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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Dark Knight’ , 14 August 2008

The Dark Knight 
directed by Christopher Nolan.
July 2008
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... burning only his half of the proceeds. The background to this event is an anecdote-cum-fable that Michael Caine, as the faithful servant Alfred, tells Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne. There was a bandit in Burma, apparently, who stole jewels at will from almost everyone and was never caught – because he didn’t want and didn’t keep the jewels, he just ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Hail, Caesar!’, 17 March 2016

Hail, Caesar! 
directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.
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... about in a desert provided with triumphal arches, and a key moment when one of them, played by George Clooney, recognises the virtues of the preacher and rebel they are crucifying. Mannix’s question is ‘Does the picture of Jesus cut the mustard?’ He asks a panel diplomatically composed of four clerics: a Catholic priest, a Greek Orthodox priest, a ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Vice’, 21 February 2019

... wavers, is never confused, always knows what she thinks. She doesn’t believe Dick should accept George W. Bush’s invitation to run for vice president because it’s ‘a nothing job’. She says things like, ‘Half the world wants to be us; the other half fears us’; and, ‘If you have power people will always try to take it from you. Always.’ She ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’, 6 October 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 
directed by Tomas Alfredson.
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... go on telling us there is a mystery while the posters picture it. The posters show Gary Oldman as George Smiley – or rather they show him as Alec Guinness made a little taller, thinner, cooler. The trick, it seems, is to acknowledge Guinness’s ownership of the icon – broad horn-rimmed glasses, dark suit, tie, longish hair swept back, glazed look of the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: Bette Davis, 12 August 2021

... blithe and scary ignorance, the second about her stoic acceptance of medical fact. Her doctor is George Brent, who played the killed beau in Jezebel. He is devoted to her but she refuses his proposal, because she thinks he is acting out of pity. Later they get together, and prevent each other from yawning in Vermont. The screenplay, again by Casey ...

Taking Darwin in

Michael Mason, 16 February 1984

Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and 19th-Century Fiction 
by Gillian Beer.
Routledge, 303 pp., £17.95, September 1983, 0 7100 9505 8
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... and natural selection, and also the narratives of certain Victorian novels: especially the work of George Eliot and Hardy, which is taken up in the last two-fifths of the book. Mrs Beer does not want to say that Darwin’s new biological history is on the same footing as fiction; she has too much respect for the veridical power of Darwin’s great hypothesis ...

A Very Bad Case

Michael Brock, 11 June 1992

Herbert Samuel: A Political Life 
by Bernard Wasserstein.
Oxford, 427 pp., £45, January 1992, 0 19 822648 9
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... than Hugh Gaitskell was ‘a desiccated calculating-machine’. These descriptions, by Lloyd George and Aneurin Bevan respectively, reveal little more than the effects of personal irritation on imaginative Welsh politicians. In his final chapter Professor Wasserstein draws attention to ‘a fundamental innocence’ and ‘supreme intellectual ...

Traven identified

George Woodcock, 3 July 1980

The Man who was B. Traven 
by Will Wyatt.
Cape, 326 pp., £8.50, June 1980, 0 224 01720 9
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The Government 
by B. Traven.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £6.50, May 1980, 0 85031 356 2
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The Cotton-Pickers 
by B. Traven.
Allison and Busby, 200 pp., £5.50, October 1979, 0 85031 284 1
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The White Rose 
by B. Traven.
Allison and Busby, 209 pp., £6.50, May 1980, 0 85031 369 4
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... same man. The two most recent books on Traven before Mr Wyatt’s The Man who was B. Traven – Michael Baumann’s scholarly B. Traven: An Introduction and Judy Stone’s journalistic The Mystery of B. Traven – agree that Marut and Traven were the same man. Moreover, Judy Stone, who questioned Torsvan-Croves remorselessly when she visited him, was ...

Gentlemen Travellers

D.A.N. Jones, 15 September 1983

George Borrow: Eccentric 
by Michael Collie.
Cambridge, 275 pp., £19.50, November 1982, 0 521 24615 6
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A World of his Own: The Double Life of George Borrow 
by David Williams.
Oxford, 178 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 19 211762 9
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Eothen: Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East 
by Alexander Kinglake and Jan Morris.
Oxford, 279 pp., £2.95, November 1982, 0 19 281361 7
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Eothen 
by Alexander Kinglake and Jonathan Raban.
Century, 226 pp., £6.95, September 1982, 0 7126 0031 0
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... The cool, courteous Alexander Kinglake and the hot, contentious George Borrow are two of the best-liked and most influential travel writers of the 19th century. They were contemporaries for much of their long lives (Borrow died in 1881, aged 78, Kinglake in 1891, aged 82) but play very different roles in the 20th-century imagination ...

Diary

Inigo Thomas: Michael Wolff’s Book Party, 8 February 2018

... to understand for himself – and so do the journalists who write about him. Or most of them. Michael Wolff never planned to write a book about the president just as Trump never planned to become president. Wolff remained uncertain about his book’s prospects in the days leading to its publication in mid-January, though things began to look up when he ...

Preventive Intercourse

Michael Mason, 22 October 1992

Predicaments of Love 
by Miriam Benn.
Pluto, 342 pp., £35, September 1992, 0 7453 0528 8
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Love in the Time of Victoria 
by Françoise Barret-Ducrocq, translated by John Howe.
Verso, 225 pp., £24.95, August 1992, 0 86091 325 2
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... was obviously investigating that enormously important, mysterious and unexplored Victorian figure: George Drysdale. She was certainly doing this as well as I was – perhaps much better. Worst of all, the spoor was old, the campfire ashes long extinguished. It appeared that any minute the world would hear, if not the whole truth about ...

Praying for an end

Michael Hofmann, 30 January 1992

Scenes from a Disturbed Childhood 
by Adam Czerniawski.
Serpent’s Tail, 167 pp., £9.99, October 1991, 1 85242 241 6
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Crossing: The Discovery of Two Islands 
by Jakov Lind.
Methuen, 222 pp., £14.99, November 1991, 0 413 17640 1
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The Unheeded Warning 1918-1933 
by Manes Sperber, translated by Harry Zohn.
Holmes & Meier, 216 pp., £17.95, December 1991, 0 8419 1032 4
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... which he, a Jew, had experienced at first hand, in Austria, Germany and Holland. As his friend Michael Hamburger wrote, ‘no wonder Jakov Lind has become a specialist in the monstrous!’ The Continent was insupportable, he couldn’t live in Israel, indomitable Churchillian England was the place for him. And yet what brought him over was the most ...

Rough Wooing

Michael Brown: Flodden, 23 January 2014

Fatal Rivalry: Flodden 1513 
by George Goodwin.
Weidenfeld, 288 pp., £20, July 2013, 978 0 297 86739 5
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... Fatal Rivalry: Flodden 1513 provides a welcome antidote to the usual run of work on the period. George Goodwin places the events of 9 September 1513 in the context of the two kingdoms and their interrelated royal dynasties over the quarter-century leading up to the battle. He follows most Scottish historians in being impressed with James IV’s qualities as ...

Peine forte et dure

Hazel V. Carby: Punishment by Pressing, 30 July 2020

... The​ city of Minneapolis, in which George Floyd lived and died, has been plagued not only by Covid-19 but also by an epidemic of police violence. As Mike Griffin, a community organiser, put it, he was ‘just as likely to die from a cop as from Covid’. Major news outlets, including the New York Times and Washington Post, seemed astonished at the scale of structural and environmental racism exposed by the pandemic ...

Opera Mundi

Michael Neve, 1 December 1983

Out of Order 
by Frank Johnson.
Robson, 256 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 86051 190 1
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Frank Johnson’s Election Year 
by Frank Johnson.
Robson, 192 pp., £6.95, October 1983, 0 86051 254 1
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Enthusiasms 
by Bernard Levin.
Cape, 264 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 224 02114 1
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Poem of the Year 
by Clive James.
Cape, 79 pp., £4.95, November 1983, 0 224 02961 4
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The Original Michael Frayn 
by Michael Frayn.
Salamander, 203 pp., £8.50, October 1983, 0 907540 32 5
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... should allow himself the chance to state a principle, as well as having the wit to hint that Lloyd George is the last PM one can imagine having a fuck. At one point he invokes Callaghan in Cardiff on 4 June this year – ‘perhaps the last Labour Prime Minister’. Callaghan is offered an umbrella against the rain. ‘“Thank you, but no. I prefer to keep ...

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