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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Playtime’, 20 November 2014

Playtime 
directed by Jacques Tati.
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... like a too heavy satire of the modern world. ‘Modern’ here means tall buildings, lots of glass walls and doors, men in suits and squawking American women. America was always one of Tati’s targets. In Jour de Fête, François sees a supposed documentary about postal services in America – helicopters, daredevils and muscular male beauty contests ...

At Pallant House

Eleanor Birne: Pauline Boty, 6 February 2014

... a slightly too large nose. She went on to the Royal College of Art, joining the School of Stained Glass because she’d been told that, as a woman, she didn’t stand much chance of getting into the prestigious School of Painting. There’s an example of her stained glass work in the show: a fractured city below, including ...

In Memory of Eustache-Hyacinthe Langlois

Rosemary Hill: Where is Bohemia?, 6 March 2003

Bohemians: The Glamorous Outcasts 
by Elizabeth Wilson.
Tauris, 288 pp., £11.99, October 2002, 1 86064 782 0
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Quentin & Philip 
by Andrew Barrow.
Macmillan, 559 pp., £18.99, November 2002, 0 333 78051 5
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... subjects of Barrow’s ‘double portrait’, his friends Quentin Crisp and the surrealist poet Philip O’Connor, were both children of the Home Counties. Crisp, who began life as Denis Pratt, found his way to bohemia from the Pooterland of Egmont Road, Sutton. O’Connor spent a significant part of his tumultuous life in Dorking, a fact which the local ...

I used to work for them myself

David Leigh, 4 August 1983

British Intelligence and Covert Action: Africa, the Middle East and Europe since 1945 
by Jonathan Bloch, Patrick Fitzgerald and Philip Agee.
Junction, 284 pp., £5.95, May 1983, 0 86245 113 2
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Through the Looking-GlassBritish Foreign Policy in an Age of Illusions 
by Anthony Verrier.
Cape, 400 pp., £12.50, February 1983, 0 224 01979 1
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... of the process that began then, and indeed it has a polemical preface by the renegade CIA agent, Philip Agee, who started the thing off, to be followed by other renegades like John Stockwell. Memoirs and exposures by disillusioned men like these, in the teeth of frantic efforts to suppress and discredit them, were only part of a public interplay that ...

Wallacette the Rain Queen

Mark Lambert, 19 February 1987

The Beet Queen 
by Louise Erdrich.
Hamish Hamilton, 338 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 241 12044 6
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Marya: A Life 
by Joyce Carol Oates.
Cape, 310 pp., £10.95, January 1987, 0 224 02420 5
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The Lost Language of Cranes 
by David Leavitt.
Viking, 319 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 670 81290 0
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... This godfather Wallace, civic booster, assiduous joiner of fraternal organisations, collector of glass bells and Hummel figurines, is reponsible for this festival in a more profound sense. Wallace Pfef brought to Argus the large-scale growing and refining of sugar beets, an innovation which in turn brought supermarket shopping and ended the planting of a ...

Blimey

Gillian Darley: James Stirling, 7 September 2000

Big Jim: The Life and Work of James Stirling 
by Mark Girouard.
Pimlico, 323 pp., £14, March 2000, 9780712664226
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... objects made by a meticulous technique of inlay known as micromosaic, in which tiny fragments of glass are assembled to form a picture – not always in the best possible taste. Mark Girouard’s biography of James Stirling is constructed by a similar procedure, an astonishing accumulation of small details, asides and memories building up to a portrait. Big ...

I had to refrain

Andrew Saint: Pre-Raphaelite Houses, 1 December 2005

Philip Webb: Pioneer of Arts and Crafts Architecture 
by Sheila Kirk.
Wiley-Academy, 336 pp., £29.99, February 2005, 0 470 86808 2
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... good, honest building. The ending of The Seven Lamps of Architecture vibrates through the work of Philip Webb, as of those Arts and Crafts architects who were his disciples. Austerity and self-abnegation are its hallmarks. You cannot relish Webb’s buildings without a feeling for puritanism. His was a life shot through with refusals: he would not ...

Radio Fun

Philip Purser, 27 June 1991

A Social History of British Broadcasting. Vol. I: 1922-29, Serving the Nation 
by Paddy Scannell and David Cardiff.
Blackwell, 441 pp., £30, April 1991, 0 631 17543 1
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The Collected Essays of Asa Briggs. Vol. III: Serious Pursuits, Communication and Education 
Harvester Wheatsheaf, 470 pp., £30, May 1991, 0 7450 0536 5Show More
The British Press and Broadcasting since 1945 
by Colin Seymour-Ure.
Blackwell, 269 pp., £29.95, May 1991, 9780631164432
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... did it become a family activity. At first, the sets were nearly all battery-powered, meaning heavy glass accumulators which had to be carried to the shop to be recharged, and whose acid, if spilled, took the colour out of carpets and the polish off the sideboard; battery sets nevertheless remained in demand even when most people had mains electricity, because ...

Barbara Pym’s Hymn

Karl Miller, 6 March 1980

... again, to fame, when readers were alerted to her fiction by the commendations of two admirers, Philip Larkin and David Cecil. Having been out, she became ‘the in-thing to read’, and reviewers rushed to praise the late novel Quartet in Autumn – now in paperback – as if it were a match for her early work.* Meanwhile her early work has been ...
On Historians 
by J.H. Hexter.
Collins, 310 pp., £6.95, September 1979, 0 00 216623 2
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... as in The Lady from Shanghai, where the revolver shots are lost, finally, in the splintering glass: by dint of looking at themselves in mirrors which reflect other mirrors, neither the gunman nor his human target any longer has much idea of what exactly is going on. It was in this doubting frame of mind that I approached J.H. Hexter’s On Historians, a ...

I am not a world improver

Christopher Turner: Building Seagram, 6 February 2014

Building Seagram 
by Phyllis Lambert.
Yale, 306 pp., £45, January 2013, 978 0 300 16767 2
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Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography 
by Franz Schulze and Edward Windhorst.
Chicago, 493 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 226 15145 8
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... who owned Seagram distillers, had commissioned Pereira & Luckman to create a gleaming metal and glass edifice that resembled a decanter gift set. ‘This letter starts with one word repeated very emphatically NO NO NO NO NO,’ Lambert responded when she saw the plans. Over eight pages she dismissed the scheme as an alienating, self-consciously futuristic ...

Better than Ganymede

Tom Paulin: Larkin, 21 October 2010

Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica 
edited by Anthony Thwaite.
Faber, 475 pp., £22.50, October 2010, 978 0 571 23909 2
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... Philip Larkin met Monica Jones in 1946 at Leicester University College. She was an assistant lecturer there, and Larkin was an assistant librarian. Both had firsts in English from Oxford. Monica Jones was an able lecturer, but she never published anything and so was never promoted, although she stayed at Leicester until she retired in 1981 ...

Dying Falls

John Lanchester, 23 July 1987

Temporary Shelter 
by Mary Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 231 pp., £11.95, July 1987, 0 7475 0006 1
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Bluebeard’s Egg 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 287 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 224 02245 8
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The Native 
by David Plante.
Chatto, 122 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 7011 3247 7
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The March of the Long Shadows 
by Norman Lewis.
Secker, 232 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 436 24620 1
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... private for his wife, ‘making his almost total blindness into a kind of gift for her, a perfect glass he had blown and polished’. Then his grandchildren, aided by his son, persuade him to perform in public for one more time, at the Fourth of July fair: in a gruesomely embarrassing scene, his tricks fail disastrously; he is too blind to notice, but the ...

Making faces

Philip Horne, 9 May 1991

The Grimace 
by Nicholas Salaman.
Grafton, 256 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 246 13770 3
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Playing the game 
by Ian Buruma.
Cape, 234 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 224 02758 1
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The Music of Chance 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 217 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 9780571161577
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... preoccupation with chance. Auster has always been interested in doom and bad luck, as in City of Glass, the first part of The New York Trilogy, with its 13 chapters and its deadly, engulfing coincidences. There the unhappy Quinn, accidentally a detective, has to decide which of two near-identical men to follow as they set off in opposite ...

Clean Sweep

Philip Horne, 10 May 1990

Love and Garbage 
by Ivan Klima, translated by Ewald Osers.
Chatto, 217 pp., £12.95, March 1990, 0 7011 3362 7
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The Storyteller 
by Mario Vargas Llosa, translated by Helen Lane.
Faber, 246 pp., £12.99, April 1990, 0 571 15208 2
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The Chase 
by Alejo Carpentier, translated by Alfred Mac Adam.
Deutsch, 122 pp., £9.95, March 1990, 0 233 98550 6
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Aura 
by Carlos Fuentes, translated by Lysander Kemp.
Deutsch, 88 pp., £9.95, April 1990, 0 233 98470 4
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... hair, dirty rags smelling of human excrement, and of course masses of paper, empty tins, broken glass and plastic’. For some reason, ‘the rubbish did not burn but the draught in the furnace sucked it up and spewed it out from the high chimney-stack, up towards the sky, and I watched with horror and amazement as all my refuse ... slowly descended to the ...

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