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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Spider-Man 3’

24 May 2007
Spider-Man 3 
directed by Sam Raimi.
May 2007
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... the Spider-Man film franchise is so strange that it’s not unpleasant to watch it earn money even while idling. Like the new movie itself, we have our memories, and Tobey Maguire is still with us as PeterParker, the goofiness wearing a little thin, but the earnestness holding up (in Spider-Man 2 the woman Peter loves appears in a Broadway production of The Importance of Being Earnest), and he does ...

The Amazing …

Jonathan Lethem: My Spidey

6 June 2002
directed by Sam Raimi.
May 2002
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... book or picture book-isation of the movie – an advertising source in an only slightly subtler sense. ‘It’s always like that for him,’ the child mused when, in the film’s opening sequence, PeterParker, Spider-Man’s ‘real’ teenage self, missed the school bus. In that one remark the child encapsulated what the director and producers had got so right in casting Tobey Maguire as the ...
28 September 1989
The Brideshead Generation: Evelyn Waugh and his Friends 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Weidenfeld, 523 pp., £17.95, September 1989, 0 297 79320 9
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Osbert: A Portrait of Osbert Lancaster 
by Richard Boston.
Collins, 256 pp., £17.50, August 1989, 0 00 216324 1
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Ackerley: A Life of J.R. Ackerley 
by Peter Parker.
Constable, 465 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 09 469000 6
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... like Widmerpool, Waugh can be seen as striving to set up the world of school in a waste land of permissiveness and democratic vulgarity. J.R. Ackerley’s world was in its own way not so different. PeterParker has already written a searching book, The Old Lie: The Great War and the Public School Ethos, and his long and thorough account of Ackerley’s career is even better, still more revealing ...

I am a cactus

John Sutherland: Christopher Isherwood and his boys

3 June 2004
by Peter Parker.
Picador, 914 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 330 48699 3
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... April 1931, ‘is a cactus.’ Prickly, solitary, self-sufficient, hard to handle and difficult to love. How to get to grips with ‘Isherwood’ (as he has chosen to address him) was a problem for PeterParker: something that perhaps explains the 12 years this usually brisk biographer has spent on his task. A main difficulty is that Isherwood (‘I am a camera’) is himself so intent a watcher of ...

Lethal Pastoral

Paul Keegan: Housman’s Lethal Pastoral

17 November 2016
Housman Country: Into the Heart of England 
by Peter Parker.
Little, Brown, 446 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 1 4087 0613 8
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... can but do as Housman exhorts in one of his blasphemous squibs: ‘Mary-Jane the train is through yer:/Hallelujah, Hallelujah!/We will gather up the fragments that remain.’ In Housman Country, PeterParker does it by writing the life and times not of the man but of his most famous book: the growing pains of A Shropshire Lad, the vicissitudes of its reception, its cultural ‘aftermaths’. The ...


Clive James

18 March 1982
... as I speak: I’ve lost track of the inverse escalation. The union leaders talk their usual Greek. The matter must not go to arbitration. The strike must bite. The strike days must be staggered. Sir PeterParker still smiles but looks haggard. Sir PeterParker picked a pickled peck Of pepper when he took on British Rail. With every kind of triumph at his beck And call, perhaps he felt the need to ...

At Home in the Huntington

John Sutherland: The Isherwood Archive

10 June 1999
... by her own ‘detective work’: in fact, ‘Jacob’s Hands’ had been known about at least since Brian Finney’s 1979 biography. Film rights were sold for $400,000 and book rights for $100,000. PeterParker, who is writing Isherwood’s authorised biography, was incredulous: ‘They must be bonkers. It is the most extraordinary story – Hollywood gush.’ Memories are short on the West Coast ...
23 April 1987
The Myriad Faces of War: Britain and the Great War 1914-1918 
by Trevor Wilson.
Polity, 864 pp., £35, September 1986, 9780745600932
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British Strategy and War Aims 1914-1916 
by David French.
Allen and Unwin, 274 pp., £25, September 1986, 0 04 942197 2
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The Old Lie: The Great War and the Public School Ethos 
by Peter Parker.
Constable, 319 pp., £15, March 1987, 0 09 466980 5
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... dismissing explanations based on ‘the logic of capitalism’, the pre-war ‘malaise of the human spirit’, Social-Darwinism, or the prevalence of militarism among the European upper classes. PeterParker’s The Old Lie, a lively analysis of the manner in which English public schools conditioned the minds of the upper classes for military service, would be unlikely to affect his judgment. The ...
21 April 1983
Back from the Brink: An Apocalyptic Experience 
by Michael Edwardes.
Collins, 301 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 00 217074 4
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... union democracy and to the SDP preoccupation with giving the unions back to the (supposed) mass of moderates waiting to be enfranchised. One rumour now has it that Edwardes is poised to replace Sir PeterParker at British Rail and ‘do a Leyland’ on that union-bound loss-maker. This is the age of the Maestro, not the train ...
5 December 1985
The Diaries of Auberon Waugh: A Turbulent Decade 1976-1985 
edited by Anna Galli-Pahlavi.
Private Eye/Deutsch, 207 pp., £4.95, September 1985, 0 233 97811 9
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... this world of one who doesn’t anyway much like it here. No, let him live. But still, what do you do if you’re a bachelor, or James Goldsmith, or a lesbian, or Welsh, or a good-looking nun, or PeterParker, or a social worker, or a cat? You could always (well, not the cat) try taking Waugh to court. But who would want to stand up in the Old Bailey and declare himself not ‘the silliest man in ...
18 April 1985
The Thirty Years’ War 
by Geoffrey Parker.
Routledge, 340 pp., £20, January 1985, 0 7100 9788 3
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... Geoffrey Parker’s new book on the Thirty Years’ War is the first major study of the subject to appear in English for nearly half a century. To be more exact, it is now 47 years since the publication of a book on ...
16 November 2000
Promiscuity: An Evolutionary History of Sperm Competition and Sexual Conflict 
by Tim Birkhead.
Faber, 272 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 571 19360 9
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... the species relatively faithful: a mere 16 per cent of females had sex with a bird who wasn’t their partner, and there were no ‘illegitimate’ chicks. This isn’t a glamorous pursuit. Geoff Parker, one of the human heroes of Birkhead’s story, spent months with his face a few centimetres away from fresh cowpats, watching female dungflies being aggressively mounted by two males in turn ...

A Moustache Too Far

Danny Karlin: Melville goes under

8 May 2003
Herman Melville: A Biography. Vol. II: 1851-91 
by Hershel Parker.
Johns Hopkins, 997 pp., £31, May 2002, 0 8018 6892 0
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... earth. The better the biography, the worse: the great smooth luxurious Rolls reconverts the energy of the writer’s ascent into mere horizontal force. The publication of the second volume of Hershel Parker’s biography of Herman Melville brings to a close an enterprise of archival and critical scholarship that has lasted forty years – nearly as long as Melville’s writing career. The picture of ...

The Way of the Warrior

Tom Shippey: Vikings

2 April 2014
Vikings: Life and Legend 
edited by Gareth Williams, Peter​ Pentz and Matthias Wernhoff.
British Museum, 288 pp., £25, February 2014, 978 0 7141 2337 0
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The Northmen’s Fury 
by Philip Parker.
Cape, 450 pp., £25, March 2014, 978 0 224 09080 3
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... Vikings are here again, thanks to the British Museum’s Vikings: Life and Legend (until 22 June). The problem for the exhibition’s organisers – and for Philip Parker, whose book The Northmen’s Fury seems designed to tie in with it – is that we know too much about Vikings already. We know what they looked like: big, hairy, threatening, wearing horned helmets ...

Cold Front in Arden

Michael Dobson

31 October 1996
Reading Shakespeare Historically 
by Lisa Jardine.
Routledge, 207 pp., £40, April 1996, 0 415 13490 0
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Purpose of Playing: Shakespeare and the Cultural Politics of the Elizabethan Theatre 
by Louis Montrose.
Chicago, 228 pp., £39.95, May 1996, 0 226 53482 0
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Shakespeare from the Margins: Language, Culture, Context 
by Patricia Parker.
Chicago, 392 pp., £41.50, April 1996, 0 226 64584 3
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Impersonations: Gender and Performance in Shakespear’s England 
by Stephen Orgel.
Cambridge, 179 pp., £30, February 1996, 0 521 56842 0
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... Night” was written for a plenary session of the Shakespeare Association of America meeting in 1989 ... The occasion is probably remembered by participants in the session more by the fact that Peter Stallybrass and I enacted stage cross-dressing there and then by exchanging jackets before delivering our papers, than for what we either of us had to say.’ The surreptitiously tape-recorded row ...

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