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Dan Jacobson, 15 September 1983

Final Judgment: My Life as a Soviet Defence Lawyer 
by Dina Kaminskaya, translated by Michael Glenny.
Harvill, 364 pp., £12.95, August 1983, 0 00 262811 2
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by Petro Grigorenko, translated by Thomas Whitney.
Harvill, 462 pp., £15, April 1983, 0 00 272276 3
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Notes of a Revolutionary 
by Andrei Amalrik.
Weidenfeld, 343 pp., £12.50, July 1983, 0 297 77905 2
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... Three autobiographical books by three Soviet dissidents who are as unlike one another in character, background and way of life as it is possible to be. The first of the authors is a solemn, Jewish lady-lawyer; the second an irascible Red Army general; the third (until his death recently in a car crash) was a contumacious bohemian of vagrant habits and wide-ranging intellectual interests ...

At the Met Breuer

Hal Foster: Thoughts made visible, 31 March 2016

... When​ a beloved building goes dark, a hole opens in the urban fabric: so it was when the Whitney Museum left its old home on New York’s Upper East Side, constructed by Marcel Breuer in blunt granite and concrete in 1966. Its new headquarters, designed by Renzo Piano in elegant steel and glass, opened in Chelsea last May ...

Under the Staircase

Karl Whitney: Hans Jonathan, Runaway Slave, 19 October 2017

The Man Who Stole Himself: The Slave Odyssey of Hans Jonathan 
by Gisli Palsson, translated by Anna Yates.
Chicago, 288 pp., £19, October 2016, 978 0 226 31328 3
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... a thousand. Ludvig Heinrich briefly became the governor general of the islands of St Croix, St Thomas and St John, moving to the governor’s mansion in Christiansted, the seat of Danish government in the West Indies, but then, in 1788, he resigned and returned with his family to Copenhagen. Emilia Regina travelled with them, and her son followed a couple ...

At Driscoll Babcock

Christopher Benfey: The Shock of the Old, 16 June 2016

... had heard of Durand, or, indeed, of the two ‘kindred spirits’ – the British-born painter Thomas Cole and the Romantic poet and newspaper editor William Cullen Bryant – whom he depicted contemplating a lushly idealised Catskills landscape of bluffs and waterfalls, their names inscribed like those of lovers on a nearby birch tree. Cole and Durand are ...

I wish she’d been a dog

Elaine Showalter, 7 February 1991

Jean Stafford: The Savage Heart 
by Charlotte Margolis Goodman.
Texas, 394 pp., $24.95, May 1990, 0 292 74022 0
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Jean Stafford: A Biography 
by David Roberts.
Chatto, 494 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7011 3010 5
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... he finally left her for another woman, Stafford had a complete breakdown and went into the Payne Whitney clinic for nearly a year. From the hospital she wrote to Lowell in anguish: ‘In your letter you say that you hope I will be recognised as the best novelist of my generation. I want you to know now and know completely that that would mean to me ...

Sheer Enthusiasm

Thomas Chatterton Williams: Zadie Smith, 30 August 2018

Feel Free: Essays 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 464 pp., £20, February 2018, 978 0 241 14689 7
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... Schutz’s painting Open Casket, depicting the lynched black teenager Emmett Till, on show at the Whitney Biennial. Halfway through the essay, Smith quotes Baldwin on the fundamental absurdity of racial categorisation: ‘What white people have to do is try to find out in their hearts why it was necessary for them to have a nigger in the first place.’ She ...

At the Royal Academy

Daniel Soar: Renzo Piano, 3 January 2019

... with the help of sketches, drawings, letters of commission, photographs and maquettes. A film by Thomas Riedelsheimer has him talking: if you take the cynic’s view of big-name architecture and like to do the sums relating to clients and money and cement, I challenge you not to be beguiled by this genial Genoan, twinkling with ideas and firmly rooted in the ...

Modernism’s Future

Jon Whiteley, 18 March 1982

The Meanings of Modern Art 
by John Russell.
Thames and Hudson, 429 pp., £18, October 1981, 0 500 27248 4
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The Oxford Companion to 20th-Century Art 
edited by Harold Osborne.
Oxford, 656 pp., £19.50, November 1981, 0 19 866119 3
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Abstract Expressionism: The Formative Years 
by Robert Hobbs and Gail Levin.
Cornell, 137 pp., £17.50, November 1981, 0 8014 1365 6
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... Expressionism: The Formative Years, first issued in 1978 to accompany an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art and at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum, put more stress than Russell does upon the influence of the European exiles in the late 1930s and less upon the buoyant optimism of America in the late 1940s. The debt to Picasso in the American ...

Humming, Gurgling and Whistling

Donald MacKenzie, 11 December 1997

Engineering the Revolution: Arms and Enlightenment in France, 1763-1815 
by Ken Alder.
Princeton, 494 pp., £45, April 1997, 0 691 02671 8
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... In July 1785, Thomas Jefferson, then American Ambassador to France, paid a visit to the dungeon of the Château de Vincennes. Its three-metre-thick walls had previously imprisoned Diderot and the Marquis de Sade. Now, however, it housed the workshop of a gunsmith, Honoré Blanc, and a dozen assistants. As Jefferson watched, Blanc sorted into bins the pieces of 50 musket flintlocks: ‘tumblers, lock plates, frizzens, pans, cocks, sears, bridals, screws and springs ...


Christopher Tayler: Multofiction, 8 January 2004

Set This House in Order 
by Matt Ruff.
Flamingo, 496 pp., £12, October 2003, 0 00 716423 8
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... conspiracy of satanic cults. There was Dr Bruno, who was into past-life regression. There was Dr Whitney, who as a sideline to his regular practice ran a support group for people who had been sexually assaulted by extraterrestrials. And then there was Dr Leopold, who recommended litigation as an adjunct to psychotherapy. ‘Sue your parents,’ he ...


Iain Sinclair, 6 June 1996

... with the poet’s appointments at the clinic, our visits to the Beat Culture exhibition at the Whitney. Complex negotiations are entered into with minders and middlemen. I thought of Jeffrey Smalldon’s account of running across Corso in the Kettle of Fish, how the occasion rapidly degenerated into rows over lottery tickets and a chance meeting with a ...

Utopia Limited

David Cannadine, 15 July 1982

Fabianism and Culture: A Study in British Socialism and the Arts, 1884-1918 
by Ian Britain.
Cambridge, 344 pp., £19.50, June 1982, 0 521 23563 4
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The Elmhirsts of Dartington: The Creation of an Utopian Community 
by Michael Young.
Routledge, 381 pp., £15, June 1982, 9780710090515
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... Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour made their celluloid expedition there in the 1940s. Sir Thomas More, who first wrote of the place, lost his head completely, for non-Utopian reasons, and since then a succession of charismatic cranks, frenzied philosophers and visionary vegetarians have aspired to realise heaven upon earth while more usually ...

Are you having fun today?

Lorraine Daston: Serendipidity, 23 September 2004

The Travels and Adventures of Serendipity: A Study in Sociological Semantics and the Sociology of Science 
by Robert Merton and Elinor Barber.
Princeton, 313 pp., £18.95, February 2004, 0 691 11754 3
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... divisions that pounced on serendipity, word and thing, and tried to institutionalise it. Willis Whitney, director of General Electric’s research laboratory, introduced the word into GE parlance and tried to promote the thing by daily asking every scientist in his charge: ‘Are you having fun today?’ Although Merton took a wry view of these earnest ...


Charles Nicholl: ‘The Shakespeare Circle’, 19 May 2016

The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography 
edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 107 69909 0
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... it was 23 April, St George’s Day, is a wishful synchronicity first mooted in the 18th century; Thomas De Quincey’s counter-suggestion, that the date chosen for his granddaughter’s wedding – 22 April – commemorated his birthday, is attractive. He was one of 39 Stratford babies baptised that year, 23 of them boys. The birthrate was lower than in ...

His Own Private Armenia

Anne Hollander: Arshile Gorky, 1 April 2004

Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work 
by Hayden Herrera.
Bloomsbury, 767 pp., £35, October 2003, 9780747566472
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Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective of Drawings 
edited by Janie Lee and Melvin Lader.
Abrams, 272 pp., £30, December 2003, 0 87427 135 5
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... it on the wall for long periods without touching it. It exists in two versions, one now in the Whitney Museum, the other in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The photograph also survives, guarding its own pathos and dim beauty. All three show him as a boy with smooth hair and a neat coat, holding a small bouquet in well-articulated fingers. He is ...

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