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At Tate Britain

Brian Dillon: ‘Phantom Ride’, 4 July 2013

... Simon Starling’s film installation Phantom Ride, commissioned by Tate Britain for its vast Duveen Galleries, takes its title from a cinematic fad of the early 1900s. Cameras and cameramen were hitched to the buffers of trains, and latterly trams, and filmed the track and scenery as they hurtled along. An early phantom ride was typically a single shot, just a few minutes long, which might, if you visited Hale’s Tours of the World (established on Oxford Street in 1906), have had its speeding colonial vistas enhanced with railway whistles, hissing steam and even shaking benches ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Ken or Boris?, 10 April 2008

... suggestive emails he had sent to a woman whose organisation had received funding from City Hall. Jasper blamed ‘the racist nature of a relentless media campaign’ for his resignation. All this has been terrible for Livingstone. He seemed very slow to understand how damaging these allegations were, and keener to sling around accusations of racism ...

Bring some Madeira

Thomas Keymer: Thomas Love Peacock, 8 February 2018

Nightmare Abbey 
by Thomas Love Peacock, edited by Nicholas A. Joukovsky.
Cambridge, 297 pp., £84.99, December 2016, 978 1 107 03186 9
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Crotchet Castle 
by Thomas Love Peacock, edited by Freya Johnston and Matthew Bevis.
Cambridge, 328 pp., £79.99, December 2016, 978 1 107 03072 5
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... that he specialised in giving to his characters. In the seven novels he produced between Headlong Hall (1815) and Gryll Grange (1860), names are rarely hard to decode. Anyside Antijack is a time-serving Tory politician; Cephalis Cranium, a phrenologist’s brainy daughter; the Revd Mr Grovelgrub, a sycophantic tutor; Dr Harry Killquick, a hit-or-miss ...

When the Costume Comes Off

Adam Mars-Jones: Philip Hensher, 14 April 2011

King of the Badgers 
by Philip Hensher.
Fourth Estate, 436 pp., £18.99, March 2011, 978 0 00 730133 1
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... hallway. Mr Lovell returned from his GP’s practice in Barnstaple and dropped his clothes in the hall; Mrs Lovell, abundantly fleshy, would come from the garden to meet him, wriggling out of skirt and blouse as she came. Tonight, the little squeaks of joy came with treble clusters of tintinnabulating piano chords … They were doing it in the dining-room, on ...

An Easy Lay

James Davidson: Greek tragedy, 30 September 1999

Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy 
edited by Simon Goldhill and Robin Osborne.
Cambridge, 417 pp., £45, June 1997, 0 521 64247 7
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The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy 
edited by P.E. Easterling.
Cambridge, 410 pp., £14.95, October 1997, 0 521 42351 1
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Tragedy in Athens: Performance Space and Theatrical Meaning 
by David Wiles.
Cambridge, 130 pp., £13.95, August 1999, 0 521 66615 5
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... contrasts strikingly with the passionate emotion of her songs.’ It’s most peculiar, as Edith Hall notes in Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy, that modern translations do not generally mark which parts of a tragedy were spoken and which were sung, although there is some difficulty, as Easterling admits in a footnote, over anapaests (often ...

Positively Spaced Out

Rosemary Hill: ‘The Building of England’, 6 September 2001

The Buildings of England: A Celebration Compiled to Mark 50 Years of the Pevsner Architectural Guides 
edited by Simon Bradley and Bridget Cherry.
Penguin Collectors’ Society, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2001, 0 9527401 3 3
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... Pevsner’s is more difficult than it looks. It defeats A.N. Wilson in Who Was Oswald Fish?, as Simon Bradley points out in a wide-ranging essay on ‘Pevsner in Fiction, Theatre and Cinema’. Imitation even of the most laconic entries is difficult. Only Alan Hollinghurst, among Bradley’s examples, gets it nearly right. But Pevsner was if not an ...


Fiona Pitt-Kethley: The Ravine, 20 May 2004

... cast of characters including three skeletons, 15 aardvarks, Quasimodo, Vinnie the Venus Fly Trap, Simon the Sundew and Pete the Pitcher plant. In my story, an old sofa that had been dumped beneath a tree became the aardvarks’ bed. The sofa has now been taken away by the police for DNA samples. I shall never tell a ravine story again. Housing estates have ...

Miracle on Fleet Street

Martin Hickman: Operation Elveden, 7 January 2016

... Clodagh Hartley, the Sun’s Whitehall editor, was acquitted over her dealings with Jonathan Hall, an HM Revenue & Customs press officer. Hall, who worked on the law enforcement desk, earned £17,475 over three years for leaking, among other things, the 2010 budget the night before it was delivered to the House of ...

Bringing Down Chunks of the Ceiling

Andy Beckett: Manchester, England: The Story of the Pop Cult City by Dave Haslam, 17 February 2000

Manchester, England: The Story of the Pop Cult City 
by Dave Haslam.
Fourth Estate, 319 pp., £12.99, September 1999, 1 84115 145 9
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... these halls.’ Precisely who went in mystified them, too; when a stampede at Ben Lang’s music hall killed 23 people in 1868, the victims were described as ‘street Arabs’. Local rumour muttered about prostitutes and criminals. A cycle had been established in which a craze or subculture would emerge, swell to bursting point, and alarm the city ...

Last Leader

Neal Ascherson, 7 June 1984

Citizen Ken 
by John Carvel.
Chatto, 240 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 7011 3929 3
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... way ... The hunter-gatherer is what humanity is.’ So far, so Fourier, or Rousseau or St-Simon. The most interesting question about state-of-nature utopian thinkers is where they insert the Fall and what they consider to have played the serpent. Ken Livingstone has no doubts. It was the introduction of agriculture, the Neolithic revolution ‘twenty ...


Ian Aitken: Closing Time at the Last Chance Saloon, 6 August 1992

... that its purpose (apart from making money) is to do down the Labour Party. I have no idea whether Simon Jenkins, the Time’s highly civilised editor, whose resignation precipitated the offer to Mr Dacre, really did intend to quit after two or three years, as he says he did. Nor do I know whether his departure was as amicable as he and his employers ...
The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age 
by Simon Schama.
Collins, 698 pp., £19.95, September 1987, 9780002178013
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... pendulum seems to be swinging back to narrative, it is encouraging to find a scholar as gifted as Simon Schama moving in the opposite direction. His first book, Patriots and Liberators, published in 1977, told the story of a major episode in Dutch political history, the revolution of the late 18th century, in a fluent narrative divided into 12 chronological ...

All change. This train is cancelled

Iain Sinclair: The Dome, 13 May 1999

... of poisoned land, a couple of miles to the east of the Royal Naval College (film set, banqueting hall for hire, weddings a speciality), that is being prepared for its tent-show apocalypse, has never previously been part of the Greenwich story. The peninsula, if you check it out on a 19th-century map, is a vestigial tail, a pre-amputation stump known as ...

Thunder in the Mountains

J. Hoberman: Orson Welles, 6 September 2007

Orson Welles: Hello Americans 
by Simon Callow.
Vintage, 507 pp., £8.99, May 2007, 978 0 09 946261 3
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What Ever Happened to Orson Welles? A Portrait of an Independent Career 
by Joseph McBride.
Kentucky, 344 pp., $29.95, October 2006, 0 8131 2410 7
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... lounge.) In addition to all this, there is an apparently unending succession of books, of which Simon Callow’s ongoing biography is the most monumental, now two volumes in and not even arrived at The Third Man, the 1949 movie that made Welles a myth. Callow’s second volume, Hello Americans, is named after the series of radio broadcasts Welles delivered ...

Blood on the Block

Maurice Keen: Henry IV, 5 June 2008

The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England’s Self-Made King 
by Ian Mortimer.
Vintage, 480 pp., £8.99, July 2008, 978 1 84413 529 5
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... to supplant the king. On 30 September, before the assembled lords and commons in Westminster Hall, he claimed the throne, which Richard had abdicated the day before, as the true heir ‘descended by right line of the blood coming from the good lord King Henry the Third’. On 13 October he was crowned king. The son of John of Gaunt, Edward III’s third ...

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