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Diary

Adam Shatz: Ornette Coleman, 16 July 2015

... as one of his rivals told me. The trumpeter Roy Eldridge thought he was ‘jiving’. Miles Davis called him ‘all screwed up inside’, and wrote in his autobiography that Coleman ‘just came and fucked up everybody’.Coleman wasn’t the only jazz musician on the scene who was looking for a way out of chord-based improvisation, or who took ...

Supermax

John Bayley, 8 December 1988

The Letters of Max Beerbohm 1892-1956 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 244 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7195 4537 4
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The Faber Book of Letters 
edited by Felix Pryor.
Faber, 319 pp., £12.95, October 1988, 0 571 15269 4
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... pen to write or paper to record.’ Yet pen wrote it and paper recorded it, even so. Rupert Hart-Davis does not reprint much of the correspondence about Wilde, rightly thinking it available elsewhere, but he does publish the touching letter Max wrote to Robert Ross, Oscar’s premier initiator, when he was in New York with his half-brother, the famous ...

Diary

Zachary Leader: Oscar Talk at the Huntington, 16 April 1998

... Amis professed to hate ‘abroad’, but he was only intermittently a cultural nationalist. When Philip Larkin, in his capacity as librarian, canvassed him in 1960 for his views on the export of manuscripts, he received the usual robust reply: I will sell any of my manuscripts to the highest bidder, assuming such bidder to be of reputable standing, and I ...

Literary Man

J.I.M. Stewart, 7 June 1984

Hilaire Belloc 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 398 pp., £12.95, April 1984, 0 241 11176 5
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... In the third volume of the Lyttelton Hart-Davis Letters George Lyttelton records Hilaire Belloc’s having told him that his mother ‘had seen Napoleon after his return from Elba and he looked un homme rompu’. Whether Napoleon when he landed near Antibes on 1 March 1815 indeed looked rompu historians may have determined: but certainly not with the help of Belloc’s mother, an Englishwoman who was born a little more than fourteen years later ...

Untouchable?

David Runciman: The Tory State?, 8 September 2016

... aggrandising behaviour of Liam Fox at the newly created Department for International Trade. David Davis at the newly created Department for Exiting the European Union is unhappy with both of them. This kind of turf warfare will only get worse as the time for invoking Article 50 draws near. It will put huge strain on the Tories’ united front. But who is ...

Fourteen Thousand Dried Penguins

Patrick O’Brian, 9 November 1989

Last Voyages. Cavendish, Hudson, Ralegh: The Original Narratives 
edited by Philip Edwards.
Oxford, 268 pp., £25, November 1988, 0 19 812894 0
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The Nagle Journal: A Diary for the Life of Jacob Nagle, Sailor, from the Year 1775 to 1841 
edited by John Dann.
Weidenfeld, 402 pp., £18.95, March 1989, 1 55584 223 2
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Journal of a Voyage with Bering, 1741-1742 
by Georg Wilhelm Steller, edited by O.W. Frost, translated by Margritt Engel and O.W. Frost.
Stanford, 252 pp., $35, September 1988, 0 8047 1446 0
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... himself and by four men who sailed with him, Antony Knivet, a young gentleman volunteer; John Davis, the great navigator; J. Jane, a friend of Davis’s; and Thomas Lodge the poet. Thomas Cavendish was a man of considerable estate but varying fortunes, and like many of his contemporaries he took to the sea to improve ...

Wolfish

John Sutherland: The pushiness of young men in a hurry, 5 May 2005

Publisher 
by Tom Maschler.
Picador, 294 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 330 48420 6
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British Book Publishing as a Business since the 1960s 
by Eric de Bellaigue.
British Library, 238 pp., £19.95, January 2004, 0 7123 4836 0
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Penguin Special: The Life and Times of Allen Lane 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Viking, 484 pp., £25, May 2005, 0 670 91485 1
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... household names in Britain until he published them at Jonathan Cape. His stable has included Philip Roth, García Márquez, McEwan, Martin Amis, Barnes, Rushdie, Vonnegut, Chatwin, Fowles, Deighton and, Maschler does not fear to admit, Jeffrey Archer. The title he was most excited to publish was Catch 22, a novel he took on after more myopic others had ...

Schusterism

C.H. Sisson, 18 April 1985

Diaries: 1923-1925 
by Siegfried Sassoon, edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Faber, 320 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 571 13322 3
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... of Sassoon’s, still cuts a dignified figure; it was indeed only in 1925, as Rupert Hart-Davis tells us in one of his meticulous (and most helpful) footnotes, that this ‘critic, biographer and man of letters’, born in 1849, was knighted. Frank Schuster (1840-1928), ‘wealthy musiclover and giver of parties’, was still giving parties, and ...

True Bromance

Philip Clark: Ravi Shankar’s Ragas, 15 July 2021

Indian Sun: The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar 
by Oliver Craske.
Faber, 672 pp., £12.99, June, 978 0 571 35086 5
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... too, helping him shake his dependence on drugs, while opening his ears to Eastern scales. Before Philip Glass worked with Shankar on a film score in 1965, he had been churning out unremarkable pastiches of French neoclassicism fused with folksy Americana; discovering the rhythmic loops of Indian music kickstarted his first pieces of minimalism. A generation ...

Anglo-America

Stephen Fender, 3 April 1980

The London Yankees: Portraits of American Writers and Artists in England, 1894-1914 
by Stanley Weintraub.
W.H. Allen, 408 pp., £7.95, November 1979, 0 491 02209 3
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The Americans: Fifty Letters from America on our Life and Times 
by Alistair Cooke.
Bodley Head, 323 pp., £5.95, October 1979, 0 370 30163 3
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... to America, which has been fashionable ever since Stephen Spender’s Love-Hate Relations. Philip Toynbee, in the Observer, came right out with it: ‘by now it is hard to see any reason why an American writer or artist should wish to settle either in Paris or London.’ Then, of course, it was another matter. James, Whistler, Sargent, Mark Twain, Bret ...

Pretenders

Kenneth Fowler, 13 June 1991

Ways of Lying: Dissimulation and Conformity in Early Modern Europe 
by Perez Zagorin.
Harvard, 337 pp., £27.95, September 1990, 0 674 94834 3
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Lucrecia’s Dreams: Politics and Prophecy in 16th-Century Spain 
by Richard Kagan.
California, 229 pp., £24.95, July 1990, 0 520 06655 3
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‘In his Image and Likeness’: Political Iconography and Religious Change in Regenshurg, 1500-1600 
by Kristin Zapalac.
Cornell, 280 pp., $29.95, October 1990, 0 8014 2269 8
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... in May 1590. His methodology and approach are essentially those pioneered by Ladurie, Ginzburg and Davis, who utilised similar source material. Lucrecia’s dreams were dictated to several churchmen, notably to Alonso de Mendoza and her confessor. Fray Lucas de Allende (whose interest in them was, to say the least, questionable), and to a secretary from ...

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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... combed the cobwebs from our hair: the starship arrival of Blake Bailey’s authorised biography of Philip Roth, Philip Roth: The Biography. The ‘the’ of the subtitle said: accept no substitutes. Another biography of Roth was in the offing, Ira Nadel’s Philip Roth: A Counterlife, a ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Miami Vice’, 17 August 2006

Miami Vice 
directed by Michael Mann.
August 2006
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... an effect enhanced by guest appearances from Phil Collins, Willie Nelson, Little Richard, Miles Davis and many others. But the other, complementary theory of the series’ origin names a news story about vice cops using repossessed goods as a glossy cover for their assumed criminal characters. This is why Don Johnson drives a Ferrari and has two fancy ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... on Toni Morrison, who – as a photo that recently went viral made clear – hung out with Angela Davis in the early 1970s, and surely Don DeLillo’s speculations on Lee Harvey Oswald in Libra merited attention. There is at least one known case. In 2013 William Vollmann wrote about getting hold of his own FBI file and discovering that during the ...

Dangerous Girls

Dale Peck, 3 July 1997

American Pastoral 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 423 pp., £15.99, June 1997, 0 224 05000 1
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... sit down at table with his own salt and pepper. It is not, however, a technique I associate with Philip Roth. Roth’s preferred method has been to bombard the reader with sensory and intellectual stimuli, a gouache painted so stridently that at times it appears to be held in place only by the muscularity of the stroke; and American Pastoral, Roth’s 21st ...

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