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Tears in the Café Select

Christopher Prendergast

9 March 1995
Paris Interzone: Richard Wright, Lolita, Boris Vian and Others on the Left Bank 1946-1960 
by James Campbell.
Secker, 305 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 436 20106 2
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Foreign Correspondent: Paris in the Sixties 
by Peter Lennon.
Picador, 220 pp., £16.99, April 1994, 0 330 31911 6
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The Good Ship Venus: The Erotic Voyage of the Olympia Press 
by John de St Jorre.
Hutchinson, 332 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 09 177874 3
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... Paris figures in the titles of both James Campbell’s and PeterLennon’s books, but this is a restricted, specialised Paris. Campbell takes us into something called the ‘Interzone’ (the term is odd, and troublesome), inhabited by assorted exiles, misfits and drop ...

The First Protest

Stephen Frears

24 May 2018
... the head of the French Cinémathèque, Henri Langlois, was sacked – by André Malraux, the novelist turned Gaullist minister of culture. A piece in the Guardian by their great Paris correspondent, PeterLennon, described what happened next. There had been a demonstration outside the padlocked gates of the Palais de Chaillot. Godard had been one of its leaders. I was working at the BBC and talked my ...

The Reviewer’s Song

Andrew O’Hagan: Mailer’s Last Punch

7 November 2013
Norman Mailer: A Double Life 
by J. Michael Lennon.
Simon and Schuster, 947 pp., £30, November 2013, 978 1 84737 672 5
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... literary egotism masquerading as scholarship, or a shotgun marriage between the handsome remnants of personal history and the pretty stuff on the public record. Let’s take the spirit of J. Michael Lennon’s ‘double life’ of Norman Mailer and offer that doubleness back as subjective criticism. Mailer, after all, gave us the non-fiction novel, Lennon gives us the pseudo-objective biography, so why ...

Diary

Paul Foot: Awaiting the Truth about Hanratty

11 December 1997
... barrister called Jeremy Fox. I listened entranced to their assurances not only that Jimmy Hanratty had nothing to do with the A6 murder, but that they had been on intimate terms with the real killer: Peter Alphon. I was hooked on the case that gloomy February afternoon and, nearly 32 years later, I still am. Bob Woffinden’s new book* has revived the intoxicating mixture of anguish and curiosity with ...

Il n’y a pas de Beckett

Christopher Prendergast

14 November 1996
Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett 
by James Knowlson.
Bloomsbury, 872 pp., £25, September 1996, 0 7475 2719 9
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Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist 
by Anthony Cronin.
HarperCollins, 645 pp., £25, October 1996, 9780246137692
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The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett. Vol I: Waiting for Godot 
edited by Dougald McMillan and James Knowlson.
Faber, 472 pp., £75, March 1994, 0 571 14543 4
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The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett. Vol II: Endgame 
edited by S.E. Gontarski.
Faber, 276 pp., £50, November 1992, 0 571 14544 2
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The Theatrical Notebooks of Samuel Beckett. Vol III: Krapp’s Last Tape 
edited by James Knowlson.
Faber, 286 pp., £50, May 1992, 0 571 14563 9
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Eleutheria 
by Samuel Beckett, translated by Barbara Wright.
Faber, 170 pp., £6.99, September 1996, 9780571178261
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... exactly mean, but these words are what I wish for Samuel Beckett.’ Jolly considerate of him to offer this upmarket version of RIP, especially when we recall Beckett’s remark to the journalist, PeterLennon: ‘I have never had a single untroubled moment in my life.’ In an act of misprision that one would normally characterise as incredible, Ricks graces Griffiths’s envoi with the comment ...

History’s Revenges

Peter​ Clarke

5 March 1981
The Illustrated Dictionary of British History 
edited by Arthur Marwick.
Thames and Hudson, 319 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 500 25072 3
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Who’s Who in Modern History, 1860-1980 
by Alan Palmer.
Weidenfeld, 332 pp., £8.50, October 1980, 0 297 77642 8
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... names not their lives that will be remembered. One giant leap for mankind but two small footnotes in the reference books perhaps. If fame alone is the criterion, where are the Beatles, who, as John Lennon justly pointed out, became more famous than Jesus Christ? In fact, few entertainers qualify, though there are four sporting figures: the cricketers Bradman and Grace, the footballer Pelé and the ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Tayler: King Charles the Martyr

21 February 2019
... scanned the crowd for possible signs of its being the European Research Group at prayer. ‘Very male crowd’, I scribbled in my notebook. ‘Mutton-chop whiskers, chin beards, Van Dyke beards. Blue Lennon shades. Camel overcoats.’ The priest spoke of the king’s renunciation of his ‘earthly crown’, pronounced ‘crine’. Back inside and seated for the service, I spotted more birettas than I ...

Welcome Home

Sukhdev Sandhu: Memories of Michael X

4 February 1999
Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multiracial Britain 
by Mike Phillips and Trevor Phillips.
HarperCollins, 422 pp., £16.99, May 1998, 0 00 255909 9
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... among black English youngsters. The book scrolls through postwar history to isolate a series of decisive incidents, both familiar and sombre: the Notting Hill Riots of 1958; Tory candidate Peter Griffiths winning Smethwick six years later with the slogan ‘If you want a nigger for a neighbour vote Labour’; Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech in 1968; the New Cross fire of 1981 which ...
21 October 1982
Hanns Eisler: Political Musician 
by Albrecht Betz, translated by Bill Hopkins.
Cambridge, 326 pp., £25, June 1982, 0 521 24022 0
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Music and Political: Collected Writings 1953-81 
by Hans Werner Henze, translated by Peter​ Labanyi.
Faber, 286 pp., £15, July 1982, 0 571 11719 8
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Vindications: Essays on Romantic Music 
by Deryck Cooke and Bryan Magee.
Faber, 226 pp., £12.50, July 1982, 0 571 11795 3
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... Aron (Schoenberg’s own re-spelling of the name) hints at verbally, but which both their music and a wordless work like the String Trio define with quasi-mathematical precision. It is, incidentally, Peter Labanyi, not Bill Hopkins, who rightly translates ‘committed’; Bill Hopkins turns it into the foreign-sounding ‘engaged’. And while both translations seem competent, Labanyi’s is the more ...

The Dollar Tree

Tobias Jones

11 December 1997
Hand To Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failure 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 436 pp., £15.99, November 1997, 0 571 17149 4
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... across characters reading his books, only to be told: ‘It’s no big deal. It’s just a book.’ Then in Leviathan, published some years later, Auster uses the same initials for the narrator, Peter Aaron; and anagrammatic sleight of hand (Delia/Lydia, Iris/Siri: Auster’s real-life loves past and present) further blurs the boundaries between his facts and his fictions. So one approaches his ...

So Ordinary, So Glamorous

Thomas Jones: Eternal Bowie

5 April 2012
Starman: David Bowie, the Definitive Biography 
by Paul Trynka.
Sphere, 440 pp., £9.99, March 2012, 978 0 7515 4293 6
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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s 
by Peter​ Doggett.
Bodley Head, 424 pp., £20, September 2011, 978 1 84792 144 4
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... was more like the very hungry caterpillar, munching his way through every musical influence he came across: much of Hunky Dory consists of pastiches of Bowie’s musical heroes of the 1960s – John Lennon, Syd Barrett, Anthony Newley, Bob Dylan, the Velvet Underground. Which would make Ziggy Stardust the beautiful butterfly that emerged from the chrysalis. Paul Trynka begins his biography with a ...

A Bit of Ginger

Theo Tait: Gordon Burn

5 June 2008
Born Yesterday: The News as a Novel 
by Gordon Burn.
Faber, 214 pp., £15.99, April 2008, 978 0 571 19729 3
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... as a proponent of the non-fiction novel pioneered by Truman Capote and Norman Mailer; his first book, Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son (1984), was a painstaking re-creation of the life of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper. He topped that with an account of Fred and Rosemary West’s killing careers, Happy like Murderers (1998). The first resembles a documentary; the second is more like ...

Diary

Jonathan Lethem: My Marvel Years

15 April 2004
... were among the most stable I knew. My parents were something between: separated, or separating, sometimes living together and sometimes apart, and each of them with lovers.Luke had an older brother, Peter, whom both Luke and I idealised in absentia. Peter had left behind a collection of 1960s Marvel comics in sacrosanct box files. These included a nearly complete run of The Fantastic Four, the famous ...

Thatcher’s Artists

Peter​ Wollen

30 October 1997
Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection 
by Norman Rosenthal.
Thames and Hudson, 222 pp., £29.95, September 1997, 0 500 23752 2
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... abstract either. They are taken from the pharmacological coding-system in which dots are used to indicate the properties of various drugs. Not only do they turn out to be textual paintings, cousin to Peter Davies’s painted list of the top one hundred all-time hit paintings: they effect a stealthy return to Hirst’s pre-occupation with the body and with disease and death. Keith Coventry’s white on ...

Punk-U-Like

Dave Haslam

20 July 1995
The Black Album 
by Hanif Kureishi.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, March 1995, 0 571 15086 1
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The Faber Book of Pop 
edited by Hanif Kureishi and Jon Savage.
Faber, 813 pp., £16.99, May 1995, 0 571 16992 9
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... the right sound in the right place at the right time. Jon Savage and Hanif Kureishi have gathered more than a hundred and fifty pieces extracted from punk fanzines, key texts of pop history (such as Peter Guralnick’s Sweet Soul Music and Ice T’s autobiography) and the weekly music press, as well as from more outré authorities on pop music (such as Joe Orton) and a few anti-pop pieces (by Paul ...

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