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What does a chicken know of bombs?

David Thomson: A Key to Brando, 25 November 2019

The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando 
by William J. Mann.
HarperCollins, 718 pp., £22, November 2019, 978 0 06 242764 9
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... a mess, not to mention a pain in the neck. Imagine what it’s like for the writer. Or for Marlon.William Mann does not have the field to himself. There are at least a dozen biographies of Brando, or memoirs that depend on his presence. The weightiest of these is Peter Manso’s, published in 1994, when Brando still had ten years to live. (...

The Old Question

W.G. Runciman, 19 February 1987

The Sources of Social Power. Vol I: A History of Power from the Beginning to AD 1760 
by Michael Mann.
Cambridge, 549 pp., £37.50, July 1986, 0 521 30851 8
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... or whatever it may be is the master key to the explanation of the whole long story. Michael Mann, however, deliberately places himself mid-way in-between. As a result, he risks being simultaneously attacked by one set of readers for writing potted history at a safe distance from the sources, and by another for theorising at an insufficiently high and ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Miami Vice’, 17 August 2006

Miami Vice 
directed by Michael Mann.
August 2006
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... just the set or the simulation where the conversations take place. When directors like Michael Mann, whose movie version of Miami Vice has just opened, say they want to make episodes of television series as if they were movies, they mean, among other things, that they want to create a world, a location which is a kind of character. This is as true of TV ...

Try the other wrist

Lara Feigel: Germany in the 1940s, 22 October 2014

The Temptation of Despair: Tales of the 1940s 
by Werner Sollors.
Harvard, 390 pp., £25.95, April 2014, 978 0 674 05243 7
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... In the spring​ of 1949 Klaus Mann moved from hotel room to hotel room in Amsterdam and Cannes, contemplating suicide. He was isolated and depressed and sure that the situation in postwar Germany was to blame. He was working on a novel which he intended to call The Last Day. He had already made a botched suicide attempt in Los Angeles, described in almost humorous detail by the hero of his novel, Julian: ‘Trying the other wrist ...

The Innocence Campaign

Isabel Hull: The Sinking of the ‘Lusitania’, 2 February 2017

‘Lusitania’: The Cultural History of a Catastrophe 
by Willi Jasper, translated by Stewart Spencer.
Yale, 233 pp., £18.99, September 2016, 978 0 300 22138 1
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... his country’s methods was so great that he broke off relations with former friends (like Thomas Mann) and even his current lover, who championed the sinking. Others were moved to fisticuffs. The social-critical novelist Leonhard Frank overheard a socialist journalist proclaim in a posh Berlin café that the destruction of the Lusitania was ‘the greatest ...

Firm Lines

Hermione Lee, 17 November 1983

Bartleby in Manhattan, and Other Essays 
by Elizabeth Hardwick.
Weidenfeld, 292 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 297 78357 2
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... symbols are too ‘handy’.) America has a prestigious tradition of such cultural semiologists. William Carlos Williams’s sifting of the American grain (‘to discover the NEW WORLD ... what it has done to us, its quality, its weight, its prophets, its – horrible temper’), H.L. Mencken’s jocular scrutiny of the American language, Edmund Wilson’s ...

Calvinoism

Jonathan Coe, 26 March 1992

Six Memos for the Next Millennium 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Patrick Creagh.
Cape, 124 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 224 03311 5
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Under the Jaguar Sun 
by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver.
Cape, 86 pp., £10.99, February 1992, 0 224 03310 7
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The Fountains of Neptune 
by Rikki Ducornet.
Dalkey Archive, 220 pp., $19.95, February 1992, 0 916583 96 1
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Small Times 
by Russell Celyn Jones.
Viking, 212 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 670 84307 5
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... in 1985, the year of his death. Tracing the lineage of the encyclopedic novel through Perec, Mann, Proust and Flaubert, he homes in on the figures of Carlo Emilio Gadda and Robert Musil, two ‘engineer-writers’ who have one quality in common: ‘their inability to find an ending’. Despite his own love of arcana and encyclopedic forms, Calvino’s ...

Going Wrong

Michael Wood, 7 March 1996

Casino 
directed by Martin Scorsese.
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Heat 
directed by Michael Mann.
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Seven 
directed by David Fincher.
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... got is a plot or a point, so it feels like three hours of exposition. Casino shares with Michael Mann’s Heat the curious contemporary sense that your really classy crime movie doesn’t have to worry about suspense or story. It’s as if The Godfather, or rather its retrospective status, had made the genre so respectable that we need to be a little bored ...

A Very Modern Man

Edmund Gordon: William Boyd, 8 March 2012

Waiting for Sunrise 
by William Boyd.
Bloomsbury, 368 pp., £18.99, February 2012, 978 1 4088 1774 2
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... crash, witnesses the rise of Nazism in Berlin (where he attends parties with Fritz Lang and Thomas Mann), and arrives in Hollywood just in time to fall foul of McCarthyism. Any Human Heart (2002) is narrated by Logan Mountstuart, an English author who knocks about Oxford and London with the likes of Cyril Connolly and Henry Green, reports on the Spanish Civil ...
The Bayreuth Ring 
BBC2, October 1982Show More
Parsifal 
directed by Hans-Jürgen Syberberg.
Edinburgh Film Festival, September 1982
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Parsifal 
by Lucy Beckett.
Cambridge, 163 pp., £9.95, August 1981, 0 521 22825 5
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Wagner and Literature 
by Raymond Furness.
Manchester, 159 pp., £14.50, February 1982, 0 7190 0844 1
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Wagner to ‘The Waste Land’: A Study of the Relationship of Wagner to English Literature 
by Stoddart Martin.
Macmillan, 277 pp., £20, June 1982, 0 333 28998 6
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Wagner and Aeschylus: ‘The Ring’ and ‘The Oresteia’ 
by Michael Ewans.
Faber, 271 pp., £12.50, July 1982, 0 571 11808 9
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... problems. Parsifal’s sexual-pathological element, which so impressed and disturbed Thomas Mann (an authority on such matters), is one of the Parsifal problems; the issue of whether or not the work is ‘Christian’ is another. Nietzsche isolated these two problems together with a third, which is more peculiarly German: like Hanslick, Nietzsche ...

Drowned in Eau de Vie

Modris Eksteins: New, Fast and Modern, 21 February 2008

Modernism: The Lure of Heresy from Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond 
by Peter Gay.
Heinemann, 610 pp., £20, November 2007, 978 0 434 01044 8
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... because of the contradictory manifestations of Modernist effort – how does one reconcile Thomas Mann and Andy Warhol? – he can’t help but see the Modernist instinct as essentially an affirmative urge. Two-thirds of the way through his book, Gay states bluntly that ‘liberalism’ was the ‘fundamental principle of Modernism’. But whose liberalism is ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: How We Are, 5 July 2007

... immediacy. Michals’s collage portrait of the Sterling Black and Whiters – Ansel Adams, Sally Mann, Robert Frank, Salgado and so on – shows us which reputations were overshadowed by the new high-art photography. At the Tate there are photographs from both camps. One odd effect of the high art/common craft division is that while magazines and newspapers ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Tayler: The School of Life, 19 May 2011

... of night school, group therapy and speed dating, took place in the basement. A mural by Charlotte Mann turned the room into a stage set depicting an upmarket holiday home. David spoke of Martin Buber, played a clip from Annie Hall and threw in some tips for tongue-tied office workers; nothing he said seemed stupid or objectionable. At regular intervals we ...

Keeping up the fight

Paul Delany, 24 January 1991

D.H. Lawrence: A Biography 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Macmillan, 446 pp., £19.95, August 1990, 0 333 49247 1
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D.H. Lawrence 
by Tony Pinkney.
Harvester, 180 pp., £30, June 1990, 0 7108 1347 3
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England, My England, and Other Stories 
by D.H. Lawrence, edited by Bruce Steele.
Cambridge, 285 pp., £37.50, March 1990, 0 521 35267 3
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The ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ Trial (Regina v. Penguin Books Limited) 
edited by H. Montgomery Hyde.
Bodley Head, 333 pp., £18, June 1990, 0 370 31105 1
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Boy 
by James Hanley.
Deutsch, 191 pp., £11.99, August 1990, 0 233 98578 6
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D.H. Lawrence: A Literary Life 
by John Worthen.
Macmillan, 196 pp., £27.50, September 1989, 0 333 43352 1
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... thing, and to Lawrence, such sickness represents the fatal flaw of the modern novel. He described Mann as ‘the last sick sufferer from the complaint of Flaubert. The latter stood away from life as from a leprosy. And Thomas Mann, like Flaubert, feels vaguely that he has in him something finer than ever physical life ...

Too Many Alibis

James Wood: Geoffrey Hill, 1 July 1999

Canaan 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Penguin, 76 pp., £7.99, September 1996, 0 14 058786 1
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The Truth of Love: A Poem 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Penguin, 82 pp., £8.99, January 1997, 0 14 058910 4
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... the intolerable wrestle with words, but, as it were, a further wrestle with the wrestle. Thomas Mann, like Hill, an artist wary of the claims and capacities of art, lamented that his Doctor Faustus was ‘joylessly earnest, not artistically happy’, and Hill’s two new books certainly tread the gravel of the joyless. Yet in the past, Hill has made great ...

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