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Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot 
by Michael Rogin.
California, 320 pp., $24.95, May 1996, 0 520 20407 7
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... business hang-out of the era, Jolson makes his first appearance as the mature Jakie, now known as Jack Robin. The entire scene is redolent of his liberation from tribal taboo. Jack wolfs down an unkosher breakfast with ragtime ebullience, turns a lusty eye on his gentile patroness and then launches into ...

Flat-Nose, Stocky and Beautugly

James Davidson: Greek Names, 23 September 2010

A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Vol. V.A Coastal Asia Minor: Pontos to Ionia 
edited by T. Corsten.
Oxford, 496 pp., £125, March 2010, 978 0 19 956743 0
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... I was surrounded by boys with what I still think of as normal classic names: Simon, Mark, Peter, Andrew, Paul, Martin, Michael, Stephen, Richard, Robert, David. Girls’ names remained more modish: some Sarahs, Anns and Elizabeths and even some residual Marys, but also plenty of Janets, Jackies, Lisas and Debbies, who soared and plummeted through the ...


Patrick Cockburn: The 1956 Polio Epidemic, 7 May 2020

... were smiling and waving frantically. I wasn’t entirely separated from my family: my brother Andrew, three years older than me, had been admitted to the hospital a few days after me. He had been called back from his school in Dublin when I was diagnosed and Claud met him at Cork railway station. ‘I really thought that all might be well up to the very ...

At the V&A

Marina Warner: Alexander McQueen, 4 June 2015

... about sex and pain, but the theme is certainly present in McQueen’s work, from the notorious ‘Jack the Ripper’ student show to ‘It’s Only a Game’ (2005) to the bondage allusions (horses’ bits, braces, straps, harnesses, hoods, masks and piercings). McQueen himself made a series of comments about women which have the candour that won him many ...

Questionably Virtuous

Stuart Middleton: Harold Wilson, 8 September 2016

Harold Wilson: The Unprincipled Prime Minister? Reappraising Harold Wilson 
edited by Andrew Crines and Kevin Hickson.
Biteback, 319 pp., £20, March 2016, 978 1 78590 031 0
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... spluttering: ‘But the bloody man plays golf!’ While serious interest in the question posed by Andrew Crines and Kevin Hickson’s book – whether Wilson was ‘unprincipled’ – has long since been exhausted, what remains intriguing is the way in which his foibles, the hypocrisy and evasion that marked his premierships, were connected to broader ...

Imps and Ogres

Marina Warner, 6 June 2019

Big and Small: A Cultural History of Extraordinary Bodies 
by Lynne Vallone.
Yale, 339 pp., £20, November 2017, 978 0 300 22886 1
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... Their contrasting size makes them peculiar in a nursery way, like the Walrus and the Carpenter or Jack Sprat and his wife, but Mazzetti subtly lets their silence speak of other causes of persecution. The children play a last prank on the pair, and the film ends in a searing, understated disaster. Presented without comment or sequel, it reminds us again that ...

Jackson breaks the ice

Andrew Forge, 4 April 1991

Jackson Pollock: An American Saga 
by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.
Barrie and Jenkins, 934 pp., £19.95, March 1990, 0 7126 3866 0
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Abstract Expressionism 
by David Anfam.
Thames and Hudson, 216 pp., £5.95, August 1990, 0 500 20243 5
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Night Studio: A Memoir of Philip Guston 
by Musa Mayer.
Thames and Hudson, 256 pp., £8.95, February 1991, 0 500 27633 1
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... support artists in 1935. By now, Pollock was beginning to attract the attention of other painters, Jack Tworkov remembered hearing him spoken of by the head of the mural division of the WPA as a great hope for American painting. When Siqueiros came to New York in 1936, with his intoxicating mixture of political activism and technical experiment, the Pollock ...

They don’t say that about Idi Amin

Andrew O’Hagan: Bellow Whinges, 6 January 2011

Saul Bellow: Letters 
edited by Benjamin Taylor.
Viking, 571 pp., $35, November 2010, 978 0 670 02221 2
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... of the human faculties as he seeks to fight or flee. The letters of a lesser contemporary, Jack Kerouac for instance, appear almost luminary next to these gripes and gashings. Kerouac at least described a sensibility and a falling away, punctuated with adventure and open-heartedness. With Bellow’s letters, by the time we get to him crushing ...

I’m being a singer

Andrew O’Hagan: Dandy Highwaymen, 8 October 2020

Sweet Dreams: The Story of the New Romantics 
by Dylan Jones.
Faber, 663 pp., £20, October, 978 0 571 35343 9
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... Hadley, the Thatcherite singer in an otherwise left-leaning band, was holding a glass of Jack Daniels. He seemed in touch with his audience and every bit as drunk. I’m not sure whether the audience knew his politics, but they heard the totemic sound of the 1980s in his voice, and a thousand facets of contemporary Britain seemed to sparkle in his ...


John Lanchester: The Rise and Rise of Ian Rankin, 27 April 2000

Set in Darkness 
by Ian Rankin.
Orion, 415 pp., £16.99, February 2000, 0 7528 2129 6
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... I haven’t read it. In the same year Rankin also published another full-length Rebus novel, Strip Jack: it told the story of Gregor Jack, a likable-seeming Scots Labour MP turned over by the tabloids when he is caught in a brothel raid. After Jack’s public humiliation his wife ...

Think Tiny

Mark Ford: Nancification, 17 July 2008

The Nancy Book 
by Joe Brainard.
Siglio, 144 pp., $39.50, April 2008, 978 0 9799562 0 1
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... a definite commodity … I’ve had oil-painting shows that were very realistic, then I’ve done jack-off collages, cut-outs one year and drawings … it’s all been different … People want to buy a Warhol or a person instead of a work. My work’s never become ‘a Brainard’. Or even a Jainard or a Bernard or a Joe. Here are the last six ‘I ...

My Old, Sweet, Darling Mob

Iain Sinclair: Michael Moorcock, 30 November 2000

King of the City 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 421 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 684 86140 2
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Mother London 
by Michael Moorcock.
Scribner, 496 pp., £6.99, May 2000, 0 684 86141 0
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... Blair’s latest consensus hair policy, Lord Archer’s ironic, pre-penitentiary crop, the way Andrew Motion carries off his loden coat as he swirls between taxi and station platform. Julian Barnes’s novels are depilated at source, fat-free. Frisking them for a Moorcockian digression, a set of cellulite-heavy parentheses, would be like checking a tub of ...


Melanie McFadyean: In the Wrong Crowd, 25 September 2014

... allowing Dobson’s retrial stated, ‘for which no innocent explanation can be discerned’. As Andrew Hall, a criminal barrister and former chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, says, ‘If you participate in some way in the offence and you intend what happens to happen or encourage everything to come about, then you carry moral culpability and ...

For ever Falkland?

Tam Dalyell, 17 June 1982

... that if a flag, light blue and white, is to be struck in Port Stanley to make way for the Union Jack, it will be the Latin American flag, not just the Argentinian, that is hauled down. For a South American state to victual the Malvinas would be tantamount to handling the most politically explosive blacked goods. Consider – and I fear that this is ...

Short Cuts

James Meek: Anglospheroids, 21 March 2013

... John Norton-Griffiths, ‘Empire Jack’, engineer and strapping essence of imperial British manliness, was sent to Romania in 1916 to destroy that country’s oil industry before the Germans overran it. He had the Romanian government’s permission but local staff would occasionally try to interfere as he went at the oil wells with fire, dynamite and his personal sledgehammer ...

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