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Cosmic!

Tim Radford: Yuri and the Astronauts, 5 March 1998

Korolev: How One Man Masterminded the Soviet Drive to Beat America to the Moon 
by James Harford.
Wiley, 392 pp., £24.95, June 1997, 0 471 14853 9
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Countdown: A History of Space Flight 
by T.A. Heppenheimer.
Wiley, 398 pp., £24.95, June 1997, 0 471 14439 8
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Something New under the Sun: Satellites and the Beginning of the Space Age 
by Helen Gavaghan.
Copernicus, 300 pp., £15, December 1997, 0 387 94914 3
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Space and the American Imagination 
by Howard McCurdy.
Smithsonian, 294 pp., £19.95, November 1997, 1 56098 764 2
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... for a few hundred feet? How do you explain the Romanian-German Hermann Oberth, and the American Robert Goddard, who pursued the mad ambition of space with rockets that lifted themselves only a few yards, before collapsing under their own contradictions? Even more remarkable are the interlinked stories of the two men who actually took humans into ...

Reel after Seemingly Needless Reel

Tony Wood: Eisenstein in Mexico, 3 December 2009

In Excess: Sergei Eisenstein’s Mexico 
by Masha Salazkina.
Chicago, 221 pp., £27.50, April 2009, 978 0 226 73414 9
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... to Montagu, this was no cause for alarm: the cost and ratio of raw footage to edited film for Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran were similar. Because the film had to be sent back to Hollywood for processing, Eisenstein never had access to rushes; so he filmed more takes than he would have needed, just in case. Never having made a film before, the Sinclairs ...

My god wears a durag

Ian Penman: Better than Beyoncé, 6 January 2022

Why Solange Matters 
by Stephanie Phillips.
Faber, 256 pp., £9.99, May 2021, 978 0 571 36898 3
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... of Bowie figure for many younger listeners who may never have heard of Sol LeWitt or Donald Judd, Robert Pruitt or Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, before Solange referenced them. There’s a fascinating autodidact’s story there, I think, which is very different from today’s more usual social media dream of effortless, instantaneous global renown. Phillips charts ...

Post-Modern Vanguard

Edward Mendelson, 3 September 1981

After the Wake: An Essay on the Contemporary Avant-Garde 
by Christopher Butler.
Oxford, 177 pp., £7.95, November 1980, 0 19 815766 5
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... untunes a synthesiser, while William Burroughs randomly folds and cuts up his prose, and Robert Rauschenberg pushes a stuffed goat through an old tyre. That all these are denatured versions of Modernist practice is something Christopher Butler recognises. But, at least at the start of the book, he has a hard time saying so. His prose sounds at one ...

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 Doktor, some ...

Desperately Seeking Susan

Terry Castle: Remembering Susan Sontag, 17 March 2005

... of her career: the Autodidact of all Autodidacts. The quizzing was relentless. Had I read Robert Walser? (Ooooh errrg blush, ahem, little cough, um: No, I’m ashamed to say . . .) Had I read Thomas Bernhard? (Yes! – Yes, I have! ‘Wittgenstein’s Nephew’! Yay! Yippee! Wow! Phew! – dodged the bullet that time!) It seemed, for a while at ...

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