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Culture Wars

W.J.T. Mitchell

23 April 1992
... for Americans who watch television news, 1991 was a year of war and publicity – not just the publicising or representing of war, but the waging of war by means of publicity and representation. OliverStone’s JFK is the perfect cinematic coda to such a year. I want to compare two melodramatic scenarios that captured the imagination of American spectators in 1991, and to analyse the impact of ...

There’s Daddy

Michael Wood

13 February 1992
Flying in to Love 
by D.M. Thomas.
Bloomsbury, 262 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 7475 1129 2
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directed by Oliver Stone.
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... them by himself; and we are entitled to ask why his mentality should not, like everyone else’s, have a history and a context. But this is not the sort of answer we get from either D.M. Thomas or OliverStone. Their suggestion is simpler. There is no paranoia, or paranoia is everywhere. For Thomas, this means anything goes (‘since fiction is a kind of dream, and history is a kind of dream, and ...

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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... Robert Stone was born in August 1937, nine months after Don DeLillo and three – we’re told – after Thomas Pynchon. Dog Soldiers, his second novel, made his name in the mid-1970s, and since then he has ...


Theo Tait: Tom Wolfe’s Bloody Awful Novel

6 January 2005
I am Charlotte Simmons 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 676 pp., £20, November 2004, 0 224 07486 5
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... broad-brush satirist, a set-piece artist with a terrific ear. Perhaps it’s not literature, in the Tolstoy or Dickens sense, but it’s not Tom Clancy or Dan Brown either. He’s more like the OliverStone of American letters: crass, hectoring but passionately interested – and occasionally touched by genius. Charlotte Simmons resembles a very bad OliverStone film. Unfortunately, at 676 pages ...
20 July 1995
Pulp Fiction 
by Quentin Tarantino.
Faber, 198 pp., £7.99, October 1994, 0 571 17546 5
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Reservoir Dogs 
by Quentin Tarantino.
Faber, 113 pp., £7.99, November 1994, 0 571 17362 4
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True Romance 
by Quentin Tarantino.
Faber, 134 pp., £7.99, January 1995, 0 571 17593 7
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Natural Born Killers 
by Quentin Tarantino.
Faber, 175 pp., £7.99, July 1995, 0 571 17617 8
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... After the Mafia men torture and kill an ex-cop in True Romance, they discover the information they were after tacked to the fridge. Even in Natural Born Killers, written by Tarantino and directed by OliverStone in 1994, which is by far the most brutal of these movies, the violence mainly suggests that everyone and everything is out of control, that no rules apply, and chaos is come again. What ...


Lorna Scott Fox: Reality in the Aguascalientes

23 January 1997
... underlying doom. The ‘Governor’ is a bit of a joke, but when relieved from symbolic office, he will abandon his job and family to take up arms. The EZLN risks its gravitas when celebrities like OliverStone queue up to visit Marcos; humourlessry the Government had Nixon pulled from the cinemas. There’s nothing cornier than the foreigners’ congas in the Oventic Aguascalientes, or the EZLN ...

All I Did Was Marry Him

Elaine Showalter: Laura Bush’s Other Life

6 November 2008
American Wife 
by Curtis Sittenfeld.
Doubleday, 558 pp., £11.99, October 2008, 978 0 385 61674 4
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... and hot), its willingness to leave ethical issues open to interpretation, and its warnings of the gap between the public and the private person, American Wife is being contrasted with the OliverStone movie, W., in which Bush is portrayed by Josh Brolin as a drunken buffoon who turns his life around, becoming a sober, powerful and born-again buffoon. Sittenfeld, a Democrat and a liberal, may be ...

Subject, Spectator, Phantom

J. Hoberman: The Strangest Personality Ever to Lead the Free World

17 February 2005
Nixon at the Movies: A Book about Belief 
by Mark Feeney.
Chicago, 422 pp., £19.50, November 2004, 0 226 23968 3
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... president’s befuddled appearance and possibly alcohol-sodden sentimentality: surrounded by bewildered students, he droned on about football and Neville Chamberlain, unable to make eye contact. For OliverStone, who dramatised the event in his clumsy 1995 biopic, this was the moment Nixon received the revelation of what Stone called ‘the Beast’: even though he, the president, may want peace, the ...

Belfryful of Bells

Theo Tait: John Banville

19 November 2015
The Blue Guitar 
by John Banville.
Viking, 250 pp., £14.99, September 2015, 978 0 241 00432 6
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... lack of ordinary human sentiment’. The ratio of reverie to dramatic incident will be unusually high, though there may well be a sudden flurry of events near the end. In The Blue Guitar our man is Oliver Orme. He ‘used to be a painter’ but he gave it up. (In a taste of strained puns to come, he says: ‘Ha! The word I wrote down first, instead of painter, was painster.’) When we first meet him ...


Christopher Hitchens: On the Original Non-Event

20 April 1995
... from a script. Now John H. Richardson, a writer for Premiere magazine, has updated the Kael concept. When Richardson writes that ‘the only big-canvas film-maker of stature we have today is OliverStone,’ he meant it to sting. His essay is full of good lines. (A Hollywood publicist tells him that when he goes out to push a new movie, he feels ‘like the emperor’s new dry cleaner’.) It also ...


Will Self: James Ellroy

2 December 2010
The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women 
by James Ellroy.
Heinemann, 203 pp., £16.99, September 2010, 978 0 434 02064 5
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... dizzied by its contemplation of the eccentric orrery of orbiting conspiracies that Ellroy concocted in his Underworld USA trilogy, a world-view out of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion by way of OliverStone. Ellroy would have us believe that his intention all along has been to expose misogynistic men for what they are, and yet ultimately his characterisations revert to the same type as those of ...

Picture in Little

Charles Nicholl: Hilliard’s Trajectory

9 December 2019
Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist 
by Elizabeth Goldring.
Yale, 337 pp., £40, February, 978 0 300 24142 6
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... such lucidity of detail – ‘the heads and beards are so well perform’d that almost each single hair is express’d’. Later in the century, Horace Walpole pored over a miniature by Isaac Oliver – Hilliard’s brilliant French-born pupil – and found that ‘the largest magnifying glass only calls out new beauties.’The​ 400th anniversary of Hilliard’s death this year has been marked ...

How to Survive Your Own Stupidity

Andrew O’Hagan: Homage to Laurel and Hardy

22 August 2002
Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy 
by Simon Louvish.
Faber, 518 pp., £8.99, September 2002, 0 571 21590 4
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... Laurel and Hardy: The British Tours (1993), one of their fans, A.J. Marriot, writes of the great surge of people that filled Central Station: It was then that, owing to the pressure of numbers, the stone balustrade skirting the wall of the hotel collapsed onto the pavement. The falling masonry bowled over several onlookers but, luckily, formed in a heap which then prevented others from falling into ...


Andrew O’Hagan

14 December 1995
Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 791 pp., £25, September 1995, 0 316 87620 8
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... decided he could stay, but he remained under KGB surveillance and was moved to Minsk, to work in a radio factory. Minsk in the late Fifties looked quite new: its stately apartment buildings of yellow stone, its wide avenues, were all built on top of the earlier Minsk, which had been destroyed by the Germans twice – once when they came in, and again when they retreated back to Poland three years later ...

A Salvo for Malawi

Douglas Oliver

23 June 1994
... racial attacks in Englandand Wales doubled in five years,firebombings, knife attacks, killings.‘Many black Britonsmight eagerly return to their countries.’And we meet on a bush trackmarked with stone spikes.I doff my hat to the futureas the natives doff their hats to meeven at a thousand yards’ distance.The Shire Highlands are ours by treatystolen from Nyasa tribes illiteratein our law: price ...

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