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Between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines

Tim Parks: Guelfs v. Ghibellines

13 July 2016
Dante: The Story of His Life 
by Marco Santagata, translated by Richard Dixon.
Harvard, 485 pp., £25, April 2016, 978 0 674 50486 8
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... Guido briefly left the city, handing over control to his brother. The brother was assassinated by a cousin who exiled Guido in perpetuity. The noble tomb was never built. Elegantly translated by RichardDixon, Santagata’s biography avoids the quarrels among critics that sometimes dominate Dante studies, relegating its references and accounts of diverging opinions to a hundred pages of useful notes ...

I have not lived up to it

Helen Vendler: Melancholy Hopkins

2 April 2014
The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins Vols I-II: Correspondence 
edited by R.K.R. Thorton and Catherine Phillips.
Oxford, 1184 pp., £175, March 2013, 978 0 19 965370 6
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... to Hopkins from his other correspondents – seems pallid, lacking originality, when juxtaposed to his own athletic prose. Patmore disliked Hopkins’s poems (pressed on him by Bridges), and Canon Dixon, although sympathetic and genial, doesn’t produce much vivacity. It is good to have the canvas of the exchanges filled in, and there are some livelier moments (especially in Dixon), but these ...

Lachrymatics

Ferdinand Mount: British Weeping

17 December 2015
Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears 
by Thomas Dixon.
Oxford, 438 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 0 19 967605 7
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... thing,’ as Blake puts it in ‘The Grey Monk’. For the same reason, the history of weeping is a slippery enterprise. At the end of his immensely readable and often puckish exploration, Thomas Dixon sighs, with reason, that ‘it is impossible to pin tears down.’ Dixon directs the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University of London. Keats might have thought this rather ...
5 December 1985
An Eton Schoolboy’s Album 
by Mark Dixon.
Debrett, 118 pp., £10.95, November 1985, 0 905649 78 8
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... I didn’t learn much history at Eton, but one of the first things we were taught was that Henry VI founded Eton, his “College Roiall of oure Lady Eton”, in the year 1440.’ So says Mark Dixon in An Eton Schoolboy’s Album. He may or may not have learned much history, but somewhere along the line Dixon, who left Eton in 1980, has learned how to write in an entertaining and elegant way. I ...
17 July 1997
Mason & Dixon 
by Thomas Pynchon.
Cape, 773 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 9780224050012
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... away into the brisk Wind off Delaware’ – that’s what it says right now in the window of my local bookshop. It’s been painted on the glass by hand. It’s from the first sentence of Mason – Dixon. Thomas Pynchon was born on Long Island, New York in 1937. He studied engineering, physics and, later, English literature, at Cornell University, then worked as a technical writer for Boeing until ...

Make Something Happen!

Julian Bell: Paint Serious, Paint Big

2 December 2010
Salvator Rosa: Bandits, Wilderness and Magic 
by Helen Langdon, Xavier Salomon and Caterina Volpi.
Paul Holberton, 240 pp., £40, September 2010, 978 1 907372 01 8
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Painting for Profit: The Economic Lives of 17th-Century Italian Painters 
by Richard​ Spear and Philip Sohm et al.
Yale, 384 pp., £45, 0 300 15456 9
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Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane 
by Andrew Graham-Dixon.
Allen Lane, 514 pp., £30, July 2010, 978 0 7139 9674 6
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The Moment of Caravaggio 
by Michael Fried.
Princeton, 304 pp., £34.95, 0 691 14701 9
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... then there was a gap, till the next genius’). Or are those all we need, in fact, if we happen to be writing the history of art? Three recent books bear on these issues. The Seicento specialists Richard Spear and Philip Sohm have put together Painting for Profit: The Economic Lives of 17th-Century Italian Painters, which explores what new co-ordinates one current academic strategy has to deliver ...

Call It Capitalism

Thomas Jones: Pynchon

10 September 2009
Inherent Vice 
by Thomas Pynchon.
Cape, 369 pp., £18.99, August 2009, 978 0 224 08948 7
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... as Corey, who was once described by Kenneth Tynan as a ‘travesty of all that our civilisation holds dear and one of the funniest grotesques in America’, accepted the ‘stipend’ on behalf of ‘Richard Python’. ‘The great fiction story is now being rehearsed before our very eyes, in the Nixon administration,’ Corey announced. He described Gravity’s Rainbow as ‘a small contribution to a ...

A Likely Story

Frank Kermode

25 January 1996
Howard Hodgkin: Paintings 
by Michael Auping, John Elderfield and Susan Sontag, edited by Marla Price.
Thames and Hudson, 216 pp., £28, October 1995, 0 500 09256 7
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Howard Hodgkin 
by Andrew Graham-Dixon.
Thames and Hudson, 192 pp., £24.95, October 1994, 0 500 27769 9
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... by a ‘gallery’ of paintings and their tributary poems: Aretino on Titian, Rossetti on Leonardo, Baudelaire on Callot, Donald Hall on Munch, Hollander on Monet and dozens more, including Richard Wilbur’s exquisitely meditative imitation of a Baroque wall fountain, a poem that sounds more like the work of art it imitates than any other I know.* The painting of Howard Hodgkin is a first-rate ...

When the beam of light has gone

Peter Wollen: Godard Turns Over

17 September 1998
The Films of Jean-Luc Godard 
by Wheeler Winston Dixon.
SUNY, 290 pp., £17.99, March 1997, 0 7914 3285 8
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Speaking about Godard 
by Kaja Silverman and Harun Farocki.
New York, 256 pp., $55, July 1998, 0 8147 8066 0
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... was in revolt against conventional ideas of cinema, against le cinéma de papa, he was also an unashamed fan of minor Hollywood pictures. Breathless, as Godard readily admitted, was inspired by Richard Quine’s Pushover and could be seen as the direct sequel to Otto Preminger’s Bonjour tristesse. The central character of the film, the petty criminal played by Belmondo, modelled his self-image on ...

Don’t you care?

Michael Wood: Richard​ Powers

22 February 2007
The Echo Maker 
by Richard​ Powers.
Heinemann, 451 pp., £17.99, January 2007, 978 0 434 01633 4
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... At one moment in Thomas Pynchon’s novel named after them, Mason and Dixon pause to wonder what history’s verdict on their most famous work is likely to be, its ‘assessment of the Good resulting from this Line, vis-à-vis the not-so-good’. A voice, apparently coming ...
7 March 2013
Words of the World: A Global History of the ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ 
by Sarah Ogilvie.
Cambridge, 241 pp., £17.99, November 2012, 978 1 107 60569 5
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... to the left of the headword. Murray’s successors William Craigie and Charles Onions tussled over whether to maintain this practice. Proofs of the Supplement dated 11 September 1929 retain Murray’s so-called tramlines; in the next proofs, dated 2 July 1930, they are gone. Between these dates, Onions joined the BBC Advisory Committee on Spoken English, where he became acutely aware of the prejudices ...

Serried Yuppiedromes

Owen Hatherley: What happened to London?

20 August 2014
Guide to the Architecture of London 
by Edward Jones and Christopher Woodward.
Phoenix, 511 pp., £16.99, July 2013, 978 1 78022 493 0
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... doesn’t give any obvious attention to: the careers of the two authors as architects. The blurbs over the years have always informed the reader of Jones’s role as one of the partners, with Jeremy Dixon, of the firm of Dixon Jones; Woodward, we are told, has been an architect in public and private practice and now writes architectural guides to European cities. There is a lot more to the story of ...

Much like the 1950s

David Edgar: The Sixties

7 June 2007
White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties 
by Dominic Sandbrook.
Little, Brown, 878 pp., £22.50, August 2006, 0 316 72452 1
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Never Had It So Good: A History of Britain from Suez to the Beatles 
by Dominic Sandbrook.
Abacus, 892 pp., £19.99, May 2006, 0 349 11530 3
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... the upper class but less than 20 per cent of the working class, a statistic which looks less dramatic when you work out the difference between a quarter and 20 per cent. The comfortingly conservative Dixon of Dock Green’s regular television audience of 13 million suggested ‘that many viewers still preferred nostalgia and reassurance’ to the ‘grittiness and realism’ of programmes like Z Cars ...

‘My God was bigger than his’

Colin Kidd: The Republicans

4 November 2004
The Right Nation: Why America Is Different 
by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge.
Allen Lane, 450 pp., £14.99, August 2004, 0 7139 9738 9
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Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet 
by James Mann.
Penguin, 448 pp., $16, September 2004, 0 14 303489 8
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Nixon’s Shadow: The History of an Image 
by David Greenberg.
Norton, 496 pp., £9.99, November 2004, 0 393 32616 0
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America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism 
by Anatol Lieven.
HarperCollins, 274 pp., £18.99, October 2004, 0 00 716456 4
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... doveish Carter in the election of 1980 pushed these Democrat hawks – the so-called neoconservatives – into the Republican camp, though not all of them formally switched their party registrations. Richard Perle, a leading figure in the Republican defence establishment known as the ‘Prince of Darkness’, remains a registered Democrat. Among the neoconservative Democrats who moved over to join the ...
23 June 1994
... a good idea to catch his stage act. Fists clenched, tense but unafraid, he launches himself out of the shadows and onto the platform. At 32, the former boot boy was a man among men. Or, that’s how Richard Allen might choose to break in a new face in one of his New English Library Skinhead shockers. It’s an Allen pulp hologram that Stewart Home is impersonating. But impersonation is too weak a term ...

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