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All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides, 24 October 2019

Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... the closest model for a belletrist sans merci was the critic, novelist, and wickedest of wits Mary McCarthy, who told Susan she smiled too much, the telltale mark of a provincial. McCarthy was also reputed to have said to Sontag, ‘I hear you’re the new me,’ and, to others, ‘She’s the imitation me,’ digs ...

Still Superior

Mark Greif: Sex and Susan Sontag, 12 February 2009

Reborn: Early Diaries, 1947-64 
by Susan Sontag, edited by David Rieff.
Hamish Hamilton, 318 pp., £16.99, January 2009, 978 0 241 14431 2
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... misassigned her to the journal’s theatre column, the post that had been held by an unknown Mary McCarthy in the late 1930s. In the diaries Sontag zaps McCarthy’s ‘low-fashion red+blue print suit’ and ‘clubwoman gossip’. An old story has it that when McCarthy met Sontag she ...

Women against Men

Anita Brookner, 2 September 1982

The Golden Notebook 
by Doris Lessing.
Joseph, 638 pp., £9.95, July 1982, 0 7181 0970 8
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... the deaths of Stalin and Beria and the revelations subsequent to their demise, the activities of McCarthy and his witch-hunting senators, the perfection of the H bomb and the proliferation of H-bomb tests, the enormous increase in defence budget spending and the consequent delay in the implementation of health and social reforms, and Einstein’s recognition ...

Back to Reality

David Edgar: Arthur Miller and the Oblong Blur, 18 March 2004

Arthur Miller: A Life 
by Martin Gottfried.
Faber, 484 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 571 21946 2
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... to deliver to its most faithful devotees, Miller wrote The Crucible (1953), an allegory of the McCarthy anti-Communist crusade set in New England during the 17th-century witch hunts, and followed it two years later with A View from the Bridge, a play about informers set among the longshoremen of the Brooklyn waterfront. Already a celebrity, his fame spread ...

Strut like Mutya

Nicole Flattery: Paul Mendez, 22 October 2020

Rainbow Milk 
by Paul Mendez.
Dialogue, 353 pp., £14.99, April, 978 0 349 70059 5
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... of underprivileged teenagers navigating the banlieues of Paris, but it could be straight from Paul Mendez’s first novel, Rainbow Milk, which examines issues of race, class and sexual identity through the prism of millennial culture. About a third of the way through the book, its protagonist, Jesse ...

Terror on the Vineyard

Terry Castle: Boss Ladies, Watch Out!, 15 April 1999

A Likely Story: One Summer with Lillian Hellman 
by Rosemary Mahoney.
Doubleday, 273 pp., $23.95, November 1998, 9780385479318
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... dérangée, translated into English in 1996 as A Disgraceful Affair: Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Bianca Lamblin. While professing to be a kind of perverse tribute, the Lamblin book is actually a morbid recounting of its author’s adolescent love affair with Simone de Beauvoir, who first seduced her then passed her over – with chilling ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: The Salman Rushdie Acid Test, 24 February 1994

... Luther, Spinoza and Tyndale. Still, a phrase keeps recurring to my mind. It comes, bizarrely, from Paul Newman in The Verdict, as he mutters anxiously outside the courtroom: ‘There are no other cases. This is the case.’ By this he plainly means to convey, not that there are no other disputes or dramas or miscarriages of justice, but that this one has ...

Haddock blows his top

Christopher Tayler: Hergé’s Redemption, 7 June 2012

Hergé: The Man who Created Tintin 
by Pierre Assouline, translated by Charles Ruas.
Oxford, 276 pp., £9.99, October 2011, 978 0 19 983727 4
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Hergé, Son of Tintin 
by Benoît Peeters, translated by Tina Kover.
Johns Hopkins, 394 pp., £15.50, November 2011, 978 1 4214 0454 7
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... have much of a personality beyond his narrative function as a goodie. And readers – as Tom McCarthy points out in Tintin and the Secret of Literature – have felt possessive towards the supporting cast from early on.* Captain Haddock, Tintin’s insult-hurling best friend, showed up in 1944 in a vengeful newspaper strip done ‘in the manner of ...

Down with DWEMs

John Sutherland, 15 August 1991

ProfScam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education 
by Charles Sykes.
St Martin’s, 304 pp., $9.95, December 1989, 0 312 03916 6
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Tenured Redicals: How politics has corrupted our Higher Education 
by Roger Kimball.
HarperCollins, 222 pp., $9.95, April 1991, 0 06 092049 1
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... In 1987, readers of the New York Times were further baffled to learn that during the war Paul de Man, a leading exponent of Deconstruction, had written almost two hundred all-too-comprehensible articles for a Nazi newspaper, at least one of which was grossly anti-semitic. Public alarm on the subject was signalled less by the publication of Allan ...

Stifled Truth

Wyatt Mason: Tobias Wolff and fictions of the self, 5 February 2004

Old School 
by Tobias Wolff.
Bloomsbury, 195 pp., £12.99, February 2004, 0 7475 6948 7
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... Postmodern elders such as John Barth, Robert Coover, Guy Davenport, William Gass, Harry Mathews, Paul Metcalf, Gilbert Sorrentino, Ronald Sukenick and Paul West, as well as their heirs, such as T. Coraghessan Boyle, Lydia Davis, Rick Moody, William Vollmann and David Foster Wallace. None of these writers – however ...

A bout de Bogart

Jenny Diski, 19 May 2011

Tough without a Gun: The Extraordinary Life of Humphrey Bogart 
by Stefan Kanfer.
Faber, 288 pp., £14.99, February 2011, 978 0 571 26072 0
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... plain to downright ugly, if you don’t count Glen Ford or Dana Andrews (who weren’t exactly Paul Newman or Montgomery Clift themselves). My generation have Cahiers du cinéma, Godard and Truffaut to thank for the earlier generation of movie stars we might have overlooked. More fundamentally, we have to thank Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, who ...

It isn’t your home

Toril Moi: Sarraute gets her due, 10 September 2020

Nathalie Sarraute: A Life Between 
by Ann Jefferson.
Princeton, 425 pp., £34, August, 978 0 691 19787 6
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... as Finnegans Wake), as well as early texts by Samuel Beckett, Kay Boyle, H.D., Laura Riding and Paul Bowles. Sarraute found a kindred spirit in Jolas, someone who shared her own aesthetic sensibilities. She would remain a lifelong friend, and later became Sarraute’s translator. Jolas and her friends must have inspired Sarraute, for although she wrote ...

Big Pod

Richard Poirier: How Podhoretz Dumped His Friends, 2 September 1999

Ex-Friends 
by Norman Podhoretz.
Free Press, 256 pp., $25, February 1999, 0 684 85594 1
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... to find in her posthumously published correspondence that in letters to her dear friend Mary McCarthy – known to her New York associates as ‘our leading bitch intellectual’ – she gives the impression that she shares McCarthy’s resentful and dismissive view of Podhoretz. ...

A Short History of the Trump Family

Sidney Blumenthal: The First Family, 16 February 2017

... racketeers. There was Anthony ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime family, and Paul ‘Big Paulie’ Castellano, boss of the Gambino crime family, who owned the company that provided the ready-mix cement for Trump Tower, used in place of the usual steel girders. There was John Cody, the boss of Teamsters Local 282, who controlled the cement ...

Even if I married a whole harem of women I’d still act like a bachelor

Elaine Showalter: Isaac Bashevis Singer, 17 September 1998

Shadows on the Hudson 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated by Joseph Sherman.
Hamish Hamilton, 560 pp., £16.99, June 1998, 0 241 13940 6
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Isaac Bashevis Singer: A Life 
by Janice Hadda.
Oxford, 254 pp., £22.50, February 1998, 0 19 508420 9
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... his Yiddish-speaking audience directly, he is revealed as being somewhat to the right of Senator McCarthy. Perhaps that is why he thought it prudent to consign his text to the shadowlands.’ For Alfred Kazin it was a matter of social camouflage: Singer didn’t want his English-speaking Jewish audience to know how he had caricatured them in the novel. In ...

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