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After the Movies

Michael Wood: Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma, 4 December 2008

Histoire(s) du cinéma 
directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
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... other films, Ben-Hur, Flesh and the Devil, The Merry Widow and A Night at the Opera, and Howard Hughes, aviator and solitary. And Hitchcock, of course: ‘the only poète maudit to be successful’. Hitchcock succeeded, we learn, where Alexander, Julius Caesar and Napoleon failed: ‘in taking control of the universe’. But there is also a sense that ...

Unplug the car and let’s go!

John Sutherland, 21 August 1997

The Car that Could: The Inside Story of GM’s Revolutionary Electric Vehicle 
by Michael Shnayerson.
Random House, 295 pp., $25, November 1996, 9780679421054
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... began in the Eighties with another race. General Motors acquired a Californian aerospace firm, Hughes Aircraft, and was not sure what to do with its new property beyond the vague desire for a glitzy technology transfer. The company was often attacked for its failure to invest in R&D and in 1987, as a stroke of counter-propaganda, sponsored, via its new ...

A Dream in the Presence of Reason

Clive James, 15 October 1981

L’opera in versi 
by Eugenio Montale, edited by Rosanna Bettarini and Gianfranco Contini.
Einaudi, 1225 pp., £26.15
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Xenia and Motets 
by Eugenio Montale, translated by Kate Hughes.
Agenda, 45 pp., £3, December 1980, 0 902400 25 8
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The Man I Pretend to Be: The Colloquies and Selected Poems of Guido Gozzano 
edited by Michael Palma.
Princeton, 254 pp., £9.30, July 1981, 0 691 06467 9
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... Not surprisingly, the Americans do the job most lavishly, having the larger grants. Edited by Michael Palma, The Man I Pretend to Be presents I colloqui and selected poems by Guido Gozzano in parallel text, the English translations being by Mr Palma, who also translated the introductory essay by Montale. Gozzano was a predecessor whom Montale valued ...

Just a smack at Grigson

Denis Donoghue, 7 March 1985

Montaigne’s Tower, and Other Poems 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 72 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 436 18806 6
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Collected Poems: 1963-1980 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 557 3
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The Faber Book of Reflective Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Faber, 238 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 571 13299 5
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 279 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 558 1
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 9780850315592
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Before the Romantics: An Anthology of the Enlightenment 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Salamander, 349 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 907540 59 7
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... he urges us to be more exclusive: Let us not prefer Ashbery to Yeats, Let us not suppose T. Hughes, On shining floors, Goes waltzing with a lyrical Muse. But the rebuke comes in verse which itself should stand rebuked. It is a pity that Grigson, a good poet in a context in which achievement is likely to be occasional at best, spends so much spirit in ...

‘Mmmmm’ not ‘Hmmm’

Michael Wood: Katharine Hepburn, 11 September 2003

Kate Remembered 
by A. Scott Berg.
Simon and Schuster, 318 pp., £18.99, July 2003, 0 7432 0676 2
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... clearly you don’t have the brains of a seven-year-old.’ There is the dinner party for Michael Jackson at Hepburn’s New York townhouse, where the singer is silent on all topics except the pleasure he has in watching his pet boa constrictor eat small rodents. And there is the saga of Warren Beatty, with Berg’s help, recruiting Hepburn for Love ...

Unmistakable

Michael Rogin, 20 August 1998

Celebrity Caricature in America 
by Wendy Wick Reaves.
Yale, 320 pp., £29.95, April 1998, 0 300 07463 8
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... and a white-haired/eyebrowed/moustachioed, black-coated Supreme Court Chief Justice, Charles Evans Hughes. There’s Harpo again, this time with cotton-wool locks, alongside his brothers – Groucho’s moustache, glasses, cigar, wing-tipped head of hair, Chico’s sly open mouth and steel-wool hair identifying the ersatz Italian Jew. The three faces jump out ...

Why name a ship after a defeated race?

Thomas Laqueur: New Lives of the ‘Titanic’, 24 January 2013

The Wreck of the ‘Titan’ 
by Morgan Robertson.
Hesperus, 85 pp., £8, March 2012, 978 1 84391 359 7
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Shadow of the ‘Titanic’ 
by Andrew Wilson.
Simon and Schuster, 392 pp., £8.99, March 2012, 978 1 84739 882 6
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‘Titanic’ 100th Anniversary Edition: A Night Remembered 
by Stephanie Barczewski.
Continuum, 350 pp., £15.99, December 2011, 978 1 4411 6169 7
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The Story of the Unsinkable ‘Titanic’: Day by Day Facsimile Reports 
by Michael Wilkinson and Robert Hamilton.
Transatlantic, 127 pp., £16.99, November 2011, 978 1 907176 83 8
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‘Titanic’ Lives: Migrants and Millionaires, Conmen and Crew 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Harper, 404 pp., £9.99, September 2012, 978 0 00 732166 7
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Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage 
by Hugh Brewster.
Robson, 338 pp., £20, March 2012, 978 1 84954 179 4
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‘Titanic’ Calling 
edited by Michael Hughes and Katherine Bosworth.
Bodleian, 163 pp., £14.99, April 2012, 978 1 85124 377 8
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... hand, were the crowning glory of the century of progress. A White Star Line poster reproduced in Michael Wilkinson and Robert Hamilton’s collection shows the great hulk of the ship, sunlit, belching smoke out of three of its four funnels – the fourth was there only for effect – and cutting a swathe between a small sailing ship and a three-masted square ...

Certainties

Donald Davie, 20 May 1982

In Defence of the Imagination 
by Helen Gardner.
Oxford, 197 pp., £12.50, February 1982, 0 19 812639 5
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... Noting, to quote from Dame Helen’s report on its proceedings, that ‘with the exception of Ted Hughes ... post-war English poetry has not been exciting,’ it discovered also that ‘the American poets of the post-war period were much more experimental and adventurous than the English; but neither the Beat Poets of San Francisco, nor the Black Mountain ...

Beefcake Ease

Miranda Carter: Robert Mitchum and Steve McQueen, 14 January 2002

Robert Mitchum: Solid, Dad, Crazy 
by Damien Love.
Batsford, 208 pp., £15.99, December 2001, 0 7134 8707 0
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Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don’t Care 
by Lee Server.
Faber, 590 pp., £20, October 2001, 0 571 20994 7
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McQueen: The Biography 
by Christopher Sandford.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £16.99, October 2001, 0 00 257195 1
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... Clint Eastwood, Lee Marvin, James Coburn, and in England – and in a different, English way – Michael Caine, seldom did anything else. It was also a manner which could not always be easily distinguished from simple idleness. For the first 25 years of Mitchum’s career, his performances were routinely mocked – most consistently by Mitchum himself ...

Real isn’t real

Michael Wood: Octavio Paz, 4 July 2013

The Poems of Octavio Paz 
edited and translated by Eliot Weinberger.
New Directions, 606 pp., £30, October 2012, 978 0 8112 2043 9
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... and rhythms of the poem ‘I Speak of the City’, Paz said: ‘No, I was thinking of Langston Hughes: The Negro Speaks of Rivers.’ This thought doesn’t cancel the other, and says quite a lot about Paz’s range. The poems often focus on the illumination of a particular instant (light is everywhere in this work), a concentration or evasion of time and ...

Social Arrangements

John Bayley, 30 December 1982

The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry 
edited by Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 208 pp., £1.95, October 1982, 0 14 042283 8
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The Rattle Bag 
edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.
Faber, 498 pp., £10, October 1982, 0 571 11966 2
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... race meetings [who] ... belong to the world of the RSPCA’) with the ‘urgent’ horses of Ted Hughes’s ‘A Dream of Horses’, a poem ‘unquestionably about something’. Linked in this way, the poems make each other look slightly ridiculous – their titles alone adequately inform us what they are ‘about’ – though each on its own is a ...

A Big Life

Michael Hofmann: Seamus Heaney, 4 June 2015

New Selected Poems 1988-2013 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 222 pp., £18.99, November 2014, 978 0 571 32171 1
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... about a dozen times in his life – ever did any ‘Casting and Gathering’, it wasn’t with Ted Hughes, to whom the poem thus entitled is dedicated, but here, in the play of question and answer with O’Driscoll, who died in 2012, predeceasing his great mentor. ‘I, or my books.’ For the duration of this brief, as it were twilit interval, Heaney is still ...

We shall not be moved

John Bayley, 2 February 1984

Come aboard and sail away 
by John Fuller.
Salamander, 48 pp., £6, October 1983, 0 907540 37 6
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Children in Exile 
by James Fenton.
Salamander, 24 pp., £5, October 1983, 0 907540 39 2
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‘The Memory of War’ and ‘Children in Exile’: Poems 1968-1983 
by James Fenton.
Penguin, 110 pp., £1.95, October 1983, 0 14 006812 0
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Some Contemporary Poets of Britain and Ireland: An Anthology 
edited by Michael Schmidt.
Carcanet, 184 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 85635 469 4
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Nights in the Iron Hotel 
by Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 48 pp., £4, November 1983, 0 571 13116 6
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The Irish Lights 
by Charles Johnston and Kyril Fitzlyon.
Bodley Head, 77 pp., £4.50, September 1983, 0 370 30557 4
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Fifteen to Infinity 
by Ruth Fainlight.
Hutchinson, 62 pp., £5.95, September 1983, 0 09 152471 7
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Donald Davie and the Responsibilities of Literature 
edited by George Dekker.
Carcanet, 153 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 9780856354663
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... sort of poetry that Fenton writes, and that is also written, in their various ways, by Fuller, by Michael Hofmann, Tom Paulin, Christopher Reid and others. Certainly the romantic rhetoric that is second nature to Larkin, as to Auden, Yeats and Eliot, has no place in their poetic repertoire. It once seemed so ‘natural’, but beside their literariness and ...

At the Royal Academy

Eleanor Birne: Tacita Dean, 7 June 2018

... old men. Her exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery was full of them. She visits the elderly Michael Hamburger at his Suffolk farmhouse with her movie camera, zooming in on the wonky doorways, the rotting window frames, the overgrown garden, the teetering piles of books – an old poet’s props. She watches as he inspects his apple orchard, the wind in ...

What became of Modernism?

C.K. Stead, 1 May 1980

Five American Poets 
by John Matthias, introduced by Michael Schmidt.
Carcanet, 160 pp., £3.25, November 1979, 0 85635 259 4
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The New Australian Poetry 
edited by John Tranter.
Makar Press, 330 pp., £6.50, November 1979
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Carpenters of Light 
by Neil Powell.
Carcanet, 154 pp., £6.95, November 1979, 0 85635 305 1
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Mirabell: Books of Number 
by James Merrill.
Oxford, 182 pp., £3.25, June 1979, 0 19 211892 7
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The Book of the Body 
by Frank Bidart.
Faber, 44 pp., £4.50, October 1979, 0 374 11549 4
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Skull of Adam 
by Stanley Moss.
Anvil, 67 pp., £2.50, May 1979, 0 85646 041 9
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Poems 1928-1978 
by Stanley Kunitz.
Secker, 249 pp., £6.50, September 1979, 0 436 23932 9
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... A mystique of language for its own sake is the power source and the danger of Modernism. Michael Schmidt’s five American poets avoid (the best of their work avoids) both abstractions. The language has a life of its own and a life in relation to a recognisable real world, as in James McMichael’s ‘Compline’: Gudique is the chastening. She is ...

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