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Consider the lions

Peter Campbell

22 July 1993
The House of Gold 
by Richard Goy.
Cambridge, 304 pp., £60, January 1993, 0 521 40513 0
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The Palace of the Sun 
by Robert Berger.
Pennsylvania State, 232 pp., £55, April 1993, 0 271 00847 4
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... to power on a much grander scale. His palace frontage is not the jolliest Classical building in Paris, but it is still the most impressive and among the most magisterially consistent. Richard Goy and RobertBerger, in their respective accounts of the construction of the Cà d’Oro and of Louis XIV’s Louvre, remove ambiguities which hang around the word ‘built’. They ask who made decisions, who ...

In Denbigh Road

Peter Campbell: David Sylvester

7 February 2002
... David Sylvester, who contributed regularly to this paper, died last June. People who worked with him usually agree that he was the most engaged and patient looker at art they ever knew. Robert Rosenblum rightly says, in David Sylvester: The Private Collection, that there was something comical about his high seriousness, but it is also true that, ‘unlike the rest of us ironists’, he ...

Balls and Strikes

Charles Reeve: Clement Greenberg

5 April 2007
Art Czar: The Rise and Fall of Clement Greenberg 
by Alice Goldfarb Marquis.
Lund Humphries, 321 pp., £25, April 2006, 0 85331 940 5
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... for Malevich, Duchamp or Surrealism, and over time narrowed still further. But objections to Greenberg’s preferences paled in comparison with attacks on the way he justified his taste. In 1955 John Berger attacked the idea of ‘the iron division between the “highbrow” and the “lowbrow”’ in a piece in the Nation, whose association with Greenberg had ended a few years earlier in a flurry of ...

Coldstream

Lawrence Gowing

19 March 1987
... wallpaper any longer’. He must have thought I had a Vuillard-type pattern in mind. Anything that savoured of art or taste was excluded. In the studio which Coldstream shared with Graham Bell in Robert Street off the Hampstead Road ‘art’ had become a dirty word, though the depth of bitterness was reserved for the word ‘artistic’. Coldstream’s time at the GPO Film Unit was coming to an end ...

Was Weber wrong?

Malise Ruthven

18 August 1994
The Revenge of God: The Resurgence of Islam, Christianity and Judaism in the Modern World 
by Gilles Kepel.
Polity, 200 pp., £39.50, December 1993, 0 7456 0999 6
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Pious Passion: The Emergence of Modern Fundamentalism in the United States and Iran 
by Martin Riesebrodt.
California, 272 pp., £30, September 1993, 0 520 07463 7
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... tradition. In America, the New Christian Right challenged and temporarily checked the steady secularisation of politics. Commenting on the growth of evangelical and fundamentalist churches, Peter Berger, doyen of Weberian theorists, was forced to admit that ‘serious intellectual difficulties’ had been created ‘for those (like myself) who thought that modernisation and secularisation were ...

Men at Work

Tom Lubbock

12 January 1995
Looking at Giacometti 
by David Sylvester.
Chatto, 256 pp., £25, October 1994, 9780701162528
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... here to the supposed necessity for ‘expertise’ when it comes to the visual arts, or to the need evidently felt by its audience for authoritative/enthusiastic communicators (Kenneth Clark, Robert Hughes, Wendy Beckett) which no other artistic public feels – though these things are doubtless relevant. I mean the priority given to a mode of address: when the critic performs, not by talking to ...

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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... he had authorial ambitions, Toole wrote A Confederacy of Dunces in the early Sixties, while doing 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 ...

Diary

Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows

7 October 1993
... the blurb puts it), B.S. Johnson sets out his list of authors ‘who are writing as though it mattered, as though they meant it, as though they meant it to matter ... Samuel Beckett (of course), John Berger, Christine Brooke-Rose, Brigid Brophy, Anthony Burgess, Alan Burns, Angela Carter, Eva Figes, Giles Gordon, Wilson Harris, Rayner Heppenstall, even hasty, muddled Robert Nye, Ann Quin, Penelope ...

Hanging Offence

David Sylvester

21 October 1993
... The first is Gallery Nine at Burlington House, a square room where superb Frank Steallas of his black period confront us from the back wall while in the middle of the floor, humped in silence, is Robert Morris’s big low cage of a steel sculpture of 1967 and to either side whitish paintings by Robert Ryman and Agnes Martin. No self-respecting museum would present a combination which was so ...

Eat Your Spinach

Tony Wood: Russia and the West

2 March 2017
Return to Cold War 
by Robert​ Legvold.
Polity, 208 pp., £14.99, February 2016, 978 1 5095 0189 2
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Should We Fear Russia? 
by Dmitri Trenin.
Polity, 144 pp., £9.99, November 2016, 978 1 5095 1091 7
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Who Lost Russia? How the World Entered a New Cold War 
by Peter Conradi.
Oneworld, 384 pp., £18.99, February 2017, 978 1 78607 041 8
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... but holds instead that it is in various ways comparable to the polarisation that set in soon after 1945 – the Cold War standing in this case as both analogy and warning. In Return to Cold War, Robert Legvold – a specialist in post-Soviet foreign policy and regular contributor to Foreign Affairs – sees worrying similarities between the current situation and the early stages of the Cold War (c ...
18 February 1988
The Road to Botany Bay 
by Paul Carter.
Faber, 384 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 571 14551 5
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The Oxford History of Australia. Vol. IV: 1901-1942 
by Stuart Macintyre.
Oxford, 399 pp., £22.50, October 1987, 0 19 554612 1
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The Archibald Paradox: A Strange Case of Authorship 
by Sylvia Lawson.
Penguin Australia, 292 pp., AUS $12.95, September 1987, 0 14 009848 8
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The Lucky Country Revisited 
by Donald Horne.
Dent, 235 pp., AUS $34.95, October 1987, 9780867700671
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... although, judging from his vocabulary, structuralism, semiotics and similar fashions must have had a good deal to do with it. The phrase ‘ways of seeing’ crops up, reminding us of John Berger and his allegedly penetrating double squint. The authorial assumption which remains unquestioned at the end of the book – after 350 pages in which the word ‘spatial’ appears rarely fewer than ...
6 July 1995
Hippie Hippie Shake: The Dreams, the Trips, the Trials, the Love-ins, The Screw Ups … The Sixties 
by Richard Neville.
Bloomsbury, 376 pp., £18.99, May 1995, 0 7475 1554 9
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... until life had got more sensible again. Some made writing careers for themselves which developed smoothly enough from their media involvement at the time – Richard Neville himself, Germaine Greer, Robert Hughes, Charles Shaar Murray. Some people died, but only the famously talented (Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison) stick in the public memory. Most of the freaks, hippies and radicals recognised that youth ...

Diary

Adam Shatz: Ornette Coleman

15 July 2015
... than ‘music’ or ‘jazz’, is telling. The search for new sounds was a passion he shared with other composers in the American maverick tradition, from Charles Ives, Cage and Morton Feldman to Robert Johnson, Jimi Hendrix and Sun Ra.The revolution that began at the Five Spot was part of the wider black freedom struggle, as well as an extension of an American philosophy of self-reliance and ...

Miami Twice

Edward Said

10 December 1987
Going to Miami: Exiles, Tourists and Refugees in the New America 
by David Rieff.
Bloomsbury, 230 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 7475 0064 9
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Miami 
by Joan Didion.
Simon and Schuster, 224 pp., $17.95, October 1987, 0 671 64664 8
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... order to plot counter-revolutions, to assassinate or otherwise eliminate enemies, to buy and sell cars, houses, people and, naturally, drugs. To read Rieff on Miami is to recall with nostalgia John Berger’s The Seventh Man, with its haunting photographs by Jean Mohr of migrant Turkish or Italian workers in Switzerland, and its affecting notions about home and wandering. Rieff deals, not with a ...

Preposterous Timing

Hal Foster: Medieval Modern Art

8 November 2012
Medieval Modern: Art out of Time 
by Alexander Nagel.
Thames and Hudson, 312 pp., £29.95, November 2012, 978 0 500 23897 4
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Depositions: Scenes from the Late Medieval Church and the Modern Museum 
by Amy Knight Powell.
Zone, 369 pp., £24.95, May 2012, 978 1 935408 20 8
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... painting over all other forms of visual art, especially the easel picture, whether this be a representational tableau of a secular scene, the bourgeois mode of ‘a window on the world’ (which John Berger once associated with a safe on the wall), or a modernist painting of pure abstraction (which, despite the frequent claims of autonomy made on its behalf, is usually a commodity on the wall too). Like ...

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