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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Ides of March’

1 December 2011
The Ides of March 
directed by George Clooney.
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... aspect, that you keep forgetting what’s wrong with the writing) and a busy young intern (Evan Rachel Wood) who gets herself into all kinds of trouble. The very word ‘intern’ will give you a clue as to the kind of trouble this is, for her and for others, and the film rather clunkily underlines this suggestion – boys will be boys, even if ...

Is he still the same god?

Greg Woolf: Mithraism

2 November 2017
Images of Mithra 
by Philippa Adrych, Robert Bracey, Dominic Dalglish, Stefanie Lenk and Rachel Wood.
Oxford, 240 pp., £30, March 2017, 978 0 19 879253 6
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... A young god​ sits astride a bull. It has been forced to its knees and its head has been pulled back so the god can hold a dagger to its throat, or to its neck, or its shoulder. In some versions he has already plunged the dagger in and drops of blood have begun to fall to the ground. The god wears a billowing cloak and a distinctive bonnet. Other animals have come to help him in his attack on the bull ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Rachel Whiteread

7 October 2010
... fellows in Trafalgar Square.) Of all the pieces that have been given an outing in the square Rachel Whiteread’s translucent replica of the plinth, set on top of the plinth itself, was the easiest to read as a comment on the problem of how to make a monument in an un-monumental age. Its dimensions – it was big: no sculpture in the square matches, as ...

Pour a stiff drink

Tessa Hadley: Elizabeth Jane Howard

6 February 2014
All Change 
by Elizabeth Jane Howard.
Mantle, 573 pp., £18.99, November 2013, 978 0 230 74307 6
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... are scarred survivors of the First World War and Rupert goes missing in the Second; their sister, Rachel, stays at home to care for their ageing parents. The family codes of behaviour are conventional and fairly stuffy; middle-class respectable rather than aristocratic stylish, they unbend uneasily as the rigidities of the old hierarchy adapt to a new ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘A Most Wanted Man’

24 September 2014
A Most Wanted Man 
directed by Anton Corbijn.
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... money. By a path the film decides not to try to describe he finds himself a lawyer, played by Rachel McAdams, who quickly understands that time is limited, that some branch or other of the police will pick the refugee up almost immediately. This is because Issa, although innocent of everything except being half-Chechen and hating his Russian father, is ...

Like China Girls

Naomi Fry: Rachel Kushner

18 July 2013
The Flamethrowers 
by Rachel Kushner.
Harvill Secker, 400 pp., £16.99, June 2013, 978 1 84655 791 0
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... Telex from Cuba, Rachel Kushner’s first novel, was set in the American colony in Oriente Province in the years leading up to the revolution. It described a place in which many had very little and a few had a great deal: indentured plantation workers and Castro’s rebels but also anxious American housewives, dissatisfied middle-managers and the vulnerable children of mining and sugar-cane executives ...


Hugh Pennington: Bedbugs!

6 January 2011
... Bedbugs never went away. DDT gave them a hard time in the 1940s and for years afterwards, until Rachel Carson’s campaigns outlawed it, but resistant strains survived. Other insecticides – synthetic organophosphates and pyrethroids – have come and gone, but none has been a challenge for the bugs’ versatile genomes ...

Making doorbells ring

David Trotter: Pushing Buttons

22 November 2018
Power Button: A History of Pleasure, Panic and the Politics of Pushing 
by Rachel Plotnick.
MIT, 424 pp., £30, October 2018, 978 0 262 03823 2
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... while understanding only too well why he might want to dawdle. Chaplin doesn’t feature in Rachel Plotnick’s engrossing cultural history of the advent of the electric button, but the wealth of evidence she has amassed goes a long way towards explaining why he was interested in staunchly resisted subservience to remote control. By the ...

At the Foundling Museum

Brian Dillon: Found

10 August 2016
... instruments, all steamrollered flat – and Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, fragments of a wooden shed, hung in the gallery as though mid-explosion. Much of her work, however, has concerned smaller, discreet things, their transformation and potential. The Maybe, an installation at the Serpentine Gallery in 1995, is remembered chiefly for Tilda Swinton ...

Humming along

Michael Wood: The Amazing Thomas Pynchon

4 January 2007
Against the Day 
by Thomas Pynchon.
Cape, 1085 pp., £20, November 2006, 0 224 08095 4
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... the funny names or the animals, since Pynchon’s early fiction had people called Dennis Flange, Rachel Owlglass and Emory Bortz, and in Mason & Dixon there is a considerable speaking role for Vaucanson’s mechanical duck. But here on page 1 is a group of boy adventurers called the Chums of Chance, heroes of a series of jolly books with titles like The ...


Emily Witt: Rachel Kushner

2 August 2018
The Mars Room 
by Rachel Kushner.
Cape, 340 pp., £16.99, June 2018, 978 1 910702 67 3
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... in a different kind of prison. It had a swimming pool with state-issued bathing suits, rooms with wood shelves and cabinets, green grass, make-up for sale, and is recollected as some kind of paradise. ‘It was before mass incarceration,’ she says to Romy. ‘As if mass incarceration were some kind of natural disaster,’ Romy reflects, ‘or a ...


Roger Hodge: The Comanches

15 December 2011
Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanche Tribe 
by S.C. Gwynne.
Constable, 483 pp., £9.99, July 2011, 978 1 84901 703 9
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... to the Indians, other members of the Parker family were fleeing out of the fort’s back door. Rachel Parker Plummer, who survived 21 months of Indian captivity (possibly among the Shoshone in south-western Wyoming, rather than the Comanches as she believed), watched as her uncle Benjamin was surrounded, clubbed, impaled with lances, shot with arrows, then ...

Dimples and Scars

Sameer Rahim: Jamal Mahjoub

9 March 2006
The Drift Latitudes 
by Jamal Mahjoub.
Chatto, 202 pp., £14.99, February 2006, 0 7011 7822 1
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... fearful, and prepares a cruel and unusual punishment for two of them: When the men returned with wood, two large crosses were constructed, rough and uneven like two deformed trees in the middle of the sandy plain. The old man and the mute were nailed on by their hands and feet, their waists bound to the stakes with rope to carry some of their weight, so that ...

Perfectly Mobile, Perfectly Still

David Craig: Land Artists

14 December 2000
by Andy Goldsworthy.
Thames and Hudson, 203 pp., £35, August 2000, 0 500 51026 1
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... or a marble figure of a goddess, respectfully plinthed in gallery or plaza; or a curvaceous wooden form strung like a harp which we gaze at in dumbfounded silence. These days, it may well be a drystone wall winding between trees before burying its end in a lake, like the great Norse serpent for ever drinking the world’s waters dry. Or a cairn on a ...

At the V&A

Marina Warner: Alexander McQueen

3 June 2015
... and Napoleonic high collars, he exposed the collar bones in a chalice of roses, he carved tall elm wood prostheses like medieval caskets for the paralympic champion Aimee Mullins and, most famously, scooped the back of a dress or a pair of trousers to disclose the soft involution of the buttocks and what he saw as nature’s own line of beauty, the curve of ...

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