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Tears in the Café Select

Christopher Prendergast

9 March 1995
Paris Interzone: Richard Wright, Lolita, Boris Vian and Others on the Left Bank 1946-1960 
by James Campbell.
Secker, 305 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 436 20106 2
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Foreign Correspondent: Paris in the Sixties 
by Peter Lennon.
Picador, 220 pp., £16.99, April 1994, 0 330 31911 6
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The Good Ship Venus: The Erotic Voyage of the Olympia Press 
by John de St Jorre.
Hutchinson, 332 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 09 177874 3
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... inventive Boris Vian, himself an accomplished trumpeter, faked a black identity as one ‘Vernon Sullivan’, author of the spoof crime novel J’irai cracher sur vos tombes. The American writers themselves fared variously in Paris. Himes prospered, while simultaneously raising and ditching the question of ‘race’ with the unforgettable question: ‘What ...

Hospitalism

Sarah Perry: Victorian ‘Hospitalism’

5 July 2018
The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine 
by Lindsey Fitzharris.
Allen Lane, 304 pp., £16.99, October 2017, 978 0 241 26249 8
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... sanctuary in music. Surgeons took pride in aprons so dirty they could have stood up on their own; Robert Liston, who pioneered the use of anaesthesia, stored his instruments up his sleeve between surgeries to keep them warm. The mortality rate among medical students – who were liable to let the knife slip – was high: the surgeon John Abernethy concluded ...
6 February 2020
A Cultural History of Tragedy: Vols I-VI 
edited by Rebecca Bushnell.
Bloomsbury Academic, 1302 pp., £395, November 2019, 978 1 4742 8814 9
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... education for the city state as a whole, not just a night out for the toffs. As Karen Sullivan notes in the first v0lume, it was also a form in which women figured prominently. During the festival of Dionysus, at which tragic drama was first performed, the city turned itself into a theatre, as the citizens who had learned to assess complex issues ...
7 April 1994
The Laurel and the Ivy: The Story of Charles Stewart Parnell and Irish Nationalism 
by Robert Kee.
Hamish Hamilton, 659 pp., £20, November 1993, 0 241 12858 7
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The Parnell Split 1890-91 
by Frank Callanan.
Cork, 327 pp., £35, November 1992, 0 902561 63 4
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... Ireland – if he did point one out. Far from merely straggling in the wake of a very large field, Robert Kee and Frank Callanan restore freshness to the scent by showing how much can still be quarried from close attention to Parnell’s career, not least to the press, which not only made and unmade his reputation but, alongside Hansard, supplied him with the ...

Bebop

Andrew O’Hagan

5 October 1995
Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-56 
edited by Ann Charters.
Viking, 629 pp., £25, August 1995, 0 670 84952 9
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... their chosen moments in the history of American airtime. Elvis Presley’s top half on the Ed Sullivan Show; John F. Kennedy’s live debate with a melting Richard Nixon; an early episode of I Love Lucy; a dinner-table scene from The Waltons; Neil Armstrong’s One Small Step; the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald; the pilot show of Roseanne. Each viewer wore ...

Shapeshifter

Ian Penman: Elvis looks for meaning

24 September 2014
Elvis Has Left the Building: The Day the King Died 
by Dylan Jones.
Duckworth, 307 pp., £16.99, July 2014, 978 0 7156 4856 8
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Elvis Presley: A Southern Life 
by Joel Williamson.
Oxford, 384 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 19 986317 4
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... His older twin, Jesse Garon, was stillborn. (There was ugly gossip later that the doctor, William Robert Hunt, might have had a drink; that he might have saved Jesse if he hadn’t been so preoccupied with the surprise appearance of a second child. But the Presleys were satisfied with his work and Dr Hunt received his standard $15 payment from the county.) In ...

Post-its, push pins, pencils

Jenny Diski: In the Stationery Cupboard

30 July 2014
Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace 
by Nikil Saval.
Doubleday, 288 pp., £20, June 2014, 978 0 385 53657 8
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... and managers comes together in the form-follows-function mantra, beginning with Adler and Sullivan’s Wainwright Building in St Louis in 1891, although, as Saval points out, from the start it was really all about form follows finance: The point was not to make an office building per specification of a given company … but rather to build for an ...

In a horizontal posture

Ruth Bernard Yeazell

5 July 1984
The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mary Russell Mitford: 1836-1854 
edited by Meredith Raymond and Mary Rose Sullivan.
Baylor University, Browning Institute, Wedgestone Press and Wellesley College, 431 pp., March 1983, 0 911459 01 4
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Love and the Woman Question in Victorian Literature: The Art of Self-Postponement 
by Kathleen Blake.
Harvester, 254 pp., £25, November 1983, 0 7108 0560 8
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... that Barrett’s poems were unnecessarily ‘obscure’ – a common complaint about the work of Robert Browning which she also repeatedly echoed. Often EBB penitently acknowledges the fault – ‘my obscure devil’ – just as she often insists on the inevitable cloudiness of those who strive after the sublime. Aeschylus, after all, was ‘the sublimest ...
16 November 1995
The Oxford Book of Classical Verse in Translation 
edited by Adrian Poole and Jeremy Maule.
Oxford, 606 pp., £19.99, October 1995, 0 19 214209 7
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... to do with Pindar. Elsewhere, when a certain grossness is needed, the chance is missed. Both Sir Robert Stapylton (1647) and Henry Fielding (1743) have a go at translating Juvenal’s ferocious account of the profligate Empress Messalina working as a prostitute in a Roman brothel and both suppress Juvenal’s reference to gilded nipples (‘papillis ...
30 October 1997
Dust-bowl Migrants in the American Imagination 
by Charles Shindo.
Kansas, 252 pp., £22.50, January 1997, 0 7006 0810 9
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In the Country of Country 
by Nicholas Dawidoff.
Faber, 365 pp., £12.99, June 1997, 0 571 19174 6
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... inconsistent with the migrants’ own desires’. Similarly, the folklorists Charles Todd and Robert Sonkin, sent west under the aegis of Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress to record what might be left of the migrants’ musical lore, paid no attention to what the Okies – by now into commercialised country and western music – wanted to hear, play ...
13 November 1997
Lord Hailsham: A Life 
by Geoffrey Lewis.
Cape, 403 pp., £25, October 1997, 0 224 04252 1
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... doing away with himself – with Quintin’s shotgun. Quintin’s first marriage, to Natalie Sullivan, was an absurd disaster: he proposed, changed his mind, asked to be released from the engagement; but when Natalie refused to agree he went through with it as a point of honour and spent ten years in misery as a result. The person who elicited his ...

Rug Time

Jonathan Steinberg

20 October 1983
Kissinger: The Price of Power 
by Seymour Hersh.
Faber, 699 pp., £15, October 1983, 0 571 13175 1
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... is a typical sentence: ‘The revived interest in the White House wiretaps also prompted William Sullivan, who was then in the midst of a power struggle with J. Edgar Hoover, to visit Robert Mardian, head of the Justice Department’s Internal Security Division, and warn him, as Mardian later testified, that Hoover could ...
17 July 1980
Imagining America 
by Peter Conrad.
Routledge, 319 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7100 0370 6
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... at being himself’. Why would a man already cartooned in Punch and burlesqued by Gilbert and Sullivan in Patience, which had opened in New York and other American cities months before his arrival, still ‘need’ America to ‘liberate’ him or to make him celebrated? In what sense is a man, not convicted of any crime until 1895, who was to marry in ...

After High Tea

John Bayley

23 January 1986
Love in a Cool Climate: The Letters of Mark Pattison and Meta Bradley 1879-1884 
by Vivian Green.
Oxford, 269 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 19 820080 3
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... Casaubon in Middlemarch; Mrs Humphry Ward gave a vivid picture of Pattison as Squire Wendover in Robert Elsmere, a Victorian best-seller; and Rhoda Broughton, the novelist who knew the Rector best, produced a cruel portrait in her slight and perfunctory novel Belinda. But this, alas, only illustrates the force of Henry James’s passionate statement to a ...

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