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28 September 1989
The Brideshead Generation: Evelyn Waugh and his Friends 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Weidenfeld, 523 pp., £17.95, September 1989, 0 297 79320 9
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Osbert: A Portrait of Osbert Lancaster 
by Richard Boston.
Collins, 256 pp., £17.50, August 1989, 0 00 216324 1
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Ackerley: A Life of J.R. Ackerley 
by Peter Parker.
Constable, 465 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 09 469000 6
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... of Gilbert Pinfold. As a profound fantasist he was deeply sympathetic to the Californian fantasy of burial, and the tour de force is also a sober labour of love. This Waugh has affiliations with RichardBoston’s Osbert Lancaster, the portrait of a connoisseur of social oddity who also loved it steadily and whole. Boston is discriminatingly informative about Lancaster’s achievement as artist and ...

Bypass Variegated

Rosemary Hill: Osbert Lancaster

21 January 2016
Osbert Lancaster’s Cartoons, Columns and Curlicues: ‘Pillar to Post’, ‘Homes Sweet Homes’, ‘Drayneflete Revealed’ 
by Osbert Lancaster.
Pimpernel, 304 pp., £40, October 2015, 978 1 910258 37 8
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... St Ronan’s at rugby. As he thundered towards him about to make a try, Lancaster did not move but politely inquired: ‘Do you wish to pass me on the left or on the right?’ The incident, which RichardBoston recounts in his biographical memoir of Lancaster, captures something essential about a man who, as a cartoonist and writer excelled in capturing types, human and architectural, yet himself ...

Seventeen Million Words

Richard​ Poirier

7 November 1985
The Inman Diary: A Public and Private Confession 
edited by Daniel Aaron.
Harvard, 1661 pp., £35.95, March 1986, 0 674 45445 6
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... On 5 December 1963, the day Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, a man in Boston named Arthur Inman, having made several earlier attempts on his own life, managed to put a bullet through his head. A variety of chronic ailments and complaints had made him an invalid for nearly all ...

I am a false alarm

Robert Irwin: Khalil Gibran

3 September 1998
Kahlil Gibran: Man and Poet 
by Suheil Bushrui and Joe Jenkins.
One World, 372 pp., £18.99, August 1998, 1 85168 177 9
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Prophet: The Life and Times of Kahlil Gibran 
by Robin Waterfield.
Allen Lane, 366 pp., £20, August 1998, 0 7139 9209 3
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... attendants and met the Kaiser on the latter’s Middle Eastern tour. Only after his imperious and incorruptible father had been brought low by the intrigues of his enemies did the family emigrate to Boston. There, Gibran grew up to become a major artistic and political figure. In Paris he knew Debussy, while Rodin went so far as to acclaim him as ‘the Blake of the 20th century’. As it happened ...

The Nominee

Andrew O’Hagan: With the Democrats

19 August 2004
... It once belonged to a man called Frederick Kerry – real name, Fritz Kohn – who had come to America from what is now the Czech Republic, and whose grandson, John Kerry, returned to his native Boston this week to accept the Democratic nomination for president. Frederick Kerry made and lost three fortunes in America, but losing the last one had left him without a name: consequently, around ...
25 March 1993
Malcolm X 
directed by Spike Lee.
May 1993
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By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of the Making of ‘Malcolm X’ 
by Spike Lee and Ralph Wiley.
Vintage, 314 pp., £7.99, February 1993, 0 09 928531 2
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Malcolm X: The Great Photographs 
compiled by Thulani Davis and Howard Chapnick.
Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 168 pp., £14.99, March 1993, 1 55670 317 1
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... opposed to him flat-faced, unmotivated scoundrels. The historical world is not just modified or tilted, it is secretly abandoned. In the midst of all the appearances of fidelity to the way it was in Boston and Harlem (and Lansing, Michigan, where Malcolm grew up, where the Klan hounded his family, where his father was killed), the film shifts us into dream time, its only location is a movie world. It ...

All he does is write his novel

Christian Lorentzen: Updike

4 June 2014
by Adam Begley.
Harper, 558 pp., £25, April 2014, 978 0 06 189645 3
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... was many things the author was not: a natural athlete, a blue-eyed Swede, sexually magnetic, taller than six feet, impulsive and urban’. Not so stimulating, if we’re to take Updike’s word, were Richard Maple and many of his cousins. With Mary and the four Updike children as his most generous sources, Begley is able to trace the degree of autobiography present in Updike’s fiction. It’s in many ...

Superficially Pally

Jenny Turner: Richard​ Sennett

22 March 2012
Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Co-Operation 
by Richard​ Sennett.
Allen Lane, 323 pp., £25, February 2012, 978 0 7139 9874 0
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... young journalist writes about her decision to retrain. People look to their jobs for so much that’s not written into any contract: self-respect, stability, social standing. Work is ‘a road’, as Richard Sennett once wrote, ‘to the unification of the self’. Except that it doesn’t usually end up like that, which is the reason the next page of the Guardian has Jeremy Bullmore, a sage and doleful ...

Too Fast

Thomas Powers: Malcolm X

25 August 2011
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention 
by Manning Marable.
Allen Lane, 592 pp., £30, April 2011, 978 0 7139 9895 5
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... his 17th birthday in 1942. For a time he worked at Small’s Paradise, Harlem’s famous nightclub near the corner of 135th Street and Seventh Avenue. He had recently been fired as fourth cook on a Boston-to-Washington dining car, and had yet to learn to want anything more than a good time. On any morning that summer, Little might have brushed shoulders with the slender, watchful Ralph Ellison ...

Do It and Die

Richard​ Horton

20 April 1995
by Abraham Verghese.
Phoenix, 347 pp., £18.99, May 1994, 1 897580 26 6
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... in India. His ambitions were clear. He sought a career in the celebrity playground of academic medicine and chose infectious diseases as the easiest route to achieve his goal. He and Rajani moved to Boston, where the élite of US medicine fight among themselves for huge reputations and lucrative private practice. They endured a roach-infested apartment for a while but his ambitions waned in the face of ...

Paper or Plastic?

John Sutherland: Richard​ Powers

10 August 2000
by Richard​ Powers.
Heinemann, 355 pp., £15.99, March 2000, 0 434 00862 1
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... 59, Ernest J. Gaines (1993) at 60. Thomas Pynchon was a relatively young 51 when he won, but by 1988 already the author of his major works. The Foundation nonetheless took a big punt on the genius of Richard Powers, who was awarded his MacArthur in 1989, aged only 32. I haven’t checked, but he is probably the youngest novelist ever to win a fellowship. Generally unknown in 1989, and temperamentally ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bio Insecurity

5 November 2009
... Klotz and Sylvester call this ‘massive overkill’. Al-Qaida didn’t need to build the planes they flew into the World Trade Center: if they wish ‘to carry out a bioweapons attack in the US’, Richard Ebright, a microbiologist at Rutgers has said, ‘their simplest means of acquiring access to the materials and the knowledge would be to send individuals to train within programmes involved in ...

On Roy Fisher

August Kleinzahler

28 June 2017
... Board of Trade building where Frank Norris’s novel The Pit is set; Studs Lonigan’s street corner on the South Side from James Farrell’s trilogy; the block of South Drexel where Bigger Thomas in Richard Wright’s Native Son killed and incinerated his rich employer’s daughter; Nelson Algren’s Division Street; the train station where Louis Armstrong was met by King Oliver’; and the Panther Room ...
5 October 2016
American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804 
by Alan Taylor.
Norton, 704 pp., £30, November 2016, 978 0 393 08281 4
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... of the 1850s, white supremacist politicians of the Jim Crow era, and more recent hucksters and demagogues including Joe McCarthy and George Wallace. Not to mention more respectable types such as Richard Nixon, whose ‘Southern strategy’ offered a blueprint for mobilising white resentment over the gains of the Civil Rights movement. (That ‘respectable’ and ‘Nixon’ can be included in the ...
6 November 1980
by Richard​ Sennett.
Secker, 206 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 436 44675 8
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... even a sociability which overrides the very distinction between public and private, is a condition, not merely of order, but of an expressive energy which makes order and freedom itself worth having? Richard Sennett believes that it is. As he has explained in what he has written about Chicago and about the bewildered self-contempt of blue-collar workers in Boston in the late 1960s, and as he has most ...

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