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The End of the Plantocracy

Pooja Bhatia, 19 November 2020

The Common Wind: Afro-American Currents in the Age of the Haitian Revolution 
by Julius S. Scott.
Verso, 246 pp., £12.99, September, 978 1 78873 248 2
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Maroon Nation: A History of Revolutionary Haiti 
by Johnhenry Gonzalez.
Yale, 302 pp., £30, August 2019, 978 0 300 23008 6
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Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture 
by Sudhir Hazareesingh.
Penguin, 442 pp., £25, September, 978 0 241 29381 2
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... in history, but it was fleeting. Napoleon, who seized power in 1799, reneged on France’s promise of ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’ for those with dark skin. His regime couldn’t tolerate a former slave ruling over its most valuable colony. But Toussaint Louverture’s army of self-freed soldiers – men ...

More Fun to Be a Boy

Lorna Scott Fox: Haunted by du Maurier, 2 November 2000

Daphne du Maurier: Haunted Heiress 
by Nina Auerbach.
Pennsylvania, 216 pp., £18.50, December 1999, 0 8122 3530 4
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... known to be a trashy writer of escapist romance: you’re likely to find Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek and Rebecca in the teenage section, and the other titles practically nowhere – so why this ardent study? By the end of it, though, Nina Auerbach has achieved quite a rehabilitation. This du Maurier is not one of a ...

A Furtive Night’s Work

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s working habits, 20 October 2005

1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare 
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 429 pp., £16.99, June 2005, 0 571 21480 0
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... One of Shakespeare’s defining knacks, so it’s said, is his ability to render his own time and place more or less irrelevant to the appreciation of his art. So although it seemed uncontroversial when Paul Salzman recently related a rich and miscellaneous clutch of Jacobean publications (Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, Donne’s elegies, Wroth’s Urania and Middleton’s Women Beware Women among them) to the political and cultural circumstances of 1621,1 since nowadays these texts are read only as period pieces anyway, it might appear shockingly polemical for James Shapiro to locate everything William Shakespeare wrote in 1599 in a topical context ...

Sabotage

Gavin Millar, 13 September 1990

Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles 
by Frank Brady.
Hodder, 655 pp., £18.95, January 1990, 0 340 51389 6
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If this was happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth 
by Barbara Leaming.
Weidenfeld, 312 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 297 79630 5
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Norma Shearer 
by Gavin Lambert.
Hodder, 381 pp., £17.95, August 1990, 0 340 52947 4
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Ava’s Men: The Private Life of Ava Gardner 
by Jane Ellen Wayne.
Robson, 268 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 86051 636 9
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Goldwyn: A Biography 
by Scott Berg.
Hamish Hamilton, 579 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 241 12832 3
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The Genius of the System: Hollywood Film-Making in the Studio Era 
by Thomas Schatz.
Simon and Schuster, 514 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 671 69708 0
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... personal sessions with Welles. Brady never met Welles. They communicated by phone and letter, and so important and detailed – important if only because detailed – a study would have benefited from an appendix of notes and sources as in Leaming, who attributes every quote. As it is, we must take Brady on trust, an act of faith made more uncomfortable by ...

From Progress to Catastrophe

Perry Anderson: The Historical Novel, 28 July 2011

... what is still probably the best-known of all works of Marxist literary theory, Lukács’s The Historical Novel, written in Russian exile in the 1930s. Any reflection on the strange career of this form has to begin there, however far it may then wander from him. Built around the work of Walter ...

‘No, no,’ replied the fat man

Michael Davie, 3 December 1992

The Power of News: The History of Reuters 
by Donald Read.
Oxford, 330 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 19 821776 5
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... The first thing that must strike anyone opening this well-produced book – and they may do so with apprehension, since company histories are notoriously bland – is the wonderful harvest of illustrations, ranging from No 1, a photograph of the founder and his son, the strangely whiskered Julius Reuter and Herbert, circa 1870, to No 63, a Reuters news picture of the destruction of the Berlin Wall in 1989 ...

Julia Caesar

Marilyn Butler, 17 March 1983

The Prince and the Wild Geese 
by Brigid Brophy.
Hamish Hamilton, 62 pp., £5.95, February 1983, 0 241 10894 2
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... the Russian ambassador in Rome after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Graceful and witty, Gagarin’s drawings portray his social world much as Pope in ‘The Rape of the Lock’ portrayed his, in a spirit of satire touched with complicity. Gagarin’s Rome, like Pope’s London, emerges ...

Ministry of Apparitions

Malcolm Gaskill: Magical Thinking in 1918, 4 July 2019

A Supernatural War: Magic, Divination and Faith during the First World War 
by Owen Davies.
Oxford, 284 pp., £20, October 2018, 978 0 19 879455 4
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... in August 1914. The angel had been caught on camera much later, in the Cotswolds in 1952. It’s a well-known story that British soldiers at Mons claimed they really did see angels – but that story, too, turns out to be unfounded. In September 1914 the Welsh writer Arthur Machen published a story called ‘The Bowmen’ in the London Evening News. In ...

Big Lawyers and Little Lawyers

Stephen Sedley, 28 November 1996

The Access to Justice: Final Report 
by Lord Woolf.
HMSO, 370 pp., £19.95, July 1996, 0 11 380099 1
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The Future of Law: Facing the Challenges of Information Technology 
by Richard Susskind.
Oxford, 309 pp., £19.99, July 1996, 0 19 826007 5
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... now under way under the great conseiller Braibant is the task of a decade where Bonaparte’s commissioners took little more than four months. In Hong Kong yet worse has happened: an attempt in the best colonial tradition of demented heroism to codify the English common law in Chinese (something nobody has yet done in English) in time for the handover ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland, 11 July 1991

The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... its own shape. ‘We have argued, laughed, fought, forgiven, and feasted together at one another’s tables,’ the editors record. A particularly sharp fight must have been fought on the nature of the entries. The editors settled on a conservative dictionary of biography format with a leavening of category entries on such topics as ‘Pseudonyms’, ‘Black ...

Thunder in the Mountains

J. Hoberman: Orson Welles, 6 September 2007

Orson Welles: Hello Americans 
by Simon Callow.
Vintage, 507 pp., £8.99, May 2007, 978 0 09 946261 3
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What Ever Happened to Orson Welles? A Portrait of an Independent Career 
by Joseph McBride.
Kentucky, 344 pp., $29.95, October 2006, 0 8131 2410 7
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... Dead Marilyn, Dead Orson is very much with us. He lives on, not only in the restored ‘director’s cuts’ of his re-released movies, the posthumously completed projects and newly adapted screenplays of never-made films, but as a character in other people’s novels, plays and movies. He haunts the murderous teenagers of ...

Itemised

Fredric Jameson, 8 November 2018

My Struggle: Book 6. The End 
by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated by Martin Aitken and Don Bartlett.
Harvill Secker, 1153 pp., £25, August 2018, 978 1 84655 829 0
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... out that he didn’t like them, that they were bad in other words, but nor could he not say that, so what came out of his mouth was impossible to grasp because I didn’t understand the basis. Can​ I read this before reading the other five books in the series? A. Yes, because this one begins with the publication of the series and people’...

Just one of those ends

Michael Wood: Apocalypse Regained, 13 December 2001

Apocalypse Now Redux 
directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
August 2001
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Marlon Brando 
by Patricia Bosworth.
Weidenfeld, 216 pp., £12.99, October 2001, 0 297 84284 6
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... Bough as their Christmas pantomime. The confused ending weighs on the film but doesn’t wreck it, so we don’t need to hush up the confusion or pretend it isn’t confusion at all. Apocalypse Now is a great film, but a great film that gets lost, and the reasons for its getting lost are part of the film. Introducing the film at Cannes in May 1979, Coppola ...

The Manners of a Hog

Christopher Tayler: Buchan’s Banter, 20 February 2020

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan 
by Ursula Buchan.
Bloomsbury, 479 pp., £25, April 2019, 978 1 4088 7081 5
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... their directives and doctrines. Buchan wrote good English. Buchan taught you things.’ Usborne’s droll catalogue of his subjects’ reactionary excesses helped writers like Dornford Yates and the repellent ‘Sapper’ along the way to oblivion. Buchan continued to be read, but his reputation was battered: by 1960 or ...

I just let him have his beer

Christopher Tayler: John Williams Made it Work, 19 December 2019

The Man who Wrote the Perfect Novel: John Williams, ‘Stoner’ and the Writing Life 
by Charles Shields.
Texas, 305 pp., £23.99, October 2018, 978 1 4773 1736 5
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Nothing but the Night 
by John Williams.
NYRB, 144 pp., $14.95, February 2019, 978 1 68137 307 2
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... In​ the summer of 1963, between the appearance of Thomas Pynchon’s first book and the Beatles’ second long-player, John Williams, a professor at the University of Denver, sent his agent in New York a draft of his latest novel, which detailed the unhappy marriage, undistinguished career and early death from cancer of an imagined professor at the University of Missouri a generation earlier ...

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