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The Real Magic

David Sylvester, 8 June 1995

A Biographical Dictionary of Film 
by David Thomson.
Deutsch, 834 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 233 98859 9
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... observations which epitomise the art of film come in as asides, as when, writing about Michel Simon, he invokes ‘the special mingling of self and character that is so necessary (and dangerous) in screen acting’. (This, by the way, is a rewrite. In the previous edition it read: ‘the special mingling of self and character that is so hallucinatory in ...

Frameworks of Comparison

Benedict Anderson, 21 January 2016

... history (Bloch, Braudel, Hobsbawm, Needham, Elliott), sociology (Mosca, Pareto, Weber, Simmel, Mann), anthropology (Mauss, Lévi-Strauss, Dumont, Malinowski, Evans-Pritchard) or literary studies (Bakhtin, de Man, Barthes). All these foundational figures are European. The grand American exception is Chomsky, who revolutionised the study of ...

Here was a plague

Tom Crewe, 27 September 2018

How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed Aids 
by David France.
Picador, 624 pp., £12.99, September 2017, 978 1 5098 3940 7
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Patient Zero and the Making of the Aids Epidemic 
by Richard A. McKay.
Chicago, 432 pp., £26.50, November 2017, 978 0 226 06395 9
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Modern Nature: The Journals of Derek Jarman, 1989-90 
by Derek Jarman.
Vintage, 314 pp., £9.99, May 2018, 978 1 78487 387 5
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Smiling in Slow Motion: The Journals of Derek Jarman, 1991-94 
by Derek Jarman.
Vintage, 388 pp., £9.99, August 2018, 978 1 78487 516 9
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The Ward 
by Gideon Mendel.
Trolley, 88 pp., £25, December 2017, 978 1 907112 56 0
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... say “A friend of mine just died” doesn’t mean anything any more,’ the historian Simon Watney said in 1994, but that network is qualitatively and quantitively specific to how gay men live. Deaths in those networks mean deaths of whole areas of memory and association. Death for most heterosexuals means family deaths most of the time, up to the ...

All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides, 24 October 2019

Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... the rustle of the Holy Ghost, hers an oracular hooga-booga. The objections that Howe, Rahv, John Simon, the art critic Hilton Kramer and other keepers of the scrolls lodged against her were as much about the 1960s as they were about her, for no one in the Family (as Norman Podhoretz, a former Partisan Review-er, dubbed them) personified the 1960s more than ...

Who does that for anyone?

Adam Shatz: Jean-Pierre Melville, 20 June 2019

Jean-Pierre Melville: Le Solitaire 
by Bertrand Teissier.
Fayard, 272 pp., €22, October 2017, 978 2 213 70573 6
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Jean-Pierre Melville, une vie 
by Antoine de Baecque.
Seuil, 244 pp., €32, October 2017, 978 2 02 137107 9
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... just under the surface: Catherine Deneuve’s character appears to be the mistress of both Simon (Richard Crenna), the gangster behind the raid, and Edouard Coleman (Delon), the policeman pursuing him; Coleman exchanges lengthy, longing glances with one of his informers, a transvestite prostitute who’s clearly in love with him, only to inflict an ...

Time Unfolded

Perry Anderson: Powell v. the World, 2 August 2018

... commended Moravia and Malaparte, and was respectful of Aldanov and Malraux. Critical of Sartre and Mann, cool about Camus and Pasternak, he warmed to Queneau. These​ were the novels of others. It is in his own that the effect of Powell’s personal culture becomes salient. More real persons are referred to in A la recherche than there are characters: on a ...

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