary Sandbach.
Secker, 193 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 436 50008 6
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August Strindberg 
by Olof Lagercrantz, translated by Anselm Hollo.
Faber, 399 pp., £20, September 1984, 0 571 11812 7
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Strindberg: A Biography 
by Michael Meyer.
Secker, 651 pp., £25, October 1985, 0 436 27852 9
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... the jump from psyche to art characteristically omits: he also takes the diversity of the art into the historical and social circumstances within which many of its impulses and problems were formed. MichaelMeyer’s long and interesting biography has much less of this quality, though its sustained narrative offers a good deal of the information. At its centre is an understandable emphasis on Strindberg ...

Excellence

Patrick Wright

21 May 1987
Creating excellence: Managing corporate culture, strategy and change in the New Age 
by Craig Hickman and Michael​ Silva.
Allen and Unwin, 305 pp., £12.50, April 1985, 0 04 658252 5
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Intrapreneuring: Why you don’t have to leave the corporation to become an entrepreneur 
by Gifford Pinchot.
Harper and Row, 368 pp., £15.95, August 1985, 0 06 015305 9
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The IBM Way: Insights into the World’s Most Successful Marketing Organisation 
by Buck Rodgers.
Harper and Row, 224 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 06 015522 1
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Innovation: The Attacker’s Advantage 
by Richard Foster.
Macmillan, 316 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 333 43511 7
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Ford 
by Robert Lacey.
Heinemann, 778 pp., £15, July 1986, 0 434 40192 7
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Company of Adventurers: The Story of the Hudson’s Bay Company 
by Peter Newman.
Viking, 413 pp., £14.95, March 1986, 0 670 80379 0
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Augustine’s Laws 
by Norman Augustine.
Viking, 380 pp., £12.95, July 1986, 9780670809424
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Peak Performers: The New Heroes in Business 
by Charles Garfield.
Hutchinson, 333 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 09 167391 7
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Going for it: How to Succeed as an Entrepreneur 
by Victor Kiam.
Collins, 223 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 00 217603 3
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Take a chance to be first: The Secrets of Entrepreneurial Success 
by Warren Avis.
Macmillan, 222 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 02 504410 9
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The Winning Streak 
by Walter Goldsmith and David Clutterbuck.
Weidenfeld/Penguin, 224 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 297 78469 2
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The Roots of Excellence 
by Ronnie Lessem.
Fontana, 318 pp., £3.95, December 1985, 0 00 636874 3
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The New Management of Local Government 
by John Stewart.
Allen and Unwin, 208 pp., £20, October 1986, 0 00 435232 7
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... Bryan Carsberg of Oftel smiles up in soft brown light as he dangles in the mirror on a green office wall. MichaelMeyer of Emess Lighting is dissected by the blinds that cut across him and then reassembled from outside – his shirtsleeved figure looming like a target in the formulaic eye of some Hollywood assassin ...

Deal of the Century

David Thomson: As Ovitz Tells It

7 March 2019
Who Is Michael​ Ovitz? 
by Michael​ Ovitz.
W.H. Allen, 372 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 0 7535 5336 7
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... By my count​ , of the 37 photographs of Michael Ovitz in this book there are 19 in which his mouth stays shut – while he’s smiling. That isn’t intended as a hostile remark. His mouth stayed closed when he smiled because he was concentrating ...

Living the Life

Andrew O’Hagan

5 October 2016
Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency 
by James Andrew Miller.
Custom House, 703 pp., £20, August 2016, 978 0 06 244137 9
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... with obvious charm, a backslapper, an arse-kisser, a tower of obstinacy, and someone who prided himself on seeing every client as a unique cause. ‘When I was at William Morris,’ the agent Ron Meyer says, ‘you felt that you were working for the Pentagon.’ They represented everything except the need for change. ‘There were all these cronies sitting on the second floor,’ Michael Ovitz adds ...

Sashimi with a Side of Fries

Adam Thirlwell: Michael​ Chabon

16 August 2007
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union 
by Michael​ Chabon.
Fourth Estate, 414 pp., £17.99, June 2007, 978 0 00 715039 7
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... This is a miniature dictionary of the invented English in The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon’s charming, flawed and exhausting new novel: bik (Yiddish: bull) – doormanlatke (Yiddish: potato cake) – 1. police cap 2. policemannoz (Yiddish: nose) – policemanshammes (Yiddish ...

The Second Resolution Question

Owen Bennett-Jones: Post-Invasion Iraq

31 May 2017
Iraq: The Cost of War 
by Jeremy Greenstock.
Heinemann, 467 pp., £25, November 2016, 978 1 78515 125 5
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... memoir would never have been given a job in the first place because no one would want to discuss things openly with them. But Straw had a difficulty. The UK ambassador in Washington, Christopher Meyer, had already published a memoir, DC Confidential, which also dealt with the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. If Meyer had been allowed to publish on what grounds could Greenstock be stopped? Straw’s ...
5 September 1996
Thomas Mann: Eros and Literature 
by Anthony Heilbut.
Macmillan, 636 pp., £20, June 1996, 9780394556338
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Thomas Mann: A Biography 
by Ronald Hayman.
Bloomsbury, 672 pp., £20, March 1996, 0 7475 2531 5
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Thomas Mann: A Life 
by Donald Prater.
Oxford, 554 pp., £20, September 1995, 0 19 815861 0
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... their genius, but for his two sisters, Julia and Carla, it offered instability and self-destruction: they both committed suicide, Carla in 1910, Julia in 1927, just as two of Mann’s sons, Klaus and Michael, would commit suicide.) ‘At an early age,’ Katia Mann wrote of her mother-in-law, ‘the foreign girl married Senator or Consul Heinrich Mann. She had definite artistic talents, played the piano ...

Large and Rolling

Penelope Fitzgerald

31 July 1997
The Scholar Gypsy: The Quest for a Family Secret 
by Anthony Sampson.
Murray, 229 pp., £16, May 1997, 0 7195 5708 9
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... Grammarian’s Funeral’: ‘Leave him still loftier than the world suspects.’ Afterwards there was a tremendous blow-out, complete with wines and cigars, at the White Lion in Cerrigydrudion. But Michael Sampson, Anthony’s father, who had scattered the ashes nine times over the mountain, looks cold and ill at ease in the faded press photographs. And the Rai’s widow was not present. Soon ...
5 May 1988
... has, in fact, corroborated me in my work from the very beginning. In 1965, he praised in forthright terms a pamphlet of mine, published in Belfast as part of a series that included Seamus Deane, Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, Stewart Parker, James Simmons, and several other Northern Irish poets whose voices were beginning to raise themselves in the mid-Sixties. To hear John Carey now, almost a ...

Steamy, Seamy

David Margolick: The Mob’s Cuban Kleptocracy

20 March 2008
The Havana Mob: Gangsters, Gamblers, Showgirls and Revolutionaries in 1950s Cuba 
by T.J. English.
Mainstream, 400 pp., £17.99, September 2007, 978 1 84596 192 3
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... tropical suits or mambo dancers or gangsters or gamblers. Or we remember them from The Godfather II – on the balcony of one, Hyman Roth slices up a birthday cake with a frosting map of Cuba as Michael Corleone and other Mob chieftains look on – or from the classic Soviet-era agitprop film I Am Cuba, in which rich Americans frolic around rooftop swimming-pools. Meantime, a few storeys below, a ...

Not My Fault

John Lanchester: New Labour’s Terrible Memoirs

17 July 2008
Speaking for Myself: The Autobiography 
by Cherie Blair.
Little, Brown, 421 pp., £18.99, May 2008, 978 1 4087 0098 3
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Prezza, My Story: Pulling No Punches 
by John Prescott, with Hunter Davies.
Headline, 405 pp., £18.99, May 2008, 978 0 7553 1775 2
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A Question of Honour: Inside New Labour and the True Story of the Cash for Peerages Scandal 
by Michael​ Levy.
Simon and Schuster, 310 pp., £18.99, May 2008, 978 1 84737 315 1
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... of its central figures, David Blunkett and Alastair Campbell, and from a spin-doctor hanger-on (Lance Price); a memoir by its most senior diplomat, the former ambassador to Washington Sir Christopher Meyer; and now memoirs by the former prime minister’s wife, his deputy and his bagman. The granddaddy of them all, Blair’s own memoirs, are still to come. It is an unprecedented cascade of memoirs by ...

Voices

Seamus Deane

21 April 1983
The Pleasures of Gaelic Poetry 
edited by Sean Mac Reamoinn.
Allen Lane, 272 pp., £8.95, November 1982, 0 7139 1284 7
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... an intervening summer season – such is the impression gained from these essays on the pristine vigours and inbred sophistications of Irish literature. One of the most telling essays is written by Michael Hartnett, who, some years ago, switched from writing poetry in English to writing in Irish. Hartnett confesses himself to be ‘obsessed by the work and mind of Daibhi O Bruadair’ (David Broderick ...
3 April 1986
The Anatomy of Madness: Essays in the History of Psychiatry Vol. I: People and Ideas, Vol. II: Institutions and Society 
edited by W.F. Bynum, Roy Porter and Michael​ Shepherd.
Tavistock, 316 pp., £19.95, November 1985, 0 422 79430 9
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Madness, Morality and Medicine: A Study of the York Retreat 1796-1914 
by Anne Digby.
Cambridge, 323 pp., £27.50, October 1985, 0 521 26067 1
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... saw the identification of a number of organically-based mental diseases, while the early 20th century saw the development of a scientific psychological medicine, informed by the writings of both Meyer and Freud, which could integrate non-organic factors into the aetiological picture of the various conditions. More recently, the development of ECT and the post-war chemotherapy revolution have made ...

Concierge

John Lanchester

16 November 1995
Sons of Ezra: British Poets and Ezra Pound 
edited by Michael​ Alexander and James McGonigal.
Rodopi, 183 pp., $23.50, July 1995, 90 5183 840 9
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‘In Solitude, for Company’: W.H. Auden after 1940 
edited by Katherine Bucknell and Nicholas Jenkins.
Oxford, 338 pp., £40, November 1995, 0 19 818294 5
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Auden 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Heinemann, 406 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 434 17507 2
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Wystan and Chester: A Personal Memoir of W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman 
by Thekla Clark.
Faber, 130 pp., £12.99, October 1995, 0 571 17591 0
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... talents in mid-career (Charles Tomlinson, Douglas Dunn) to new Best of Young British megastars (W.N. Herbert, Robert Crawford). But the fact relevant to Pound’s current standing is the one in Michael Alexander and James McGonigal’s Introduction: Sons of Ezra could not find a British publisher. Pounds have always been a dodgy stock, of course, but still ... Audens, on the other hand, have long ...

Where am I in all this?

Michael​ Newton: Pola Negri

19 February 2015
Pola Negri: Hollywood’s First Femme Fatale 
by Mariusz Kotowski.
Kentucky, 322 pp., £29.95, April 2014, 978 0 8131 4488 7
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... great theatre producer and director, for a leading role in his forthcoming Orientalist pantomime, Sumurun. One of the other actors in the piece was Lubitsch, then best known for his comic creation Meyer, an Alexanderplatz cousin to Charlie Chaplin’s tramp. Negri had already made a number of one and two-reel films in Warsaw; Lubitsch invited her to perform in a couple of full-length movies – Die ...

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