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Capitalism’s Capital

Jackson Lears: The Man Who Built New York

17 March 2016
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York 
by Robert Caro.
Bodley Head, 1246 pp., £35, July 2015, 978 1 84792 364 6
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... Robert Moses​ was a modernist pharaoh. Over the forty years from the early 1930s to the late 1960s, he became a virtual dictator of public works in all five boroughs of New York and much of its suburban surroundings. Almost singlehandedly, through chicanery, fraud and bullying, he created the modern infrastructure of the New York City area: expressways, tunnels and bridges, but also parks, beaches, swimming pools and high-rise housing projects ...
5 July 2012
The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. IV: The Passage of Power 
by Robert Caro.
Bodley Head, 712 pp., £30, June 2012, 978 1 84792 217 5
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... listen that he was headed for the White House. He mapped out a plan to get there from which, as Robert Caro writes, ‘he refused to be diverted.’ It meant first establishing himself in state politics, then winning a seat in the House of Representatives, then moving up to the Senate and finally to the highest office. He was undaunted by the fact that ...

Just Had To

R.W. Johnson: LBJ

20 March 2003
The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Vol III: Master of the Senate 
by Robert A. Caro.
Cape, 1102 pp., £30, August 2002, 0 394 52836 0
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... decided at the outset I wasn’t going into all that,’ he told me. American biography, as Robert Caro’s vast Life of LBJ reminds one, is something else again. Whereas British political biography, with the (white) elephantine exception of Martin Gilbert’s Churchill is, almost as a matter of professional pride, a one-volume affair, there is a ...

Knucklehead Truman

Douglas Johnson

2 June 1983
The Eisenhower Diaries 
edited by Robert Ferrell.
Norton, 445 pp., £15.25, April 1983, 0 393 01432 0
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The Life and Times of Joe McCarthy: A Biography 
by Thomas Reeves.
Blond and Briggs, 819 pp., £11.95, June 1983, 0 85634 131 2
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The past has another pattern 
by George Ball.
Norton, 544 pp., £14.95, September 1982, 0 393 01481 9
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Torn Lace Curtain 
by Frank Saunders and James Southwood.
Sidgwick, 361 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 283 98946 7
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The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power 
by Robert Caro.
Collins, 882 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 00 217062 0
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The Politician: The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson 
by Ronnie Dugger.
Norton, 514 pp., £13.25, September 1982, 9780393015980
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Years of Upheaval 
by Henry Kissinger.
Weidenfeld/Joseph, 1312 pp., £15.95, March 1982, 0 7181 2115 5
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Richard Nixon: The Shaping of his Character 
by Fawn Brodie.
Norton, 574 pp., £14.95, October 1982, 0 393 01467 3
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Haig: The General’s Progress 
by Roger Morris.
Robson, 458 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 9780860511885
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Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President 
by Jimmy Carter.
Collins, 622 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 00 216648 8
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Crisis: The Last Year of the Carter Presidency 
by Hamilton Jordan.
Joseph, 431 pp., £12.95, November 1982, 0 7181 2248 8
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Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser 1977-81 
by Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Weidenfeld, 587 pp., £15, April 1983, 0 297 78220 7
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... newspaper pundits have created persistent legends; and it is to combat one of these legends that Robert Ferrell has edited Eisenhower’s diaries. Professor Ferrell is not the first historian who has sought to show that the General-President, far from being a confused nonentity, was, on the contrary, a hard-working, shrewd and purposive leader who ...
22 March 1990
... to the ultramontane grammarian, schoolteacher, Virgil-translator and polymath Miguel Antonio Caro, who in the course of a long life, legend has it, not only never bothered to see the sea, which was then many days distant, but even drew the line at going to see the River Magdalena, close enough for someone of even the feeblest geographical ...

How terribly kind

Edmund White: Gilbert and George

1 July 1999
Gilbert & George: A Portrait 
by Daniel Farson.
HarperCollins, 240 pp., £19.99, March 1999, 0 00 255857 2
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... is no within within. This book, left incomplete at the time of Farson’s death and tidied up by Robert Violette, is touching and illuminating in part because there is such a mismatch between the author and his subjects. Gilbert and George can only be defined in a series of paradoxes. They have photographed and exhibited their shit and their arses, not to ...

A Preference for Strenuous Ghosts

Michael Kammen: Theodore Roosevelt

6 June 2002
Theodore Rex 
by Edmund Morris.
HarperCollins, 772 pp., £25, March 2002, 0 00 217708 0
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... better part of a year, and his John Adams (2001) is providing an astonishing repeat performance. Robert Caro’s dramatically detailed look at The Years of Lyndon Johnson has been unfolding since 1982, and large chunks of Volume Three have been serialised in the New Yorker. In the meantime, Robert Dallek scooped him ...

Pound & Co.

August Kleinzahler: Davenport and Kenner

26 September 2019
Questioning Minds: Vols I-II: The Letters of Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner 
edited by Edward Burns.
Counterpoint, 1817 pp., $95, October 2018, 978 1 61902 181 5
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... on. When Davenport received Kenner’s letter he was at his parents’ house in Anderson, South Carolina, in the foothills of the Appalachians. He was the son of a Railway Express agent and a Baptist housewife, neither of them bookish or ambitious. He left high school in the tenth grade, when he was 16, to enrol at Duke University as a ‘desperately ...
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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... of high culture. An authorised biography has now appeared of an English dealer of recent memory, Robert Fraser, 1937-86. His chequered career, terminated by Aids, lasted as long as it did only because of subsidies from his parents and getting away with not paying his debts, while the world at large remembers him for pictures showing him in a police van ...

Ludic Cube

Angela Carter

1 June 1989
Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel in 100,000 Words 
by Milorad Pavic, translated by Christina Pribicevic-Zoric.
Hamish Hamilton, 338 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 241 12658 4
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... present lexicographer, so it can acquire new writers, compilers, continuers.’ In a US review, Robert Coover suggested that computer hackers might make Dictionary of the Khazars their own as a prototype hypertext, unpaginated, non-sequential, that can be entered anywhere by anybody. This looks forward to a utopian, high-tech version of the oral tradition ...

Makeshiftness

Barry Schwabsky: Who is Menzel?

17 April 2003
Menzel’s Realism: Art and Embodiment in 19th-Century Berlin 
by Michael Fried.
Yale, 313 pp., £35, September 2002, 0 300 09219 9
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... been the glory of classical art – was one of the big issues of those days, and the artist-critic Robert Smithson had great fun with Fried’s finding that certain polychrome sculptures by the painter Jules Olitski consisted of surfaces that had the miraculous property of being ‘flat, but rolled’. Speaking of the American painters he championed in the ...

Tousy-Mousy

Anne Barton: Mary Shelley

8 February 2001
Mary Shelley 
by Miranda Seymour.
Murray, 665 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7195 5711 9
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Mary Shelley in Her Times 
edited by Betty Bennett and Stuart Curran.
Johns Hopkins, 311 pp., £33, September 2000, 0 8018 6334 1
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Mary Shelley's Fictions 
edited by Michael Eberle-Sinatra.
Palgrave, 250 pp., £40, August 2000, 0 333 77106 0
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... be the Shelley ménage – in a book that also explores his biographical ‘intimacy’ with Robert Louis Stevenson, Gérard de Nerval and Mary Shelley’s remarkable mother Mary Wollstonecraft – that occasions the reflection. There is something about ‘the Shelley circle’, and particularly its bizarre life abroad, that produces this effect. At its ...

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