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The Real Magic

David Sylvester, 8 June 1995

A Biographical Dictionary of Film 
by David Thomson.
Deutsch, 834 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 233 98859 9
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... number of musicals, but how many musicals are great films? Or, speaking of moments, the killing of Jack Palance by Alan Ladd in Shane is exquisite, but Shane as a whole is a phoney. (But its director, George Stevens, did direct a musical that’s a serious candidate for greatness: Swing Time.) And the problem of evaluating the makers is vastly complicated, as ...

Ten Thousand Mile Mistake

Thomas Powers: Robert Stone in Saigon, 18 February 2021

Child of Light: A Biography of Robert Stone 
by Madison Smartt Bell.
Doubleday, 588 pp., £27, March 2020, 978 0 385 54160 2
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The Eye You See With: Selected Non-Fiction 
by Robert Stone, edited by Madison Smartt Bell.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 320 pp., £20.99, April 2020, 978 0 618 38624 6
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‘Dog Soldiers’, A Flag for Sunrise’, Outerbridge Reach’ 
by Robert Stone, edited by Madison Smartt Bell.
Library of America, 1216 pp., £35, March 2020, 978 1 59853 654 6
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... on the bus too, and the man at the wheel was Neal Cassady, the legendary long-distance driver of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Stone was part of the Perry Lane crowd, but when the hijinks began to eat into his writing time he slipped away. Kesey’s voyage east with the Merry Pranksters was one of the signature moments of the decade, along with Altamont and ...

Gentlemen and ladies came to see the poet’s cottage

Tom Paulin: Clare’s anti-pastoral, 19 February 2004

John Clare: A Biography 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 650 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 330 37106 1
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‘I Am’: The Selected Poetry of John Clare 
edited by Jonathan Bate.
Farrar, Straus, 318 pp., $17, November 2003, 0 374 52869 1
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John Clare, Politics and Poetry 
by Alan Vardy.
Palgrave, 221 pp., £45, October 2003, 0 333 96617 1
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John Clare Vol. V: Poems of the Middle Period 1822-37 
edited by Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 822 pp., £105, January 2003, 0 19 812386 8
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... Butterflyes Ball John Dame Trott and her Cat William Mother Hubard and her Dog Sophy House that Jack Built The Reform Bill of 1832 achieved nothing for the rural poor and riots in the countryside were brutally suppressed by executions, imprisonment and transportations. The Clares’ financial difficulties were symptomatic of a widespread economic ...

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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... House had been dictated by Roth’s Connecticut neighbour and flouncy nemesis Francine du Plessix Gray – ‘Francine Duplicitous Gray’, as Roth called her. Interviewing may not have been Miller’s forte but what was his forte? He made such a skimpy mess of the Notes on the Text for Volume Three of Roth’s Library of ...

The wind comes up out of nowhere

Charles Nicholl: The Disappearance of Arthur Cravan, 9 March 2006

... the avant-garde. As a heavyweight boxer, his career peaked in 1916, when he fought the formidable Jack Johnson in Barcelona. He lasted six rounds. These two strands of Cravan’s career are not as diverse as one might think: his stance as a writer was extremely combative – confrontation and ‘anti-art’ polemic were his métier. As the poet Mina Loy, who ...

The Wrong Blond

Alan Bennett, 23 May 1985

Auden in Love 
by Dorothy Farnan.
Faber, 264 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 571 13399 1
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... was naturally blond, about five feet 11 in height, slender, weighing about 145 pounds with gray-blue eyes, pale flawless skin, a Norse skull, Latin lips and straight narrow nose’ – a description that smacks both of the mortuary slab and (more appropriately) a ‘Wanted’ poster. In April 1939, Auden, Isherwood and MacNeice gave a reading at the ...

Diary

August Kleinzahler: Drinking Bourbon in the Zam Zam Room, 8 August 2002

... I liked it. Fortunately, it turned out to be one of the brands acceptable to Bruno. If you ordered Jack Daniel’s, for instance, Bruno would tell you that you were more or less a fool, in thrall to Madison Avenue. Tanqueray gin and Chivas Regal also earned you a rough ride. But Old Grand-Dad was jake with Bruno, a good, unfashionable whiskey. So it was my ...

The Shape of Absence

Hilary Mantel: The Bondwoman’s Narrative, 8 August 2002

The Bondwoman’s Narrative: A Novel 
by Hannah Crafts, edited by Henry Louis Gates.
Virago, 338 pp., £10.99, May 2002, 1 86049 013 1
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... was black. Gates submitted it for examination to, among others, the expert who had exposed the ‘Jack the Ripper Diaries’ as a fraud. The issue of authentication was vital, and went beyond the nature of the artefact itself. Granted that the paper, ink and other external markers dated it to somewhere between 1855 and 1860, and given that the ...

Tankishness

Peter Wollen: Tank by Patrick Wright, 16 November 2000

Tank: The Progress of a Monstrous War Machine 
by Patrick Wright.
Faber, 499 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 571 19259 9
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... and, in effect, redesigned. In Tal’s own words, the machine ‘is always young, like Dorian Gray’. In the Six-Day and Yom Kippur Wars Israeli air power and tank power were combined strategically with shattering effect on the Egyptian Forces, and tank officers were able to act with a surprising degree of local initiative. The Israeli victory in ...

Scotland’s Dreaming

Rory Scothorne, 21 May 2020

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot: The Great Mistake of Scottish Independence 
by John Lloyd.
Polity, 224 pp., £20, April 2020, 978 1 5095 4266 6
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The Literary Politics of Scottish Devolution: Voice, Class, Nation 
by Scott Hames.
Edinburgh, 352 pp., £24.99, November 2019, 978 1 4744 1814 0
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... was to eschew a patriotism that was other than British, or a flag that was other than the Union Jack,’ he writes. He does not discuss the more obvious and recent loss: the experience of sudden, precipitous state withdrawal that England’s industrialised regions shared with equivalent parts of Scotland. The different electoral responses of England and ...

Travels with My Mom

Terry Castle: In Santa Fe, 16 August 2007

... stripes. The bands of pigment were usually matt white or off-white, sometimes tinted a pale gray or yellow. Later in her career she added a nearly invisible coral pink and a faint blue pastel to her palette. And that, kids, was that.It is impossible to overstate their self-effacing beauty. Martin herself wrote that she believed the function of art to be ...

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