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Progress Past

Paul Langford, 8 November 1990

The Idea of Progress in 18th-Century Britain 
by David Spadafora.
Yale, 464 pp., £22.50, July 1990, 0 300 04671 5
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George III and the Satirists from Hogarth to Byron 
by Vincent Carretta.
Georgia, 389 pp., £38.50, June 1990, 0 8203 1146 4
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... It is customary to claim the idea of progress as one of the distinguishing features of Western civilisation: indeed the very success of the West is sometimes attributed to confidence in its own destiny in this respect. Its peculiar saving mission, that of liberating mankind by means of the creation of wealth, would make little sense without some underlying faith in the prospect, perhaps even the certainty, of limitless improvement ...

Diary

W.G. Runciman: On Trade-Unionism, 5 May 1988

... Government. All this may be familiar and even obvious. But it is not seen as quite so obvious by David Marquand, whose newly-published The Unprincipled Society* tells the history of 20th-century Britain in terms of the rise and fall of a ‘Keynesian’ consensus in which, for a few short, happy years, the unions collaborated with everybody else in seeking ...

Fashville

Robert Tashman, 9 March 1995

Prêt-à-Porter 
directed by Robert Altman.
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... an interesting disjunction between the quality of his films and the enthusiasm of their reception. Vincent and Theo (1990) seemed a return to form, but was underpraised and neglected; The Player (1992), which was greatly overpraised, was regarded as a return to form; the very poor Short Cuts (1993) was admired by some people because it was an ...

Yuh wanna play bad?

Christopher Tayler: Henry Roth, 23 March 2006

Redemption: The Life of Henry Roth 
by Steven Kellman.
Norton, 372 pp., $16.99, September 2005, 0 393 05779 8
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Call It Sleep 
by Henry Roth.
Picador US, 462 pp., $15, July 2005, 0 312 42412 4
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... child growing up in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side a few years before the First World War. David Schearl, the protagonist, lives in terror of his father, an implacably resentful man called Albert, who boils with rage every evening while recounting real or imagined workplace slights: ‘They look at me crookedly, with mockery in their eyes! How much can ...

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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... the Communist Party as a career move: ‘You will meet big people.’ By the end of that year, David Platt, the Daily Worker’s movie reviewer (a witness frequently summoned by Hoberman for counterpoint), announced that ‘never before in the history of the screen have there been so many forward-looking people in positions of responsibility as in ...

Kiss me, Hardy

Humphrey Carpenter, 15 November 1984

Peeping Tom 
by Howard Jacobson.
Chatto, 266 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2908 5
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Watson’s Apology 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 222 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 7156 1935 7
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The Foreigner 
by David Plante.
Chatto, 237 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 7011 2904 2
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... he arrives, and he learns to his horror that his mother died in the workhouse. The narrator in David Plante’s The Foreigner is a peeping Tom – twice in the book he experiences orgasm while watching or listening to other people making love – and he tells his story in a detached, remote style which at moments has echoes of Bainbridge’s accomplished ...

On the Thunder Run

Ed Harriman: What Happened at al-Hilla, 1 April 2004

A Time of Our Choosing: America’s War in Iraq 
by Todd Purdom.
Times, 319 pp., $25, November 2003, 0 8050 7562 3
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... Some were corralled in US central command headquarters in Qatar and dependent on Brigadier-General Vincent Brooks’s daily news briefings, some were stuck in Baghdad hotels under the protective wing of Saddam’s information minister, Muhammad al-Sahhaf, some were embedded with the coalition forces: they were all in different ways in the dark. News ...

Zeitgeist Man

Jenny Diski: Dennis Hopper, 22 March 2012

Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel 
by Peter Winkler.
Robson, 376 pp., £18.99, November 2011, 978 1 84954 165 7
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... malevolence is to Dennis Hopper. Very few actors specialised as Hopper did in convincing malice. Vincent Price was too camp to be really alarming, even as the witchfinder general. Peter Lorre was heartbreaking as a child murderer. James Gandolfini, playing an incorrigibly mean-minded godfather for seven years, strangely held on to the affection of most of ...

Quite a Night!

Michael Wood: Eyes Wide Shut, 30 September 1999

Eyes Wide Open: A Memoir of Stanley Kubrik and ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ 
by Frederic Raphael.
Orion, 186 pp., £12.99, July 1999, 0 7528 1868 6
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Dream Story 
by Arthur Schnitzler, translated by J.M.Q. Davies.
Penguin, 99 pp., £5.99, July 1999, 0 14 118224 5
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... ponderousness of his new work, Eyes Wide Shut, must have forgotten what the other films were like. Vincent LoBrutto, from whose biography (Faber, 1998) I’ve borrowed the above quotation, inadvertently sums up a whole career when he says: ‘Stanley Kubrick didn’t take vacations.’ We could sum up the master’s film style by saying: ‘Stanley Kubrick ...

Warhol’s Respectability

Nicholas Penny, 19 March 1987

The Revenge of the Philistines 
by Hilton Kramer.
Secker, 445 pp., £12.50, July 1986, 0 436 23687 7
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Gilbert and George 
by Carter Ratcliff.
Thames and Hudson, 271 pp., £14.95, November 1986, 0 500 27443 6
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British Art in the 20th Century 
edited by Susan Compton.
Prestel-Verlag (Munich), 460 pp., £16.90, January 1987, 3 7913 0798 3
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... In November of the following year he alerted his readers to the absence, in the art of David Hockney, of ‘the spiritual quest at the heart of modernism’. Several years later, in June 1981, he gave warning that the stained canvases of Morris Louis, the leading member of the ‘Washington Colour School’, did not represent the breakthrough that ...

Among the Bobcats

Mark Ford, 23 May 1991

The Dylan Companion 
edited by Elizabeth Thomson and David Gutman.
Macmillan, 338 pp., £10.99, April 1991, 0 333 49826 7
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Bob Dylan: Performing Artist. Vol. I: 1960-73 
by Paul Williams.
Xanadu, 310 pp., £14.99, February 1991, 1 85480 044 2
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Dylan: Behind the Shades 
by Clinton Heylin.
Viking, 528 pp., £16.99, May 1991, 0 670 83602 8
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The Bootleg Series: Vols I-III (rare and unreleased) 1961-1991 
by Bob Dylan.
Columbia, £24.95, April 1991
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... he’d joined a carnival, worked as a farmhand, had played out West with Woody Guthrie, with Gene Vincent, with Blind Lemon Jefferson ... He was soon even mythologising his own early days in New York, claiming to Shelton, who swallowed the story whole, that he spent his first two months in the big city hustling around Times Square as a rent boy. In the early ...

Christopher Hitchens states a prosecution case

Christopher Hitchens, 25 October 1990

Crossman: The Pursuit of Power 
by Anthony Howard.
Cape, 361 pp., £15.95, October 1990, 0 224 02592 9
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... every sign of exemplifying Cyril Connolly’s ‘theory of permanent adolescence’. A nasty David Benedictus-like episode, with prefect ‘Dick’ going too far in wielding the Ground Ash, leads to a new school mandate for the lighter but more efficient cane: much relish here in the details. ‘Dick’ moans to Stephen Spender: ‘Even if I become prime ...

Journey to Arezzo

Nicholas Penny: The Apotheosis of Piero, 17 April 2003

Piero della Francesca 
by Roberto Longhi, translated by David Tabbat.
Sheep Meadow, 364 pp., £32.50, September 2002, 1 878818 77 5
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... set against a dull gold ground on the walls of the churches of Saint Germain-des-Prés and Saint Vincent-de-Paul, works in which the Greek and the Gothic are condensed into an exalted style that may one day be acknowledged as more original than the gross realism of Courbet. In these murals, Flandrin had made an artistic decision that was to have enormous ...

You’ll Love the Way It Makes You Feel

Mark Greif: ‘Mad Men’, 23 October 2008

Mad Men: Season One 
Lionsgate Home Entertainment, £29.99, October 2008Show More
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... and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (whose eponymous antihero worked in PR). Emerging stars like David Ogilvy and Norman B. Norman publicised the ad man’s mystique of deep creative force, genius and restraint, as an up-to-date alternative to the old market barker’s persistence. Industry opened its purses to pay for strange approaches (Louis Cheskin’s ...

A bout de Bogart

Jenny Diski, 19 May 2011

Tough without a Gun: The Extraordinary Life of Humphrey Bogart 
by Stefan Kanfer.
Faber, 288 pp., £14.99, February 2011, 978 0 571 26072 0
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... got Johnny Depp prancing around wearing earrings. Mind you, even in the butch 1940s Mickey Rooney, Vincent Price, Clifton Webb and William Powell played nearer to the other end of the man’s men spectrum, to appreciative audiences. To say nothing of pretty-boys Cary Grant and Leslie Howard. Kanfer doesn’t by any means dismiss the argument, but he isn’t ...

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