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Sisyphus at the Selectric

James Wolcott: Undoing Philip Roth, 20 May 2021

Philip Roth: The Biography 
by Blake Bailey.
Cape, 898 pp., £30, April, 978 0 224 09817 5
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Philip Roth: A Counterlife 
by Ira Nadel.
Oxford, 546 pp., £22.99, May, 978 0 19 984610 8
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Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth 
by Benjamin Taylor.
Penguin, 192 pp., £18, May 2020, 978 0 525 50524 2
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... More defensibly, Miller resisted doing Roth’s imperious bidding when he insisted that Barbara Epstein (co-founder of the New York Review of Books) be interviewed on her deathbed to pin down the rumour that Leaving a Doll’s House had been dictated by Roth’s Connecticut neighbour and flouncy nemesis Francine du Plessix Gray – ‘Francine Duplicitous ...

Roaming the Greenwood

Colm Tóibín: A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition by Gregory Woods, 21 January 1999

A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition 
by Gregory Woods.
Yale, 448 pp., £24.95, February 1998, 0 300 07201 5
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... figures who recreated modern writing were gay, or Irish, or Jewish: Melville, Whitman, Hopkins, James, Yeats, Kafka, Woolf, Joyce, Stein, Beckett, Mann, Proust, Gide, Firbank, Lorca, Cocteau, Auden, Forster, Cavafy. But he would have been slightly unsettled, I think, by the thought of the gay element in this list, and by the idea that in place of ...

Am I right to be angry?

Malcolm Bull: Superfluous Men, 2 August 2018

Age of Anger: A History of the Present 
by Pankaj Mishra.
Penguin, 416 pp., £9.99, February 2018, 978 0 14 198408 7
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... York Review of Books discarded by his local library, introduced himself to its late editor Barbara Epstein at a lecture in Delhi, and then became an accomplished essayist in his own right. As a vertical invader, he can claim with stark plausibility that he feels ‘sympathetic to both sides’. Mishra says the idea for the book came to him in the light of ...

Enemies For Ever

James Wolcott: ‘Making It’, 18 May 2017

Making It 
by Norman Podhoretz.
NYRB, 368 pp., £13.98, May 2017, 978 1 68137 080 4
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... the book. His original publisher rejected the manuscript. His friend and fellow editor Jason Epstein advised him to throw it in the river. Even Lionel Trilling, seldom stirred to intervene in the affairs of mortals, urged him not to publish the book, and Gandalf is never wrong. But Podhoretz persevered, stuck his chin out, and boy did he get creamed. He ...

Saving Masud Khan

Wynne Godley, 22 February 2001

... and complained that I was ‘marrying the daughter of a New York yid’. This yid was Jacob Epstein.Soon after my mother died I had a dream. I saw her in a bathtub in which there was no water. She was paralysed from the waist down and instead of the pubic hair I had seen as a young child there was a large open wound. Through the upper part of the room ...

Is the lady your sister?

E.S. Turner: An innkeeper’s diary, 27 April 2000

An Innkeeper's Diary 
by John Fothergill.
Faber, 278 pp., £23.95, January 2000, 0 571 15014 4
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... at the Slade lived the life of an aesthete-dilettante: ‘with a friend he brought the young Jacob Epstein from America, helping to pay his keep.’ His first marriage quickly collapsed and was followed by a breakdown. His second wife, Kate Kirby, who was to prove his indispensable and warmly-praised partner at the Spreadeagle, was ‘practical and ...


Mark Ford: Love and Theft, 2 December 2004

... analysed along with that of the Victorian novelist Charles Reade, and the American writer Jacob Epstein, whose first novel, Wild Oats (1979), included a number of sentences taken straight from The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis. These plagiarists, he found, nearly always used the notebook defence: they’d copied out passages by authors they admired into ...


Blake Morrison, 30 June 2011

The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp 
by W.H. Davies.
Amberley, 192 pp., £14.99, September 2010, 978 1 84868 980 0
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... There have been a couple of valiant attempts to resuscitate Davies’s poetry, notably by James Reeves, whose Penguin anthology of Georgian poetry allots him more entries than it does Owen, Graves, Sassoon or Edward Thomas, and by Jonathan Barker, whose 1985 edition of the Selected Poems reprints more than a third of his 800 or so poems. But it was ...

So South Kensington

Julian Bell: Walter Sickert, 20 September 2001

The Complete Writings on Art 
by Walter Sickert, edited by Anna Gruetzner Robins.
Oxford, 699 pp., £90, September 2000, 0 19 817225 7
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... have been better selected; if the younger Sickert deserves any credence, a certain Francis E. James is one of the great painters of the 1890s, but maybe his works, like many others mentioned here, have sunk too deep in the historical oubliette to be retrieved. And then, one might complain that the sheer scholarly discretion of the editing under-represents ...

Red Pill, Blue Pill

James Meek, 22 October 2020

... obscure wellness gurus found new audiences by pushing hard on the child abuse angle; when Jeffrey Epstein was arrested, then died, and Prince Andrew failed to account for his friendship with him, it was QAnon gold. In effect crowdsourced, the QAnon narrative broke free of Q’s plodding cryptograms, which still look to Trump to mount a military coup against ...

Daisy packs her bags

Zachary Leader: The Road to West Egg, 21 September 2000

Trimalchio: An Early Version of ‘The Great Gatsby’ 
by F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by James L.W. West III.
Cambridge, 192 pp., £30, April 2000, 0 521 40237 9
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... University Library (and in a 1973 facsimile, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli). According to James West, editor of Trimalchio, the typescript of 27 October constitutes a completed version: ‘Naturally he expected to see proofs, and surely he planned to do some revising on them, but there is no evidence that, on 27 October, he contemplated major ...

Very like St Paul

Ian Sansom: Johnny Cash, 9 March 2006

The Man Called Cash: The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend 
by Steve Turner.
Bloomsbury, 363 pp., £8.99, February 2006, 0 7475 8079 0
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Walk the Line 
directed by James Mangold.
November 2005
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... confident than ever in the object of his faith.’ Tried and tested, Cash comes forth as gold. In James Mangold’s much-hailed biopic, Walk the Line, the mythic retelling of Cash’s story is, naturally, Greek rather than Christian, Hollywood’s standard method being to take the legacy and the legends of the Greeks and to give them a little Christian twist ...


Stefan Collini: Edmund Wilson, 17 November 2005

Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature 
by Lewis Dabney.
Farrar, Straus, 642 pp., £35, August 2005, 0 374 11312 2
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... on A.E. Housman as a classical scholar or his influential meditation on ‘The Ambiguity of Henry James’. In 1940 he published To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History, his account of the revolutionary tradition from Michelet through Marx and up to the Bolsheviks. This may look like the one among his works that was wholly ...

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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... compiling lists, but the lists themselves are interesting. For example: Jean Renoir, Orson Welles, James Wong Howe, Dudley Nichols, Clifford Odets, Robert Rossen, John Garfield, Charlie Chaplin and Leo McCarey all attended a reception in July 1943 for the Soviet director and administrator Mikhail Kalatozov. At that time Russian and American propaganda methods ...

Tickle and Flutter

Terry Castle: Maude Hutchins’s Revenge, 3 July 2008

... her, it seems, without a biddyish dilation on the carnality of her themes. ‘Maude Hutchins,’ James Kelly wrote in 1955, does ‘as she pleases’ as a novelist and ‘to date what has pleased her most is s-e-x as observed and enjoyed from the feminine vantage point.’ Hutchins, Maxwell Geismar said, was a writer who went about ‘describing casually all ...

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