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Straight to the Multiplex

Tom McCarthy: Steven Hall’s ‘The Raw Shark Texts’, 1 November 2007

The Raw Shark Texts 
by Steven Hall.
Canongate, 368 pp., £12.99, March 2007, 978 1 84195 902 3
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... London flash Morse-encoded passages of Merleau-Ponty across the city). Most of all, Hall draws on William Burroughs. Burroughs asserts his belief that ‘the word is a virus’ at every second turn; in essays such as ‘The Invisible Generation’ and The Electronic Revolution he outlines methods by which playback from several tape recorders can be used to ...

Writing Machines

Tom McCarthy: On Realism and the Real, 18 December 2014

... course, exactly how events and memory both proceed: associatively, digressing, jolting, looping. William Burroughs makes the same point when discussing his cut-up technique: ‘Take a walk down a city street … You have seen a person cut in two by a car, bits and pieces of street signs and advertisements, reflections from shop windows – a montage of ...

Surviving the Sixties

Hilary Mantel, 18 May 1989

Shoe: The Odyssey of a Sixties Survivor 
by Jonathan Guinness.
Century Hutchinson, 233 pp., £14.95, March 1989, 0 09 173857 1
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Lilly: Reminiscences of Lillian Hellman 
by Peter Feibleman.
Chatto, 364 pp., £14.95, February 1989, 0 7011 3441 0
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... some good advice. He told her that other people, not herself, should record her heroism during the McCarthy years. ‘You can’t be the heroine of your own life ... Not in America.’ But Lillian went ahead, antagonising Mary McCarthy, Martha Gellhorn and other members of what Lillian called dismissively ‘the ladies ...

Henry James and Romance

Barbara Everett, 18 June 1981

Henry James Letters. Vol. III: 1883-1895 
edited by Leon Edel.
Macmillan, 579 pp., £17.50, March 1981, 0 333 18046 1
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Culture and Conduct in the Novels of Henry James 
by Alwyn Berland.
Cambridge, 231 pp., £17.50, April 1981, 0 521 23343 7
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Literary Reviews and Essays, A London Life, The Reverberator, Italian Hours, The Sacred Fount, Watch and Ward 
by Henry James.
Columbus, 409 pp., £2.60, February 1981, 0 394 17098 9
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... selected Letters, maintains exactly that same odd poise vis-à-vis experience. When his brother William wrote him half-disapprovingly and half-anxiously about some of Henry’s more difficult, high-life but off-colour French friends who had descended on them, he replied with quiet satisfaction that he had known just how it would be: ‘It strikes me exactly ...

Mother-Haters and Other Rebels

Barbara Taylor: Heroine Chic, 3 January 2002

Inventing Herself: Claiming a Feminist Intellectual Heritage 
by Elaine Showalter.
Picador, 384 pp., £16.99, June 2001, 0 330 34669 5
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... of the 1920s, Rebecca West and the pioneers of British ‘New Feminism’, Emma Goldman, Mary McCarthy and Hannah Arendt (the last two, both openly hostile to feminism, qualify on the grounds that as ‘trouble-makers and rule-breakers’ they lived the feminism they repudiated). As the narrative approaches the present, a bevy of feminist writers who came ...

Bravo, old sport

Christopher Hitchens, 4 April 1991

Critical Crossings: The New York Intellectuals in Post-War America 
by Neil Jumonville.
California, 291 pp., £24.95, January 1991, 0 520 06858 0
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... the reverse emphasis in most discussions of his subject, is by no means disproportionate. Mary McCarthy described the fell consequences of getting the proportions wrong in her essay ‘My Confession’. Having airily declared, at a fellow-travellers’ publishing party, that Trotsky should be allowed his day in court, she found her signature conscripted by ...

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 closest model for a belletrist sans merci was the critic, novelist, and wickedest of wits Mary McCarthy, who told Susan she smiled too much, the telltale mark of a provincial. McCarthy was also reputed to have said to Sontag, ‘I hear you’re the new me,’ and, to others, ‘She’s the imitation me,’ digs that made ...

Diary

Thomas Jones: Death in Florence, 21 June 2012

... the cook, Sarah Reece, and two teenage housemaids, Emily Lunmir and Ethel Bailey. The eldest son, William, must have already moved out. In his will, my great-great-grandfather ‘desired it to be known that it was by the consent of his eldest son, William Corbett Roberts, who is already well provided for, that nothing is ...

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 ...

The Coburg Connection

Richard Shannon, 5 April 1984

Albert, Prince Consort 
by Robert Rhodes James.
Hamish Hamilton, 311 pp., £15, November 1983, 0 241 11000 9
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... effective but oddly out-of-kilter book about that model. His standard texts appear to be Justin McCarthy and H.A.L. Fisher, historians whose reputations had faded when Mr James was a schoolboy under Sir Roger Fulford. He puts one in mind of those Sloane Rangers who, so it is said, keep to their A-level texts at university to avoid intellectual ...

Door Closing!

Mark Ford: Randall Jarrell, 21 October 2010

Pictures from an Institution: A Comedy 
by Randall Jarrell.
Chicago, 277 pp., £10.50, April 2010, 978 0 226 39375 9
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... to undergraduates, taking his first job at Amherst College in 1917. Pound, Eliot, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Hart Crane all lived by other means; though it’s worth pointing out that the poetry and criticism of Eliot in particular, and to a lesser extent of Pound, played a significant role in shaping the curriculum and ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies, 26 January 2012

An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... They’re not going to stop,’ Joe McCarthy said of the Communists. ‘It’s right here with us now. Unless we make sure there’s no infiltration of our government, then just as certain as you sit there, in the period of our lives you will see a Red world.’ So began the 1954 Senate hearings on subversive influence in the army ...

Just Had To

R.W. Johnson: LBJ, 20 March 2003

The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Vol III: Master of the Senate 
by Robert A. Caro.
Cape, 1102 pp., £30, August 2002, 0 394 52836 0
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... elaborate courtesy and serpentine procedure in the Armed Services Committee, LBJ dealt with Joe McCarthy. Knowing that many Democratic voters and senators might take McCarthy’s side if his hysteria was confronted, LBJ warned liberals like Humphrey not to tear into him. Better to let the hysteria run its course and then ...

Predatory Sex Aliens

Gary Indiana: Burroughs, 8 May 2014

Call Me Burroughs: A Life 
by Barry Miles.
Twelve, 718 pp., £17, January 2014, 978 1 4555 1195 2
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... Depending​ where you look, the William Burroughs centenary has either occasioned an outpouring of variously celebratory and carping prose, or a trickle of grudging acknowledgment in outlets thought to speak for the literary establishment. Writing on anything of passing public interest triggers an online avalanche of ad hominem posturing which quickly renders the original topic, whatever it was, numbingly opaque ...

Diary

Stephen Spender: Towards a Kind of Neo-Paganism, 21 April 1983

... they might produce. Someone once described the poems of the late Oscar (not to be confused with William Carlos) Williams as ‘poems written by a typewriter on a typewriter’ – Oscar Williams must be one of the great influences in contemporary poetry. In England and America there are, I suppose, at most five to ten thousand readers of poetry, but there ...

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