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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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... of asset. To the question our parents asked, ‘Why on earth has gold ceased to be money?’ we would add: ‘Why did gold become money in the first place?’ Or: ‘Will gold ever be money again?’ PeterBernstein’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 ...
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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... for some while been conspiring with the pleasures of iconoclasm and the ancient sport of muckraking 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 ...

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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... the individual moves in a finely tuned milieu that rivals that of any Victorian novelist. Her concentration 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 ...

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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... had recently arrived in Los Angeles. Weiss, who was his first American student, put Cage in touch 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 ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Politicians v. the press

22 July 2004
... which politicians find unnerving – though in which many continue to indulge, or to acquiesce, when 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 ...
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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... meanings’. Each of the main characters is likely to drag a tin-can trail of aliases, doubles, symbolic 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 ...

Diary

Marc Weissman: Mysteries of the Russian Mind

18 April 1985
... From the 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 ...

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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... been a marked increase in rhapsodic intellectualising on the subject, from fans concerned to redeem 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 ...

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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... be classed with the Cato Street ‘conspiracy’, the Zinoviev letter and the defamation/destabilisation 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 ...

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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... on TV – they never reveal much of themselves.What is known about Woodward? He’s a former navy man, 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 ...

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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... trend would be a gradual ascent with some stunning vertical spurts before and after the First World War. In 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 ...

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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... At Durham, as a cathedral chorister, I sang his sparkling Te Deum and Jubilate, and the beautiful 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 ...
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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... in the opinion polls. At this high level of abstraction, the argument between revisionist and fundamentalist 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 ...

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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... with ease and éclat. When he died in 1985, at the age of 70, it was possible to think he had a movie 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 Liamm ...

California Noir

Michael Rogin: Destroying Los Angeles

19 August 1999
Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster 
by Mike Davis.
Picador, 484 pp., £18.99, June 1999, 9780330372190
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... imagination of disaster shifting the blame from the assault on the environment to racial and extraterrestrial aliens. (Nor is this particular combination confined to Los Angeles, as is illustrated by Peter Brimelow’s borrowing of the title of the 1988 science fiction film, Alien Nation, for the anti-immigrant tract he published seven years later.) Congresswoman Seastrand invokes Sodom and Gomorrah ...

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