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Cheering us up

Ian Jack, 15 September 1988

In for a Penny: The Unauthorised Biography of Jeffrey Archer 
by Jonathan Mantle.
Hamish Hamilton, 264 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 241 12478 6
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... Miller of the Sunday Times Magazine that her husband had ‘a gift for inaccurate précis’. Laurence Marks elaborated on this aside in one of his excellent unsigned profiles for the Observer in 1984: All good raconteurs ornament the truth. Archer’s technique is more radical. The facts of the story are usually true (more or less), but they have been ...


Rupert Wilkinson: Harvard '61, 20 November 1986

... of career ‘quality’ plus service to Harvard, the class and ‘the community’: we elected Martin Feldstein, former chief economic adviser to President Reagan. I had, though, to admire the lavish care reflected in the pre-reunion mailings. On the back of each letter, every name in the class was faintly printed; and the 24-page preliminary guide to ...

Be flippant

David Edgar: Noël Coward’s Return, 9 December 1999

1956 and All That 
by Dan Reballato.
Routledge, 265 pp., £40, February 1999, 0 415 18938 1
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Collected Plays: Six 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 415 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73410 2
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Collected Plays: Seven 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 381 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73410 2
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Collected Revue Sketches and Parodies 
by Noël Coward.
Methuen, 282 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 413 73390 4
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Noël Coward: A Life in Quotes 
edited by Barry Day.
Metro, 116 pp., £9.99, November 1999, 9781900512848
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Noël Coward: The Complete Lyrics 
Methuen, 352 pp., £30, December 1998, 0 413 73230 4Show More
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... rather than Adam Low’s enlightening 1998 Arena, a pedestrian 1983 ‘biographical film’ by Laurence Rees, which at £26.99 is not only not worth the price of admission, but not worth the bother of removing the cellophane. There have been a number of explanations as to why Dad’s second renaissance feels more like a restoration. The first is that the ...


Mark Ford: Love and Theft, 2 December 2004

... forever to be twisting and untwisting the same rope?’ It was not noticed until some time after Laurence Sterne’s death in 1768 that this passage was itself plagiarised from Robert Burton’s attack on literary imitators in his introduction to The Anatomy of Melancholy. ‘As apothecaries,’ Burton observed, ‘we make new mixtures every day, pour out of ...

Got to go make that dollar

Alex Abramovich: Otis Redding, 3 January 2019

Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life 
by Jonathan Gould.
Crown, 544 pp., £12.99, May 2018, 978 0 307 45395 2
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... grief that poisons his heart’ – the layers of meaning seemed to fold back on themselves. Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem ‘We Wear the Mask’ was still very famous; minstrelsy was still a going concern. What did it mean for black Americans to sing arias about clowns who cried beneath their made-up faces? And what did it mean that, in order to do so, they ...

Apartheid gains a constitution

Keith Kyle, 1 May 1980

Ethnic Power Mobilised: Can South Africa change? 
by Heribert Adam.
Yale, 308 pp., £14.20, October 1979, 0 300 02377 4
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Transkei’s Half Loaf: Race Separatism in South Africa 
by Newell Stultz.
Yale, 183 pp., £10.10, October 1979, 0 300 02333 2
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Year of Fire, Year of Ash The Soweto Revolt: Roots of a Revolution? 
by Baruch Hirson.
Zed, 348 pp., £12.95, June 1979, 0 905762 28 2
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The past is another country: Rhodesia 1890-1979 
by Martin Meredith.
Deutsch, 383 pp., £9.95, October 1979, 0 233 97121 1
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... Stadium, wrestling with the shock of discoveringthat a Rand Daily Mail reporter, Patrick Laurence, had just shot his bird by publishing an excellent political history of Transkeiup to the eve of Independence, and wondering how he could rescue his own academic enterprise. He decided that, rather than wait a few years to write a political history of ...
Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years 
by Brian Boyd.
Chatto, 783 pp., £25, January 1992, 0 7011 3701 0
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... oppressiveness Virginia Woolf reluctantly stigmatised in ‘Impassioned Prose’, where she evokes Laurence Binyon’s remark that ‘poetical prose has but a bastard kind of beauty, easily appearing overdressed.’ Nabokov, it should be said, is not entirely immune to sartorial excess. Now and then the odd sentence flourishes like Dickens’s Dickensian ...

St Marilyn

Andrew O’Hagan: The Girl and Me, 6 January 2000

The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe 
Christie’s, 415 pp., $85, September 1999, 0 903432 64 1Show More
The Complete Marilyn Monroe 
by Adam Victor.
Thames and Hudson, 339 pp., £29.95, November 1999, 0 500 01978 9
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Marilyn Monroe 
by Barbara Leaming.
Orion, 474 pp., £8.99, October 1999, 0 7528 2692 1
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... containing the relics of St Theresa of Lisieux. A hundred years ago the Carmelite nun Thérèse Martin died, and she died, according to a woman I spoke to at the end of the queue, ‘with a heart as big as the world itself’. The last words of St Theresa are not open to doubt. ‘I am not dying,’ she said. ‘I am entering into Life.’ She was canonised ...

Squealing to Survive

John Lahr: Clancy was here, 19 July 2018

Black Sunset: Hollywood Sex, Lies, Glamour, Betrayal and Raging Egos 
by Clancy Sigal.
Icon, 352 pp., £12.99, May 2018, 978 1 78578 439 2
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The London Lover: My Weekend that Lasted Thirty Years 
by Clancy Sigal.
Bloomsbury, 274 pp., £20, May 2018, 978 1 4088 8580 2
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... the undertow of the Red Scare plays out with an unmistakable whiff of real menace. Describing Martin Gang, a lawyer famous for scrubbing the stain of disloyalty from Hollywood personalities, Clancy writes: He operates under a strategy that correctly perceives the Red Scare as driven by antisemitism by co-operating with congressional Jew-baiters who call ...

Günter Grass’s Uniqueness

J.P. Stern, 5 February 1981

... with totalitarian collywobbles and attacks of authenticitis of the cervical membrane called Martin Heidegger is an identifiable caricature of the philosopher of that name; and the mountain made of human bones which lies between the outskirts of the city and the lunatic asylum at Stutthof, which everybody sees and nobody has seen, which everybody smells ...

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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... to end,’ the gung-ho Colonel Kilgore played by Robert Duvall says in the film. Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) later repeats the line, thinking how happy the young men travelling upriver with him will be when that day comes, and they can go home. ‘The trouble is,’ Willard adds, ‘I had been back there, and I knew it just didn’t exist any more.’ The ...

Dingy Quadrilaterals

Ian Gilmour: The Profumo Case, 19 October 2006

Bringing the House Down: A Family Memoir 
by David Profumo.
Murray, 291 pp., £20, September 2006, 0 7195 6608 8
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... of stage and screen. In one film she played opposite Ralph Richardson, whom she much liked, and Laurence Olivier, whom she did not, finding him selfish, offhand and cold. He was however preferable to Leslie Howard, who with his girlfriend for a time shared a house with the Havelock-Allans. Valerie’s best-known films were Great Expectations and Kind Hearts ...

Karl Miller Remembered

Neal Ascherson, John Lanchester and Andrew O’Hagan, 23 October 2014

... overheard him say on the phone.‘You’re diving through the pampas grass looking for excuses, Martin – just send the book back!’‘Seamus, I’m very grateful to you for your excellent poem in aid of my auld acquaintance Hugh MacDiarmid. But there’s a mistake in it.’‘Jesus Christ, Cockburn! There’s a hole in the page. That’s right. A hole ...

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