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Looking for Imperfection

Gilberto Perez: John Cassavetes, 23 August 2001

John Cassavetes: Lifeworks 
by Tom Charity.
Omnibus, 257 pp., £10.95, March 2001, 0 7119 7544 2
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Cassavetes on Cassavetes 
edited by Ray Carney.
Faber, 526 pp., £17.99, March 2001, 0 571 20157 1
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... and less than half of that was kept in the revised version, which runs for an hour and a half. As Tom Charity remarks in his critical biography of Cassavetes, ‘Mekas’s “spontaneous cinema” had no sooner been recognised than it was reconsidered.’ For Faces, which runs a little over two hours, Cassavetes shot around 150 hours of film. That’s an ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The films of Carol Reed, 19 October 2006

Odd Man Out 
directed by Carol Reed.
September 2006
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... the paintings in the artist’s room line up as an audience or congregation, and a priest, Father Tom, hovers among them, trying to make himself heard over an actual conversation between the artist and his friend on the soundtrack. Johnny, remembering the priest from his childhood, says: ‘We’ve always drowned your voice with our shouting.’ A good thing ...

England’s Ideology

Roy Porter, 5 August 1982

Coram’s Children: The London Foundling Hospital in the 18th Century 
by Ruth McClure.
Yale, 321 pp., £15, September 1981, 0 300 02465 7
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Children of the Empire 
by Gillian Wagner.
Weidenfeld, 284 pp., £10.95, March 1982, 0 297 78047 6
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... of lawyers and doctors, several of them Masons. In time, royalty did not blush to patronise the charity, though bishop governors were notably few, and women were absent. The Hospital was, in Ruth McClure’s words, the pioneer case of ‘incorporated associative benevolence’, with the aim, as Joseph Massie put it, that ‘...


Joan Aiken, 17 July 1980

... were put here by divine dispensation so that luckier people could acquire merit by exercising charity towards them. Such Victorian sentiments have now, in this enlightened age, gone by the board. Our views on destitution have been drastically revised. There, but for the grace of God ... But we can’t help being fascinated by misfortune. News stories ...

The Great Mary

Dinah Birch, 13 September 1990

Mrs Humphry Ward: Eminent Victorian, Pre-Eminent Edwardian 
by John Sutherland.
Oxford, 432 pp., £16.99, August 1990, 0 19 818587 1
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... encouraging. But Mary Ward was used to the magisterial arrogance of the Arnold men. Her father, Tom Arnold, had demolished the prosperity of his family and the happiness of his wife by his conversions and unconversions and reconversions to and from the Catholic faith. He took small interest in the upbringing of his oldest and most unruly daughter – ‘A ...

Out of Puff

Sam Thompson: Will Self, 19 June 2008

The Butt 
by Will Self.
Bloomsbury, 355 pp., £14.99, April 2008, 978 0 7475 9175 7
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... unable to bear the touch of his wife and children, he is permanently marooned among the savages. Tom Brodzinski, the protagonist or victim of Will Self’s satirical nightmare The Butt, meets a comparable fate. On holiday on an imaginary post-colonial island continent, Tom decides to give up smoking, and, distracted by the ...

Walk Spanish

Christopher Tayler: Joshua Ferris, 19 July 2007

Then We Came to the End 
by Joshua Ferris.
Viking, 387 pp., £14.99, April 2007, 978 0 670 91655 9
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... thoughts in the style of a meticulous journalist. Benny tells a story about the departure of Tom Mota, a thoughtful, disgruntled, hot-tempered character who was one of the first to walk Spanish when the current round of layoffs began. ‘“Hand me those scissors,” said Tom. Benny said he looked behind him and saw a ...

The Braver Thing

Christopher Ricks, 1 November 1984

T.S. Eliot 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £12.50, September 1984, 0 241 11349 0
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Recollections Mainly of Artists and Writers 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Chatto, 195 pp., £12.50, September 1984, 0 7011 2791 0
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... gayer than his reputation, actually singing “Frankie and Johnny”.’ Frankie and Johnny, or Tom and Viv? He was her man, but he done her wrong? The marketers of Ackroyd’s book have done both him and Eliot wrong in sensationalising it. The new Vanity Fair, which unlike the old one is not a magazine for which a T.S. Eliot would write, announced its ...

A Secret Richness

Penelope Fitzgerald, 20 November 1980

A Few Green Leaves 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 250 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 0 333 29168 9
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... reason and they perform a kind action’. But towards her characters she shows a creator’s charity. She understands them so well that the least she can do is to forgive them. For A Few Green Leaves she has moved back from the London of her last two novels to the country. Here, too, she has always taken a straight look. Why is it always assumed that ...

Jigsaw Mummies

Tom Shippey: Pagan Britain, 6 November 2014

Pagan Britain 
by Ronald Hutton.
Yale, 480 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 300 19771 6
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The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria 
by Max Adams.
Head of Zeus, 450 pp., £25, August 2013, 978 1 78185 418 1
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... sent out by the Iona community, set about converting people by the example of his own humility and charity. Given a fine horse by Oswiu’s Deiran sub-king Oswine, he gave it away to a beggar; when rebuked by the donor, he asked whether the son of a mare was more precious to him than the son of God. On seeing Oswine’s repentance, Aidan wept: he saw he had ...

Long Hair, Young Hair, Braided and Defiant Hair

Dinah Birch: Lavinia Greenlaw, 10 May 2001

Mary George of Allnorthover 
by Lavinia Greenlaw.
Flamingo, 320 pp., £12.99, March 2001, 0 00 710595 9
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... who watch her. Many do watch Mary, more carefully than she realises. Some mean well, some don’t. Tom Hepple, a fellow villager, identifies Mary as a redemptive spirit – and someone who might share his dislocation. Mentally disturbed since his own teenage years, Tom has just returned to Allnorthover, which he left after a ...


A.J.P. Taylor: Birthdays and Centenaries, 5 May 1983

... dinner in Oxford on the occasion of my 21st birthday. The guests included Norman Cameron and Tom Driberg, now both dead, and ‘Michael Innes’, still alive. We had dinner in a private room at the George restaurant, now also dead. Halfway through dinner the waiter asked to speaks to me in private. Then he said: ‘I am a respectable married man and if ...

Warrior, Lover, Villain, Spiv

Tom Crewe: Dance Halls, 7 January 2016

Going to the Palais: A Social and Cultural History of Dancing and Dance Halls in Britain, 1918-60 
by James Nott.
Oxford, 327 pp., £65, September 2015, 978 0 19 960519 4
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... into adult venues. ‘When you leave school you learn to work, to smoke, to bet and to dance,’ Tom Harrisson, a founder of Mass-Observation, noted in 1938. One 15-year-old boy in Glasgow, London’s main rival as Britain’s dance capital, found himself open to reproach: ‘Are you no away tae the dancing, yet?’ Uncle Jack looked at me as though ...

Democratic Warming

Tom Nairn: The Upstaging of the G8, 4 August 2005

... No one said much except Bono, who repeated his point about justice being more important than charity. The rain came on as they sped off to sing, and we saw Putin descending by helicopter, a mile away. By the time the Murrayfield audience had recovered from their hangovers the next day, 7 July, the trance had been shattered. Journalists were bussing off ...

Getting rid of them

Tom Shippey, 31 August 1989

Betrayal: Child Exploitation in Today’s World 
edited by Caroline Moorehead.
Barrie and Jenkins, 192 pp., £15, March 1989, 0 7126 2170 9
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The Kindness of Strangers: The Abandonment of Children in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance 
by John Boswell.
Allen Lane, 488 pp., £20, April 1989, 0 7139 9019 8
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... for which large foundling wards were ideal incubators. Everyone was very proud of this communal charity, so similar in spirit to the good intentions (but real disinclination to be bothered) of relieving Europeans today. Oedipus himself would not have survived ...

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