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John Bayley

16 June 1983
Dostoevsky and ‘The Idiot’: Author, Narrator and Reader 
by Robin Feuer Miller.
Harvard, 296 pp., £16, October 1981, 0 674 21490 0
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by John Jones.
Oxford, 365 pp., £15, May 1983, 9780198126454
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New Essays on Dostoyevsky 
edited by Malcolm Jones and Garth Terry.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £25, March 1983, 0 521 24890 6
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The Art of Dostoevsky: Deliriums and Nocturnes 
by Robert Louis Jackson.
Princeton, 380 pp., £17.60, January 1982, 0 691 06484 9
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... up at a time when Constance Garnett’s translations were being rapturously received by the English intelligentsia – but it is a scholar’s approach to the novels, not to their author. Professor Jackson’s study is more nicely balanced between, as it were, the human and the critical; and it is particularly strong on the relation of Dostoevsky’s novels to the literature of the time, complementing ...

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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... that Guernica proved Picasso had lost his stuff, for instance – might seem wrong; his self-assurance might verge on narrow-mindedness; the game might bore us. But the rulings were clear: by 1954, Jackson Pollock’s paintings were ‘forced’ and ‘dressed up’; Clyfford Still never left the minor league; Marcel Duchamp was a joker (not in a good way); Morris Louis painted as brilliantly as ...

The Word on the Street

Elaine Showalter

7 March 1996
Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics 
by Anonymous.
Chatto, 366 pp., £15.99, February 1996, 0 7011 6584 7
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... a suspect) called Primary Colors ‘an absolutely dazzling book, the best political novel in many years’. In Newsweek, Walter Shapiro found it ‘the best aide’s-eye view of politics since Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men’. In the New Republic, Matthew Cooper, after revealing (‘full disclosure’) that he himself is now dating Mandy Grunwald, who held the position in the ...

Rub gently out with stale bread

Adam Smyth: The Print Craze

2 November 2017
The Print Before Photography: An Introduction to European Printmaking 1550-1820 
by Antony Griffiths.
British Museum, 560 pp., £60, August 2016, 978 0 7141 2695 1
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... The Compleat Drawing-Book​, published by Fleet Street printseller Robert Sayer in 1755, is a handbook for the amateur artist that aims to provide ‘Proper Instructions to Youth for their Entertainment and Improvement in this Art’. The core of the book is a series of ...

Lethal Pastoral

Paul Keegan: Housman’s Lethal Pastoral

17 November 2016
Housman Country: Into the Heart of England 
by Peter Parker.
Little, Brown, 446 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 1 4087 0613 8
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... and included in Last Poems: ‘Tell me not here, it needs not saying,/What tune the enchantress plays/In aftermaths of soft September/Or under blanching mays.’ A year later, reviewing a life of Louis-Napoleon, he drily noted some inexact uses among ‘the daisies and dandelions of contemporary metaphor’: ‘I did not know that a storm could have an aftermath, nor that an aftermath could reach a ...

Oh God, what have we done?

Jackson​ Lears: The Strange Career of Robert​ Oppenheimer

20 December 2012
Inside the Centre: The Life of J. Robert​ Oppenheimer 
by Ray Monk.
Cape, 818 pp., £30, November 2012, 978 0 224 06262 6
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... about their achievement; no wonder some began to glimpse the darker dimensions of Enlightenment when the blinding flash of the first atomic explosion revealed their labours had not been in vain.J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist in charge of the Manhattan Project and hence ‘father of the atomic bomb’, was never openly remorseful. But he was nothing if not ambivalent, as Ray Monk makes clear in ...


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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... morsels of lung; a rat gnawed at a vertebra. Berlioz jumped out of the window and ran home to take 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 ...

Inside Every Foreigner

Jackson​ Lears: America Intervenes

21 February 2019
Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life 
by Robert​ M. Dallek..
Allen Lane, 692 pp., £30, November 2017, 978 0 241 31584 2
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... Cold War accelerated its growth into a behemoth that all FDR’s successors had to learn to live with. The welfare state became the warfare state – an outcome Roosevelt neither foresaw nor desired. Robert Dallek is troubled by the absence of leadership in contemporary American politics, and his biography of FDR is meant to show us what the real thing looks like. ‘In this time of demoralisation ...

What Life Says to Us

Stephanie Burt: Robert​ Creeley

21 February 2008
The Collected Poems of Robert​ Creeley: 1945-75 
California, 681 pp., £12.55, October 2006, 0 520 24158 4Show More
The Collected Poems of Robert​ Creeley: 1975-2005 
California, 662 pp., £29.95, October 2006, 0 520 24159 2Show More
On Earth: Last Poems and an Essay 
by Robert​ Creeley.
California, 89 pp., £12.95, April 2006, 0 520 24791 4
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Selected Poems: 1945-2005 
by Robert​ Creeley, edited by Benjamin Friedlander.
California, 339 pp., $21.95, January 2008, 978 0 520 25196 0
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... For a spell during the 1960s, Robert Creeley’s ‘I Know a Man’ may have been the most often quoted, even the most widely known, short poem by a living American. Here is the poem: As I sd to my friend, because I am always talking ...

Andy Paperbag

Hal Foster: Andy Warhol

21 March 2002
Andy Warhol 
by Wayne Koestenbaum.
Weidenfeld, 196 pp., £12.99, November 2001, 0 297 64630 3
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... 1961, and after 1968 he returned to a mode that he never really left – ‘business art’. Until recently, art history has mostly glanced over the commercial design in some embarrassment (at least Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns had the good taste to treat their window displays as rent-money work), sidelined the films and bemoaned his supposed decline after the 1968 shooting. Along with a few ...
16 February 1989
The Permanent Revolution: The French Revolution and its Legacy 1789-1989 
edited by Geoffrey Best.
Fontana, 241 pp., £4.95, November 1988, 0 00 686056 7
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... Caledonia, 14 July will be marked by a pop concert by Johnny Clegg, ‘le Zoulou blanc’ (unknown in Britain, where, as a South African, he is banned from TV, but bigger than Springsteen or Michael Jackson in France). What would Danton have thought of the Revolution being commemorated by a left-wing South African singing Zulu rock in the South Pacific? Perhaps it’s best we don’t know. One longs, at ...

The Medium is the Market

Hal Foster: Business Art

9 October 2008
... and collectors. That contemporary art might be seen in the first instance as an investment was soon made evident by the rise of high-return auctions, the most infamous being the 1973 sale of the Robert and Ethel Scull collection, which centred on Pop. Enraged artists saw none of the profits (with Hirst, in this respect, there has been a complete turnabout). After the recessionary 1970s, the anti ...

Mud, Mud, Mud

Nathaniel Rich: New Orleans

22 November 2012
The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans 
by Lawrence Powell.
Harvard, 422 pp., £22.95, March 2012, 978 0 674 05987 0
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... each block an island; the blocks came to be called îlets. French diplomats and governors often considered abandoning the town: ‘It is more than likely we will have to give it up,’ Voltaire said. Louis XV required few incentives to cede the territory to Spain in 1762. Why build a city on land that was described, as early as 1720, as ‘flooded, unhealthy, impracticable; fit for nothing save growing ...


Jackson​ Lears: Ralph Nader’s novel

8 April 2010
Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 
by Ralph Nader.
Seven Stories, 733 pp., $27.50, September 2009, 978 1 58322 903 3
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... muckraking journalists as Henry Demarest Lloyd, whose Wealth against Commonwealth told the sordid tale of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, as well as politicians such as William Jennings Bryan, Robert La Follette and even (for a while) Woodrow Wilson, whose New Freedom campaign of 1912 proposed to renew entrepreneurial opportunities through anti-trust and regulatory policies. He recalls a certain ...

Among the Graves

Thomas Laqueur: Naming the Dead

18 December 2008
The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction 
by Mark Neely.
Harvard, 277 pp., £20.95, November 2007, 978 0 674 02658 2
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This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War 
by Drew Gilpin Faust.
Knopf, 346 pp., $27.95, January 2008, 978 0 375 40404 7
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... Stonewall Jackson, the deeply neurotic but irresistibly romantic, swashbuckling Confederate commander, thought that the great and swift destruction of life and property seen in the American Civil War was the essence ...

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