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Investigate the Sock

David Trotter: Garbo’s Equivocation, 24 February 2022

by Robert Gottlieb.
Farrar, Straus, 438 pp., £32, December 2021, 978 0 374 29835 7
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... silver in the age of Web 2.0, Thomson has since added, is open to doubt. But that doesn’t stop Robert Gottlieb from presenting himself, at the start of his new biography, as an unapologetic negative theologian. ‘She’s still hiding – no one will ever know what was taking place behind those amazing eyes. Only the camera knew.’The story of ...

The Tarnished Age

Richard Mayne, 3 September 1981

David O. Selznick’s Hollywood 
by Ronald Haver.
Secker, 425 pp., £35, December 1980, 0 436 19128 8
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My Early life 
by Ronald Reagan and Richard Hubler.
Sidgwick, 316 pp., £7.95, April 1981, 0 283 98771 5
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Naming Names 
by Victor Navasky.
Viking, 482 pp., $15.95, October 1980, 0 670 50393 2
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... than a coffee table without legs. Its credits ape a blockbuster movie’s: ‘Executive Producer: Robert Gottlieb – Associate Producer: Martha Kaplan’, etc; and its first page opens like cinema curtains on a wider-than-Panavision main title modelled on Gone with the Wind. A good half of the book is pictorial ...

How does he come to be mine?

Tim Parks: Dickens’s Children, 8 August 2013

Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens 
by Robert Gottlieb.
Farrar, Straus, 239 pp., £16.99, December 2012, 978 0 374 29880 7
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... with some of the older children. In Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens, Robert Gottlieb quotes the letter in which Dickens explains to his wife what happened: ‘Presently, we heard them come back and say to each other with some alarm: “Why, the gate’s shut, and they are all gone!” Ally began in a dismayed way to cry ...


Jenny Diski, 28 April 1994

Roald Dahl: A Biography 
by Jeremy Treglown.
Faber, 307 pp., £17.50, March 1994, 0 571 16573 7
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... who sweated over his first drafts until such time as his imperious vanity was no longer tolerable. Robert Gottlieb of Knopf finally had to invoke his ‘Fuck-You Principle’, which held that he’d put up with difficult authors only until he could take no more, and then, business or no business, fuck them. The final straw for ...

Slumming with Rappers at the Roxy

Hal Foster: Nobrow: The Culture of Marketing, the Marketing of Culture by John Seabrook, 21 September 2000

Nobrow: The Culture of Marketing, the Marketing of Culture 
by John Seabrook.
Methuen, 215 pp., £9.99, March 2000, 0 413 74470 1
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... even for a mega-rich guy. Newhouse wanted both respectability and profitability, and turned to Robert Gottlieb, editor-in-chief at Knopf (US publisher of Nobrow, for those keeping score), as the man to make this cocktail swirl. In a retrospect that is easy but exact, Seabrook sees Gottlieb as a transitional figure ...

Adieu, madame

Terry Castle: Sarah Bernhardt, 4 November 2010

Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt 
by Robert Gottlieb.
Yale, 233 pp., £18.99, October 2010, 978 0 300 14127 6
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... crucial analytic concept after her: the Female Ovation Complex, perhaps. And indeed, why not? As Robert Gottlieb’s concise yet stylish new biography reminds us, the great actress’s sumptuously chequered life would have presented even the most dimwitted Viennese shrink with a veritable orchestra pit of things to quiz her about. Consider, Herr ...

Downhill Racer

John Sutherland, 16 August 1990

Lying together 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 255 pp., £13.95, June 1990, 0 575 04802 6
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The Neon Bible 
by John Kennedy Toole.
Viking, 162 pp., £12.99, March 1990, 0 670 82908 0
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Solomon Gursky was here 
by Mordecai Richler.
Chatto, 576 pp., £13.95, June 1990, 0 394 53995 8
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Death of the Soap Queen 
by Peter Prince.
Bloomsbury, 277 pp., £13.99, April 1990, 0 7475 0611 6
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... his national service in Puerto Rico. The manuscript was submitted to Simon and Schuster, where Robert Gottlieb, after dickering for two years, eventually turned it down in 1966. By 1969 Toole was an English instructor at Dominican University, working in his spare time on his PhD. A modest academic career seemed likely. But Toole began to behave in a ...

Eyes that Bite

Anne Enright, 5 January 2023

The Bluest Eye 
by Toni Morrison.
Vintage, 240 pp., £9.99, February, 978 1 78487 644 9
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... a Bible in a tube of sunlight’. So, all right, there is no comma here – Morrison’s editor, Robert Gottlieb, said he was always inserting commas into her sentences and she was always taking them out again – but it is not so distinctive as the word ‘tube’. Thirty-four years ago, I stopped reading, right here, to puzzle whether this should be a ...

This is how you smile

Ogazielum Mba: On Jamaica Kincaid, 8 February 2024

by Jamaica Kincaid.
Picador, 144 pp., £9.99, July 2022, 978 1 5290 7688 2
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At the Bottom of the River 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Picador, 80 pp., £9.99, July 2022, 978 1 5290 7678 3
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The Autobiography of My Mother 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Picador, 208 pp., £9.99, July 2022, 978 1 5290 7675 2
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Annie John 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Picador, 160 pp., £9.99, July 2022, 978 1 5290 7712 4
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... his forced departure in 1987, Kincaid found herself on combative terms with his successors, first Robert Gottlieb and then Tina Brown (‘Joseph Stalin in high heels’). She accepted a job as professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard, a position she still holds. She got divorced. And she devoted more time to her garden. In the opening ...

Lace the air with LSD

Mike Jay: Brain Warfare, 4 February 2021

Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control 
by Stephen Kinzer.
Henry Holt, 384 pp., £11.99, November 2020, 978 1 250 76262 7
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... in the CIA’s records. The files were heavily redacted but one name surfaced repeatedly: Sidney Gottlieb, who appeared to have been the director of a secret chemical division within the agency. Gottlieb, it turned out, was now in India, where he and his wife were spending their retirement working as volunteers at a ...

Chasing Kites

Michael Wood: The Craziness of Ved Mehta, 23 February 2006

The Red Letters: My Father’s Enchanted Period 
by Ved Mehta.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 190 pp., £15.99, November 2004, 0 9543520 6 8
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Remembering Mr Shawn’s ‘New Yorker’ 
by Ved Mehta.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 414 pp., £19.99, November 2004, 9780954352059
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Dark Harbour 
by Ved Mehta.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 272 pp., £17.99, November 2004, 0 9543520 4 1
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... as it chronicles what Mehta sees as the demise of the New Yorker. Shawn is fired in 1987; Robert Gottlieb becomes editor; then Tina Brown. David Remnick’s tenure is beyond the frame of this book. Mehta understands that times change and that the New Yorker had become more than a little unworldly. ‘We were courting disaster,’ he says of ...

Fed up with Ibiza

Jenny Turner: Sybille Bedford, 1 April 2021

Sybille Bedford: An Appetite for Life 
by Selina Hastings.
Chatto, 432 pp., £35, November 2020, 978 1 78474 113 6
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... decade, domesticity, cookery, paperwork, entertaining, trying to sew buttons,’ Bedford wrote to Robert Gottlieb, her American publisher, in 1986. Between 1956 and 1976, Bedford’s domestic situation had been fairly settled: cash injections from Gellhorn and Huxley’s second wife, Laura, a live-in relationship with Eda Lord, an American émigré ...


Robert Irwin: Pinball and Despair, 7 July 1994

... After breakfast, I would return to the game to clock up some more replays. It was an antiquated Gottlieb machine, assembled sometime in the Sixties, and hence without the doubtful improvements of the electronic age. It had a storyline based on card-play. As the ball hit the drop targets or was flung out from one balltrap to the next, it made clunking and ...

Back to Life

Christopher Benfey: Rothko’s Moment, 21 May 2015

Mark Rothko: Towards the Light in the Chapel 
by Annie Cohen-Solal.
Yale, 296 pp., £18.99, February 2015, 978 0 300 18204 0
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... he staged his paintings. ‘We were surprised to learn that his suicide was so ritualistic,’ Robert Motherwell said. For me, and I imagine for many others then as now, Rothko just was his paintings – paintings that seemed, when we stood before them spellbound, to be our shifting moods themselves. It is with some trepidation that one opens a new ...

Tarot Triumph

Edmund Leach, 4 September 1980

The Game of Tarot: from Ferrara to Salt Lake City 
by Michael Dummett.
Duckworth, 600 pp., £45, August 1980, 0 7156 1014 7
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Twelve Tarot Games 
by Michael Dummett.
Duckworth, 242 pp., £5.95, August 1980, 0 7156 1488 6
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... United States. It was a year of political disaster. Nixon became President; Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were both assassinated. But for Dummett things were even worse at home. He was ‘deeply involved in work to combat that racism which has, over the past fifteen years, disfigured our national life and dishonoured our country’, and in 1967 the ...

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