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James Wolcott: Updike should stay at home, 1 January 2009

The Widows of Eastwick 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 308 pp., £18.99, October 2008, 978 0 241 14427 5
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... later, Wallace is no longer with us, but two of the Great Male Narcissists he cited, Updike and Philip Roth, are still displaying their self-absorbency and depriving tender young empaths of valuable column inches. With an almost audible sigh, Updike concedes that the pups have a point. ‘He or she may feel, as the grey-haired scribes of the day continue to ...


Adam Shatz: Ornette Coleman, 16 July 2015

... Thompson, who shared his love of jazz. He was a pivotal influence on a student at Syracuse, Lou Reed; another close listener was a composition student at Juilliard, Philip Glass. Yet his most electrifying effect was on young black jazz musicians, who looked to him as a model of artistic integrity, particularly after ...

At Tate Modern

Eleanor Nairne: Nam June Paik, 21 November 2019

... just as ambitious. Bye Bye Kipling – another rebuttal – brought together live footage of Lou Reed, kabuki theatre, Issey Miyake, Philip Glass and a marathon in South Korea; it was shown simultaneously in Seoul, Tokyo and New York during the 1986 Asian Games (East could meet West, after all).Satellite art was a natural ...

On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move, 13 September 2018

Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... was ‘a Cambridge passion for Eng. Lit… . combined with a rather taking bully-boy strut’. Philip Hobsbaum, also alert to Gunn, took the view that the poem ‘Carnal Knowledge’ was ‘slick’ and ‘execrable’. Alvarez, as Wootten notes, reviewed Gunn’s first book twice. In one review, he called the collection ‘for my money, the most ...

Make enemies and influence people

Ross McKibbin: Why Vote Labour?, 20 July 2000

... of economic policy remind one alarmingly of the relationship between Ramsay MacDonald and Philip Snowden in 1931: between a Prime Minister who senses that there is probably a better alternative but who lacks the authority or self-confidence to choose it and a Chancellor of formidable personality who is a rigidly orthodox practitioner of ‘this ...

Foiled by Pleasure

Matthew Bevis: Barrett Browning, 30 August 2018

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Selected Writings 
edited by Josie Billington and Philip Davis.
Oxford, 592 pp., £14.99, February 2018, 978 0 19 879763 0
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... art regardless of which side art is on. In their selection of her writings, Josie Billington and Philip Davis have wisely decided not to include much from her early collections (Aurora Leigh occupies around two-thirds of the space the volume devotes to poetry). Still, what they do include occasionally glints with better things to come. The poet notes in her ...

Really Very Exhilarating

R.W. Johnson: Macmillan and the Guardsmen, 7 October 2004

The Guardsmen: Harold Macmillan, Three Friends and the World They Made 
by Simon Ball.
HarperCollins, 456 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 00 257110 2
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... The other three lived in the hope that Eden would topple Chamberlain, but Eden proved a broken reed. When Churchill took over they all got junior government jobs. Lyttelton muscled in, successfully insisting that his British Metal Corporation take control of the entire supply of non-ferrous metals for the war effort. He was always on excellent terms with ...

Saints on Sundays, Devils All the Week After

Patrick Collinson: London Burnings, 19 September 2002

The Antichrist’s Lewd Hat: Protestants, Papists and Players in Post-Reformation England 
by Peter Lake and Michael Questier.
Yale, 731 pp., £30, February 2002, 0 300 08884 1
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... culture, and especially the theatre, with due attention to Stephen Gosson’s School of Abuse and Philip Stubbes’s Anatomy of Abuses. But this involves deciding what we should mean by Puritanism, which leads to the mirror topic of anti-Puritanism, a cultural backlash of the 1590s which was unleashed by the scandalously funny Marprelate Tracts, the backcloth ...

Keeping out and coming close

Michael Church, 3 October 1985

Here lies: An Autobiography 
by Eric Ambler.
Weidenfeld, 234 pp., £10.95, June 1985, 0 297 78588 5
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The Levanter 
by Eric Ambler.
Weidenfeld, 216 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 0 297 99521 9
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Doctor Frigo 
by Eric Ambler.
Weidenfeld, 250 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 0 297 76848 4
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The Other Side of the Moon: The Life of David Niven 
by Sheridan Morley.
Weidenfeld, 300 pp., £10.95, September 1985, 9780297787082
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Secrets: Boyhood in a Jewish Hotel 1932-1954 
by Ronald Hayman.
Peter Owen, 224 pp., £12, July 1985, 9780720606423
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A Woman in Custody 
by Audrey Peckham.
Fontana, 253 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 00 636952 9
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No Gangster More Bold 
by John Morgan.
Hodder, 179 pp., £9.95, July 1985, 0 340 26387 3
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... got an order to report to Major Thorold Dickinson (director of Gaslight in civilian life). Carol Reed and Peter Ustinov had been likewise commandeered, and the little group were told to produce a film to boost the British troops’ flagging morale. It was made, then aborted as subversive by the War Office; enough influential people had liked it, however, to ...

What Sport!

Paul Laity: George Steer, 5 June 2003

Telegram from Guernica: The Extraordinary Life of George Steer, War Correspondent 
by Nicholas Rankin.
Faber, 256 pp., £14.99, April 2003, 0 571 20563 1
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... also strongly partisan; on occasions, he came close to ‘going native’, in the manner of John Reed with the Red Guards in Petrograd. His journalism always threatened to tip over into a more direct, military involvement – until he finally became, and died, a soldier. A South African born into a liberal, newspaper-owning family in the Eastern Cape, Steer ...


Evan Kindley: Modernist Magazines, 23 January 2014

The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume I: Britain and Ireland 1880-1955 
edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker.
Oxford, 976 pp., £35, May 2013, 978 0 19 965429 1
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The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume II: North America 1894-1960 
edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker.
Oxford, 1088 pp., £140, July 2012, 978 0 19 965429 1
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The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume III: Europe 1880-1940 
edited by Peter Brooker, Sascha Bru, Andrew Thacker and Christian Weikop.
Oxford, 1471690 pp., £145, March 2013, 978 0 19 965958 6
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... little magazine of the postwar period, began as an official publication of the New York John Reed Club. W.E.B. Du Bois’s Crisis was underwritten by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and A. Philip Randolph and George Schuyler’s Messenger had the support of the Brotherhood of Sleeping ...


Jonathan Rée: Automata, 9 May 2002

Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen 
by Barbara Maria Stafford and Frances Terpak.
Getty, 416 pp., £30, February 2002, 0 89236 590 0
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The Secret Life of Puppets 
by Victoria Nelson.
Harvard, 350 pp., £20.50, February 2002, 0 674 00630 5
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Living Dolls: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life 
by Gaby Wood.
Faber, 278 pp., £12.99, March 2002, 0 571 17879 0
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... blown into it not through his mouth but through his thumb. Each of the 32 keys controlled a brass reed rather like those used in accordions or mouth organs, and they were operated by his fingers, which moved up and down as well as back and forth. ‘He is one of the few examples in the history of automata,’ as Gaughan says, ‘that actually plays the ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies, 26 January 2012

An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... Marx, Vincente Minnelli, Gregory Peck, Vincent Price, Robert Ryan, Edward G. Robinson, Donna Reed, Nicholas Ray, Robert Siodmak, Frank Sinatra, Sylvia Sidney, Claire Trevor, Franchot Tone, Walter Wanger, Keenan Wynn, William Wyler, Orson Welles, Billy Wilder, Jerry Wald and Robert Young. Ronald Reagan, a New Deal Democrat at the time (and an FBI ...

Pink and Bare

Bee Wilson: Nicole Kidman, 8 February 2007

Nicole Kidman 
by David Thomson.
Bloomsbury, 311 pp., £18.99, September 2006, 0 7475 7710 2
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... is his favourite sweetheart: he prefers ‘Catherine Deneuve, Julia Roberts, Grace Kelly and Donna Reed’, stars he fears to write about because he cares too much; but he will freely expose his passion for Kidman’s ‘elegant Australian bod’. This was a high-risk strategy, and Thomson can’t say he didn’t know what he was letting himself in ...

Seeing in the Darkness

James Wood, 6 March 1997

D.H. Lawrence: Triumph To Exile 1912-22 
by Mark Kinkead-Weekes.
Cambridge, 943 pp., £25, August 1996, 0 521 25420 5
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... disappeared. In bleak Cornwall, where he had a kind of breakdown, Lawrence became the shovel-faced reed of the later photographs. It was also in these years that his ‘doctrine’ took on some of its unpleasantness, its glittering almost-fascism, its impatience with democracy (though an impatience with Bertrand Russell’s naivety explains much of his ...

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