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Culture Wars

W.J.T. Mitchell, 23 April 1992

... or representing of war, but the waging of war by means of publicity and representation. Oliver Stone’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 these representations on public discourse. The Kennedy ...

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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... have a history and a context. But this is not the sort of answer we get from either D.M. Thomas or Oliver Stone. 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 this is both’). For ...

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 stubbornly held his ground on the upper slopes of American literary life. Fellowships, prizes, grants and commissions have rarely been in short supply, and his later books – from A Flag for Sunrise to Damascus Gate – have been much admired ...


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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... the Tolstoy or Dickens sense, but it’s not Tom Clancy or Dan Brown either. He’s more like the Oliver Stone of American letters: crass, hectoring but passionately interested – and occasionally touched by genius. Charlotte Simmons resembles a very bad Oliver Stone film. Unfortunately, at 676 pages, it lasts ...

My Kind of Psychopath

Michael Wood, 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 tacked to the fridge. Even in Natural Born Killers, written by Tarantino and directed by Oliver Stone 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 interests Tarantino, it seems, is not violence, but ...


Lorna Scott Fox: Reality in the Aguascalientes, 23 January 1997

... will abandon his job and family to take up arms. The EZLN risks its gravitas when celebrities like Oliver Stone 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 calendar for 1997 with the Thoughts of Sub-comandante ...

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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... of the gap between the public and the private person, American Wife is being contrasted with the Oliver Stone 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 doing more to humanise the Bush administration ...


Christopher Hitchens: On the Original Non-Event , 20 April 1995

... concept. When Richardson writes that ‘the only big-canvas film-maker of stature we have today is Oliver Stone,’ 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 contains a fine John Huston joke: ‘These two ...

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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... students, he droned on about football and Neville Chamberlain, unable to make eye contact. For Oliver Stone, 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 system won’t ...


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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... in his Underworld USA trilogy, a world-view out of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion by way of Oliver Stone. 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 any other male thriller writer. Pete Bondurant, 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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... 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 he is hiding out in his childhood home because his affair ...


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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... 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. Mailer draws up an intimate picture of family ...

El Casino Macabre

James Morone: Rebellion of the Rich, 21 June 2007

Wall Street: A Cultural History 
by Steve Fraser.
Faber, 656 pp., £12.99, April 2006, 0 571 21829 6
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Among Empires: American Ascendancy and Its Predecessors 
by Charles S. Maier.
Harvard, 373 pp., £18.95, May 2006, 0 674 02189 4
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... the fire this time comes in cool, ironic novels like Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities. When Oliver Stone released his satirical movie Wall Street, the business press embraced the slick financial Mephistopheles at the heart of the indictment. ‘Greed is good,’ purrs the villain, Gordon Gekko. Greed might just save that ‘malfunctioning ...

A Salvo for Malawi

Douglas Oliver, 23 June 1994

... 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, a gun,some calico, two red caps, other things,at one-tenth ...

Brief Shining Moments

Christopher Hitchens: Donkey Business in the White House, 19 February 1998

Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65 
by Taylor Branch.
Simon and Schuster, 746 pp., $30, February 1998, 0 684 80819 6
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‘One Hell of a Gamble’: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958-64 
by Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali.
Murray, 416 pp., September 1997, 0 7195 5518 3
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The Dark Side of Camelot 
by Seymour Hersh.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £8.99, February 1998, 9780006530770
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Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson , Bobby Kennedy and the Feud that Defined a Decade 
by Jeff Shesol.
Norton, 591 pp., £23.50, January 1998, 9780393040784
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The Year the Dream Died 
by Jules Witcover.
Warner, 512 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 446 51849 2
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Without Honor: The Impeachment of President Nixon and the Crimes of Camelot 
by Jerry Zeifman.
Thunder's Mouth, 262 pp., $24.95, November 1996, 9781560251286
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The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis 
edited by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow.
Howard, 740 pp., £23.50, September 1997, 0 674 17926 9
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Lyndon B. Johnson’s Vietnam Papers: A Documentary Collection 
edited by David Barrett.
Texas A & M, 906 pp., $94, June 1997, 0 89096 741 5
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Taking Charge: The Johnson Whitehouse Tapes 1963-64 
edited by Michael Beschloss.
Simon and Schuster, 624 pp., £20, April 1998, 0 684 80407 7
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Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes 
edited by Stanley Kutler.
Free Press, 675 pp., $30, November 1997, 0 684 84127 4
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The Other Missiles of October: Eisenhower, Kennedy and the Jupiters, 1957-63 
by Philip Nash.
North Carolina, 231 pp., £34.70, October 1997, 0 8078 4647 3
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... had a contingency plan for withdrawal from Indo-China. He became the house intellectual on the Oliver Stone movie JFK, and his work was much cried up by the Schlesinger school of apologetics. Kennedy might have started the Vietnam War, covertly committed men and resources to the war, argued forcefully for the symbolic importance of the war – but ...

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