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Scaling Up

Peter Wollen: At Tate Modern, 20 July 2000

... almost unimaginably tiny. Eventually Sandaldjian became the great master of the craft. As Ralph Rugoff explains in The Eye of the Needle (1996), an enthralling study of Sandaldjian’s work, his microminiatures ‘were fashioned from slivers of human hair and motes of dust and glue’. Peering through a 120-power microscope, he carved and painted ...


Adam Shatz: Ornette Coleman, 16 July 2015

... No one mentioned the atrocity in Charleston explicitly; no one had to. We were in the church where Martin Luther King declared his opposition to the Vietnam War in 1967. We were honouring the life of America’s leading free jazz musician in a dramatic week for freedom in America. The Supreme Court had ruled five to four in favour of gay marriage; at the ...

The Last Witness

Colm Tóibín: The career of James Baldwin, 20 September 2001

... unfolded by reading about them in the Herald Tribune. Richard Wright remained in Paris. Neither Ralph Ellison nor Langston Hughes took part in the Civil Rights Movement (and Ellison took a dim view of Baldwin’s involvement), just as writers like Brian Friel and Seamus Heaney avoided active involvement in the public life of Northern Ireland after ...

In the Tart Shop

Murray Sayle: How Sydney got its Opera House, 5 October 2000

The Masterpiece: Jørn Utzon, a Secret Life 
by Philip Drew.
Hardie Grant, 574 pp., AUS $39.95, October 1999, 1 86498 047 8
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Jørn Utzon: The Sydney Opera House 
by Françoise Fromonot, translated by Christopher Thompson.
Electa/Gingko, 236 pp., £37.45, January 1998, 3 927258 72 5
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... his friend Ashworth, the NSW Government Architect Cobden Parkes (token Australian), Leslie Martin, co-designer of the London Festival Hall, and the Finnish-American Eero Saarinen, who had recently been moving away from the bloodless straight-ruler international style to the sculptural possibilities of a new technology, shell concrete. (Saarinen’s TWA ...

Thank God for John Rayburn

Mark Ford, 24 January 1991

Hunting Mister Heartbreak 
by Jonathan Raban.
Harvill, 428 pp., £14, November 1990, 0 00 272031 0
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... good at exposing the absurd and ghastly landed-gentry pastoral that fuelled the massive success of Ralph Lauren in the Eighties, and ponders interestingly the bizarre processes by which the polo-playing, grouse-shooting lords who once symbolised all that was wrong with Europe have somehow been converted into instantly recognisable emblems of American ...


Michael Church, 9 October 1986

The Children of the Souls: A Tragedy of the First World War 
by Jeanne Mackenzie.
Chatto, 276 pp., £14.95, June 1986, 9780701128470
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Voices from the Spanish Civil War: Personal Recollections of Scottish Volunteers in Republican Spain 1936-39 
edited by Ian MacDougall, by Victor Kiernan.
Polygon, 369 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 948275 19 7
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The Shallow Grave: A Memoir of the Spanish Civil War 
by Walter Gregory, edited by David Morris and Anthony Peters.
Gollancz, 183 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 575 03790 3
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Spanish Front: Writers on the Civil War 
edited by Valentine Cunningham.
Oxford, 388 pp., £15, July 1986, 0 19 212258 4
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The Spanish Cockpit 
by Franz Borkenau.
Pluto, 303 pp., £4.95, July 1986, 0 7453 0188 6
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The Spanish Civil War 1936-39 
by Paul Preston.
Weidenfeld, 184 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 297 78891 4
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Images of the Spanish Civil War 
by Raymond Carr.
Allen and Unwin, 192 pp., £14.95, July 1986, 0 04 940089 4
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... and thought wait in a queue to dictate the letters they are not able to write for themselves’. Ralph Bates notes the care and courtesy with which some Anarchists burn a church. ‘The street is brighter, purer, it seems to Compañero Sagasta and me, when the church is burnt down. Perhaps now we may argue reasonably with our women.’ Anthony Powell’s ...

Hugh Dalton to the rescue

Keith Thomas, 13 November 1997

The Fall and Rise of the Stately Home 
by Peter Mandler.
Yale, 523 pp., £19.95, April 1997, 0 300 06703 8
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Ancient as the Hills 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 228 pp., £20, July 1997, 0 7195 5596 5
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The Fate of the English Country House 
by David Littlejohn.
Oxford, 344 pp., £20, May 1997, 9780195088762
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... élite to foist its values and tastes on the population at large. It is yet another instance of Martin Wiener’s well-known thesis that rural nostalgia has been the fuel of British economic decline. One of the many merits of Peter Mandler’s superb study is that it utterly demolishes these assumptions. He shows that, by Continental standards, Britain has ...


Gillian Darley: Lutyens, 17 April 2003

The Architect and His Wife: A Life of Edwin Lutyens 
by Jane Ridley.
Chatto, 524 pp., £25, June 2002, 0 7011 7201 0
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Edwin Lutyens, Country Houses: From the Archives of ‘Country Life’ 
by Gavin Stamp.
Aurum, 192 pp., £35, May 2001, 1 85410 763 1
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Lutyens Abroad 
edited by Andrew Hopkins and Gavin Stamp.
British School at Rome, 260 pp., £34.95, March 2002, 0 904152 37 5
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... keep offices in London and India and support his family, he might have been forgotten – just as Ralph Knott, the man who won that coveted job at County Hall has been, dismissed as just another prolix revivalist architect of no great note. Lutyens’s great-granddaughter Jane Ridley’s biography has been eagerly awaited, in the hope that it would clarify ...

Tang and Tone

Stephen Fender: The Federal Writer’s Project’s American epic, 18 March 2004

Portrait of America: A Cultural History of the Federal Writers’ Project 
by Jerrold Hirsch.
North Carolina, 293 pp., £16.50, November 2003, 0 8078 5489 1
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... was the impetus given to the careers of black authors: Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison were given their first chance by the FWP. Its ambition was to create – or rather to discover – a great American epic in the acts and words of ordinary men and women: to draw from the disregarded speech and customs of the people the underlying ...

Understanding Forwards

Michael Wood: William James, 20 September 2007

William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism 
by Robert Richardson.
Mariner, 622 pp., £15, September 2007, 978 0 618 43325 4
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... James, the most recent in a long run of biographies. Its predecessors were by Ralph Barton Perry (1935), Gay Wilson Allen (1967) and Linda Simon (1998). There are also fine portraits in Jean Strouse’s biography of Alice James (1980) and in Louis Menand’s Metaphysical Club (2001). No lack of attention, then, but Richardson’s book is ...

Dreadful Apprehensions

Clare Bucknell: Collier and Fielding, 25 October 2018

The Cry: A New Dramatic Fable 
by Sarah Fielding and Jane Collier, edited by Carolyn Woodward.
Kentucky, 406 pp., £86.50, November 2017, 978 0 8131 7410 5
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... We know Fielding had patrons during the late 1740s and 1750s (among them Pope’s friend Ralph Allen and the bluestocking Elizabeth Montagu) and did well from the subscription sales of her novels, but it’s less clear how Collier managed. The Cry was written and published during the years Fielding and Collier lodged together in London, in ...

Extreme Gothic Americana

James Lasdun, 6 June 2019

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee 
by Casey Cep.
Heinemann, 314 pp., £20, May 2019, 978 1 78515 073 9
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... to get the prominent black civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who had represented Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, to portray his client as a victim of discrimination by the insurance companies – who were indeed notorious for cheating their black customers – in order to compel them to pay up. A murkier entanglement of principle and cynicism would be ...

Spinoza got it

Margaret Jacob: Radical Enlightenment, 8 November 2012

A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy 
by Jonathan Israel.
Princeton, 276 pp., £13.95, September 2011, 978 0 691 15260 8
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... the Enlightenment, the liberal idealist Ernst Cassirer faced down the philosopher and future Nazi Martin Heidegger. Observers claimed Heidegger won that debate. A German Jew who would go into exile four years later, Cassirer had urged his contemporaries to look into ‘that bright clear mirror fashioned by the Enlightenment’ and to abandon their false ...

Utopia in Texas

Glen Newey: Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’, 19 January 2017

by Thomas More, edited by George M. Logan, translated by Robert M. Adams.
Cambridge, 141 pp., £9.99, August 2016, 978 1 107 56873 0
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by Thomas More, translated by Gilbert Burnet.
Verso, 216 pp., £8.99, November 2016, 978 1 78478 760 8
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... mentions Vespucci, whose accounts of his travels had been published by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in a volume that included a map christening the newly found continents ‘America’. More added detail to lend his fantasy substance, including the Utopians’ alphabet, a woodcut of their croissant-shaped island resembling ...

Kurt Waldheim’s Past

Gitta Sereny, 21 April 1988

by Luc Rosenzweig and Bernard Cohen.
Robson, 192 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 86051 506 0
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Waldheim: The Missing Years 
by Robert Edwin Herzstein.
Grafton, 303 pp., £12.95, April 1988, 0 246 13381 3
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... misuse history to advance their dangerous ideologies, and, at the other end of the scale, men like Martin Gray (For those I loved), who use these appalling events for self-aggrandisement. Interestingly, nobody minds much about Irving, but attacking Gray causes wrathful indignation among Holocaust dogmatists. I sought to learn from men who became monsters, such ...

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