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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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... than 18 hours of footage as Cassavetes looked for what he wanted. The first Shadows ran for an hour, and less than half of that was kept in the revised version, which runs for an hour and a half. As TomCharity 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 ...

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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... things go half-baked. In Johnny’s delirium, pictured as a J. Arthur Rank version of Expressionism, 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 ...
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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... principles, headed by a governing board which combined landed and commercial wealth with a sprinkling 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 ...

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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... general, I considered them as they really were, Yahoos.’ Trotting, whinnying and talking to horses, 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 ...


Joan Aiken

17 July 1980
... But what Riley was primarily saying was then considered perfectly acceptable: the poor and unfortunate 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 ...

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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... first significant attempt at fiction, Miss Bretherton, published in 1884. It can’t have been very 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 ...

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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... voice paraphrases, occasionally reminding the reader of who’s in charge by giving sources for people’s 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 ...

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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... How gracefully the names are floated: ‘Braque might be there, or Jean Hélion, from Paris, or Eliot 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 ...

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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... that kind’, the irritation we feel ‘when we have made up our minds to dislike people for no apparent 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 ...
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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... suspension, of being nothing in nothing, empty and free’. This is dangerous for her, and for those 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 ...


A.J.P. Taylor: Birthdays and Centenaries

5 May 1983
... and therefore never accepted invitations. The Eton jacket languished unworn. I remember a very enjoyable 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 ...


Richard Stern

15 August 1991
... five o’clock on Friday, 19 April, anniversary of the shot heard round the world, Jacques Derrida gave the first of the four annual Frederick Ives Carpenter Lectures at the University of Chicago.1 Tom Mitchell, chairman of the English Department and editor of Critical Inquiry, the English-language journal in which Derrida most often publishes, introduced him to a crowd that filled not only the ...

Freaks, Dwarfs and Boors

Thomas Keymer: 18th-Century Jokes

2 August 2012
Cruelty and Laughter: Forgotten Comic Literature and the Unsentimental 18th Century 
by Simon Dickie.
Chicago, 362 pp., £29, December 2011, 978 0 226 14618 8
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... runs most upon those gentler passions and affections, which aid so much to it.’ Novels like The Histories of Some of the Penitents in the Magdalen House (1759) raised funds for foundling hospitals, charity schools, refuges for repentant prostitutes or bankrupted merchants. Shortly before his death in 1791, John Wesley looked back on the century as one in which ‘benevolence and compassion toward all ...

Democratic Warming

Tom​ Nairn: The Upstaging of the G8

4 August 2005
... to keep up the emotional pressure, and shame the heads of state into greater generosity two days later. 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 ...

Pity the monsters

Richard Altick

18 December 1980
The Elephant Man 
by Bernard Pomerance.
Faber, 71 pp., £2.25, June 1980, 0 571 11569 1
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The Elephant Man: the Book of the Film 
by Joy Kuhn.
Virgin, 90 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 9780907080091
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The Elephant Man 
by Christine Sparks.
Futura, 272 pp., £1.25, August 1980, 0 7088 1942 7
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The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences 
by Frederick Treves.
Star, 126 pp., £95, August 1980, 0 352 30747 1
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The Elephant Man and Other Freaks 
by Sian Richards.
Futura, 197 pp., £1.25, October 1980, 0 7088 1927 3
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The True History of the Elephant Man 
by Michael Howell and Peter Ford.
Allison and Busby, 190 pp., £6.95, March 1980, 0 85031 353 8
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... sensitive human being was liberated from the gross flesh. Howell and Ford had a further stroke of luck in their discovery of the unpublished memoirs of the English showman who first exhibited him. Tom Norman, it turns out, was something of a magnate in these lower depths of the trade: he had more than a dozen freak and waxwork shows moving from one grimy location to another in greater London ...

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