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Michael Dobson

18 November 1993
‘Hamlet’ versus ‘Lear’: Cultural Politics and Shakespeare’s Art 
by R.A. Foakes.
Cambridge, 262 pp., £30, March 1993, 0 521 34292 9
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Appropriating Shakespeare: Contemporary Critical Quarrels 
by Brian Vickers.
Yale, 508 pp., £35, April 1993, 0 300 05415 7
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Shakespeare, Poet and Citizen 
by Victor Kieran.
Verso, 261 pp., £18.95, March 1993, 0 86091 392 9
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... critical in-fighting among Shakespeareans, it would be less useful than Ivo Kamps’s anthology Shakespeare Left and Right (1991), in which one can not only see many of the same points being made (by Richard Levin), but also see numbers of them convincingly refuted. Like ‘Hamlet’ versus ‘Lear’ which laments the unprecedented ‘processing’ of Shakespeare carried out nowadays by explicitly ...

Sunshine

David Goldie: Morecambe and Wise

15 April 1999
Morecambe and Wise 
by Graham McCann.
Fourth Estate, 416 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 1 85702 735 3
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... is trying to account for is not just the careers of two excellent funny men, but the culture – both national and televisual – that made them possible. To accept (and extend to Celtic Britain) Richard Hoggart’s assertion, in The Way We Live Now, that the English are ‘most characteristic of their collective selves when being irreverent, vulgar, nutty rather than when brought together in ...
17 November 1983
The Woman in Black 
by Susan Hill and John Lawrence.
Hamish Hamilton, 160 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 241 10987 6
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Legion 
by William Peter Blatty.
Collins, 252 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 00 222735 5
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The Lost Flying Boat 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 288 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 246 12236 6
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Snow, and Other Stories 
by Antony Lambton.
Quartet, 134 pp., £6.95, September 1983, 0 7043 2407 5
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New Islands, and Other Stories 
by Maria Luisa Bombal, translated by Richard​ Cunningham, Lucia Cunningham and Jorge Luis Borges.
Faber, 112 pp., £8.50, October 1983, 0 571 12052 0
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The Antarctica Cookbook 
by Crispin Kitto.
Duckworth, 190 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 7156 1762 1
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Sole Survivor 
by Maurice Gee.
Faber, 232 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 571 13017 8
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... drawing-room, my heart is pounding. Daniel lies on the divan, yawning among his dogs. Hardly a page of this fine collection is without some comparable finesse of style, and the two translators, Richard and Lucia Cunningham, have worked hard for the marvellous combined effect of limpidity and obscurity which Maria Luisa Bombal creates. Crispin Kitto’s The Antarctica Cookbook is more of a ...

Little Philadelphias

Ange Mlinko: Imagism

25 March 2010
The Verse Revolutionaries: Ezra Pound, H.D. and the Imagists 
by Helen Carr.
Cape, 982 pp., £30, May 2009, 978 0 224 04030 3
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... respectable imprint, thus launching himself onto the public stage. He was the impresario who galvanised and drew support from the other players in this drama: the Imagists – H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Richard Aldington, T.E. Hulme, F.S. Flint, John Gould Fletcher, Amy Lowell – as well as scores more who had a stake in the continuing vitality of literature, including Yeats, Lawrence, Ford Madox Ford ...

What’s Left?

Sheila Fitzpatrick: The Russian Revolution

29 March 2017
October: The Story of the Russian Revolution 
by China Miéville.
Verso, 358 pp., £18.99, May 2017, 978 1 78478 280 1
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The Russian Revolution 1905-1921 
by Mark D. Steinberg.
Oxford, 388 pp., £19.99, February 2017, 978 0 19 922762 4
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Russia in Revolution: An Empire in Crisis, 1890 to 1928 
by S.A. Smith.
Oxford, 455 pp., £25, January 2017, 978 0 19 873482 6
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The Russian Revolution: A New History 
by Sean McMeekin.
Basic, 496 pp., $30, May 2017, 978 0 465 03990 6
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Historically Inevitable? Turning Points of the Russian Revolution 
by Tony Brenton.
Profile, 364 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 1 78125 021 1
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... first socialist revolution deserves celebration, he writes, because ‘things changed once, and they might do so again’ (how’s that for a really minimal claim?). ‘Liberty’s dim light’ shone briefly, even if ‘what might have been a sunrise [turned out to be] a sunset.’ But it could have been otherwise with the Russian Revolution, and ‘if its sentences are still unfinished, it is up ...

No False Modesty

Rosemary Hill: Edith Sitwell

20 October 2011
Edith Sitwell: Avant-Garde Poet, English Genius 
by Richard​ Greene.
Virago, 532 pp., £25, March 2011, 978 1 86049 967 8
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... the Chelsea dressmaker Nina Astier with cleverly chosen off the peg hats from Whiteley’s (for many years her local department store in Bayswater) – is one of several interesting points on which Richard Greene has nothing to say in this disappointingly flat biography. Why she did it she explained herself. It was, like so much in her life and work, the result of a famously (if productively) unhappy ...

But she read Freud

Alice Spawls: Flora Thompson

19 February 2015
Dreams of the Good Life: The Life of Flora Thompson and the Creation of ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ 
by Richard​ Mabey.
Allen Lane, 208 pp., £9.99, March 2015, 978 0 14 104481 1
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... her that success, coming so late, was determined by her childhood recollections rather than her ‘proper’ fiction. What she dreamed of escaping to is hard to say. One of the problems faced by Richard Mabey in his biography of Thompson, Dreams of the Good Life, is that Lark Rise to Candleford and its sequel, Heatherley, which wasn’t published until 1979, are almost the only sources we have. By ...

Cooking it up

Rupert Christiansen

19 January 1989
Maria: Callas Remembered 
by Nadia Stancioff.
Sidgwick, 264 pp., £13.95, April 1988, 0 283 99645 5
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Callas at Juilliard: The Master Classes 
by John Ardoin.
Robson, 300 pp., £16.95, April 1988, 0 86051 504 4
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Callas as they saw her 
edited by David Lowe.
Robson, 264 pp., £6.95, April 1988, 9780860514961
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The Great Caruso 
by Michael Scott.
Hamish Hamilton, 322 pp., £16.95, June 1988, 0 241 11954 5
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Chaliapin 
by Victor Borovsky.
Hamish Hamilton, 630 pp., £25, April 1988, 0 241 12254 6
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... through the agency of men like Wieland Wagner in Germany and Visconti in Italy, this situation changed. Opera became a sensitive field of ideological possibilities: the traditions associated with Richard Wagner, in particular, had to be reassessed in the withering light of Nazism, while in Italy the revival – begun under Mussolini as part of a nationalist cultural policy – of an apparently dead ...

A Light-Blue Stocking

Helen Deutsch: Hester Lynch Salusbury Thrale Piozzi

14 May 2009
Hester: The Remarkable Life of Dr Johnson’s ‘Dear Mistress’ 
by Ian McIntyre.
Constable, 450 pp., £25, November 2008, 978 1 84529 449 6
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... agreeability’; in both contemporary and modern estimations an English Madame de Staël. Her competitor for this honour – and another of her guests – was Elizabeth Montagu, against whom Hester shone for her excesses. ‘Mrs Montagu … reasons well, and harangues well, but wit she has none,’ Fanny Burney wrote. ‘Mrs Thrale has almost too much; for when she is in spirits, it bursts forth in ...

Save us from saviours

Thomas Pavel: E.M. Cioran

27 May 2010
Searching for Cioran 
by Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston.
Indiana, 284 pp., £18.99, March 2009, 978 0 253 35267 5
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A Short History of Decay 
by E.M. Cioran, translated by Richard​ Howard.
Penguin, 186 pp., £9.99, May 2010, 978 0 14 119272 7
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... from recommending a reasonable long-term programme, Cioran envisaged a sudden rebirth that would take place in a single moment of illumination. Just as Jesus was transfigured on Mount Tabor, where he shone like the sun, conversed with dead prophets and was addressed as ‘Son’ by the voice of God (Matthew 17.1-9), the transfiguration of Romania would confer an instant radiance on the country that ...

Welly-Whanging

Thomas Jones: Alan Hollinghurst

6 May 2004
The Line of Beauty 
by Alan Hollinghurst.
Picador, 501 pp., £16.99, April 2004, 9780330483209
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... keys have access to. Nick was more and more seriously absorbed, but then just before he came he had a brief vision of himself, as if the trees and bushes had rolled away and all the lights of London shone in on him: little Nick Guest from Barwick, Don and Dot Guest’s boy, fucking a stranger in a Notting Hill garden at night. Leo was right, it was so bad, and it was so much the best thing he’d ever ...

Mr Trendy Sicko

James Wolcott

23 May 2019
White 
by Brett Easton Ellis.
Picador, 261 pp., £16.99, May, 978 1 5290 1239 2
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... breakthrough novel, Bright Lights, Big City, and Morgan Entrekin, the editor at Simon and Schuster who acquired Bret Easton Ellis’s Less than Zero. Lish had the cult cred, but their properties shone the brightest. Gary and Morgan, Morgan and Gary, Jay and Bret, Bret and Jay – how often we heard their names tick-tock together then, the cricket chatter of the zeitgeist. Along with Tama Janowitz ...

Misrepresentations

Dmitri Levitin: The Islamic Enlightenment

22 November 2018
The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment 
by Alexander Bevilacqua.
Harvard, 340 pp., £25.95, February 2018, 978 0 674 97592 7
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The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle between Faith and Reason 
by Christopher de Bellaigue.
Vintage, 404 pp., £10.99, February 2018, 978 0 09 957870 3
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... The book in which these words appear – Dissertatio de Principibus Muhammedanis qui aut eruditione aut ab amore literarum et literatorum claruerunt (‘Dissertation on Islamic princes who shone for their erudition or for their love of letters and lettered men’) – was short, widely available and accessible to any European man or woman who could read Latin. As Alexander Bevilacqua shows ...
30 March 2000
Groovy Bob: The Life and Times of Robert Fraser 
by Harriet Vyner.
Faber, 317 pp., £20, October 1999, 0 571 19627 6
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... eyes of the avant-garde art world Fraser was one of the more worthwhile dealers of his time. According to that king of the métier Leo Castelli, he was ‘a superb dealer’; among leading artists, Richard Hamilton says that ‘Robert’s was the best gallery I knew in London,’ Ellsworth Kelly that ‘he was a very courageous and flamboyant dealer,’ Claes Oldenburg that ‘Robert really had an eye ...

A Lazarus beside Me

Avies Platt: An Encounter with Yeats

26 August 2015
... most striking-looking man I had ever seen: tall, somewhat gaunt, aristocratic, very dignified: a strong, yet sensitive face, crowned by untidy locks of white hair: horn-rimmed glasses, through which shone strange, otherworldly eyes. He wore evening dress, with a soft shirt. He leaned slightly forward, resting both hands on the chair in front of him, and on the little finger of his left hand was a ...

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