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Only a Hop and a Skip to Money

James Buchan: Gold, 16 November 2000

The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession 
by Peter Bernstein.
Wiley, 432 pp., £17.99, October 2000, 0 471 25210 7
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... add: ‘Why did gold become money in the first place?’ Or: ‘Will gold ever be money again?’ Peter Bernstein’s history of gold as money is very much better at answering the first question than the other two. Pecuniary anthropology is very, very perilous. In the absence of evidence, both Aristotle and Adam Smith made implausible conjectures about ...

Bernstein and Blitzstein

David Drew, 22 November 1990

Leonard Bernstein 
by Joan Peyser.
Bantam, 430 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 593 01454 5
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Leonard Bernstein 
by Michael Freedland.
Harrap, 273 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 245 54499 2
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Leonard Bernstein 
by Peter Gradenwitz.
Berg, 310 pp., £15, October 1987, 0 85496 510 6
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Make the music: The Life and Work of Marc Blitzstein 
by Eric Gordon.
St Martin’s, 605 pp., $29.95, March 1989, 0 312 02607 2
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... to further the cause of demonstratively ‘candid’ obituaries. On the contrary, it seemed that Bernstein’s polyphonic assaults on the accepted canons of respectability were not at this moment to be held against him; that his contributions to music in the past half-century were justly honoured; and that for the most part he was not gravely ...

Forty-Eighters

Peter Pulzer, 4 September 1986

Little Germany: Exile and Asylum in Victorian England 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Oxford, 304 pp., £17.50, July 1986, 0 19 212239 8
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... on Forty-Eighters means that she omits one of my favourite exile memoirs, that of Eduard Bernstein, a refugee from Bismarck’s repression of the Social Democrats in the 1880s. Like Johanna Kinkel, he became an extreme Anglophile: the Revisionism for which he became celebrated was strongly influenced by Fabianism and British trade-unionism and he was ...

I have nothing to say and I am saying it

Philip Clark: John Cage’s Diary, 15 December 2016

The Selected Letters of John Cage 
edited by Laura Kuhn.
Wesleyan, 618 pp., £30, January 2016, 978 0 8195 7591 3
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Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse) 
by John Cage, edited by Richard Kraft and Joe Biel.
Siglio, 176 pp., £26, October 2015, 978 1 938221 10 1
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... with him. The story goes that Schoenberg dismissed him, telling him he lacked an ear for harmony. Peter Yates’s book Twentieth-Century Music: Its Evolution from the End of the Harmonic Era into the Present Era of Sound (1968), reported Schoenberg as saying that Cage was ‘not a composer – but an inventor of genius’, a back-handed compliment that stuck ...

Ah, how miserable!

Emily Wilson: Three New Oresteias, 8 October 2020

The Oresteia 
by Aeschylus, translated by Oliver Taplin.
Liveright, 172 pp., £17.99, November 2018, 978 1 63149 466 6
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The Oresteia 
by Aeschylus, translated by Jeffrey Scott Bernstein.
Carcanet, 288 pp., £16.99, April, 978 1 78410 873 1
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The Oresteia 
by Aeschylus, translated by David Mulroy.
Wisconsin, 234 pp., £17.50, April 2018, 978 0 299 31564 1
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... Helen. ‘Which of these is free from evil?’ he asks, in Oliver Taplin’s translation. Jeffrey Bernstein has the wordier ‘Which of these two ways is without evil?’ David Mulroy, the punchier ‘Can either choice be right?’ Agamemnon is in a position where there is no right answer, no guiltless way to act.The terrible moment is figured as in part a ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Politicians v. the press, 22 July 2004

... in opposition’. This sad shake of the head segues effortlessly into mention of poor persecuted Peter Mandelson, who has suffered so terribly at the hands of a remorseless and unforgiving press. ‘The standards of manners and courtesy have dropped,’ Mandelson told Lloyd (‘in his rooms in the Commons’), ‘there’s a lack of any kind of respect for ...

The Future of John Barth

Michael Irwin, 5 June 1980

Letters 
by John Barth.
Secker, 772 pp., £7.95, May 1980, 0 436 03674 6
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The Left-Handed Woman 
by Peter Handke, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Eyre Methuen, 94 pp., £4.95, April 1980, 0 413 45890 3
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Passion Play 
by Jerzy Kosinski.
Joseph, 271 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 7181 1913 4
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... identities: thus Lady Germaine Gordon Pitt. Lady Amherst; or Jeannine Patterson Mack Singer Bernstein Golden. Each of the stories involves a formidable exercise in expository explanation. The author has grossly miscalculated the amount of pure information that a reader even a well-disposed reader – can be expected to assimilate. Paragraph after ...

Diary

Marc Weissman: Mysteries of the Russian Mind, 18 April 1985

... Kiev princes to Politburo rule, from the atrocities of the forced Europeanisation introduced by Peter the Great to Stalin’s Sovietisation, and from the Polish invasion of Moscow in the early 17th century to Moscow’s imposition of martial law on Poland in 1980, the so-called Russian soul has swung between enlightenment and barbarism, humanism and ...

First Puppet, Now Scapegoat

Inigo Thomas: Ass-Chewing in Washington, 30 November 2006

State of Denial: Bush at War 
by Bob Woodward.
Simon and Schuster, 560 pp., £18.99, October 2006, 0 7432 9566 8
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... who wrote several hundred articles on Watergate for the Washington Post with his colleague Carl Bernstein. The two then wrote famous books about the fall of Nixon, All the President’s Men and The Final Days, the first made into a well-known movie. Bernstein went to New York and wrote a book about the papacy, but he ...

Socialism without Socialism

Peter Jenkins, 20 March 1986

Socialist Register 1985/86: Social Democracy and After 
edited by Ralph Miliband, John Saville, Marcel Liebman and Leo Panitch.
Merlin, 489 pp., £15, February 1986, 9780850363395
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... Marxism is circular and barren, and nothing very new on the subject has been said since Bernstein and Kautsky. The controversy can be resolved quite simply by any sensible outsider: Miliband is correct to suggest that Hobsbawm and his friends will not through their pluralism achieve ‘socialism’: but Miliband and his friends in their reductionism ...

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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... their passion and solace from charges of idiocy, rather than from the musicologically qualified: Peter Conrad’s A Song of Love and Death is a distinguished and often fascinating example of this phenomenon. Attempts to transform (or, in Conrad’s case, deconstruct) La Sonnambula or Les Pêcheurs de Perles into matter worthy of learned discourse also ...

Who Runs Britain?

Christopher Hitchens, 8 December 1994

The Enemy Within: MI5, Maxwell and the Scargill Affair 
by Seumas Milne.
Verso, 352 pp., £18.95, November 1994, 0 86091 461 5
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... of Parnell and Casement. Clever readers of a certain type may object that Arthur Scargill and Peter Heathfield made rods for their own backs, dug their own graves, committed various sins of hubris and all the rest of it. Milne himself takes an honest and open line in favour of the NUM’s all-out strategy for the defence of the coalfields and the ...

Drowned in Eau de Vie

Modris Eksteins: New, Fast and Modern, 21 February 2008

Modernism: The Lure of Heresy from Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond 
by Peter Gay.
Heinemann, 610 pp., £20, November 2007, 978 0 434 01044 8
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... his new book, Modernism: The Lure of Heresy, the inordinately prolific and widely admired Peter Gay has much to say about the creativity of the moderns but surprisingly little about their negativity. He conceives of Modernism in older terms as principally an intellectual and artistic grouping bent on liberation rather than as a broader frame of ...

Heat in a Mild Climate

James Wood: Baron Britain of Aldeburgh, 19 December 2013

Benjamin Britten: A Life in the 20th Century 
by Paul Kildea.
Allen Lane, 635 pp., £30, January 2013, 978 1 84614 232 1
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Benjamin Britten: A Life for Music 
by Neil Powell.
Hutchinson, 512 pp., £25, January 2013, 978 0 09 193123 0
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... anthems Hymn to St Cecilia (classy words by Auden, usefully decent treble solo)♪ and Hymn to St Peter (eerie plainsong effect, also with coveted treble solo opportunity).♪ In the cathedral, thrillingly at night, that enormous building dark and mysterious beyond our spotlit oasis, we thrashed our way through an evening performance of Noye’s ...

Magnifico

David Bromwich: This was Orson Welles, 3 June 2004

Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life 
by Peter Conrad.
Faber, 384 pp., £20, September 2003, 0 571 20978 5
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... up his sleeve. This was an illusion he encouraged, and there was some pleasure in sharing it. Peter Conrad’s Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life does not treat the actual life of Welles or its salient circumstances: his collaborations with John Houseman and Joseph Cotten and Michéal Mac Liammóir; his affairs with Dolores Del Rio and Lena ...

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