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Nicholas Penny: The Art World, 14 December 2017

The Auctioneer: A Memoir of Great Art, Legendary Collectors and Record-Breaking Auctions 
by Simon de Pury and William Stadiem.
Allen and Unwin, 312 pp., £9.99, April 2017, 978 1 76011 350 6
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Rogues’ Gallery: A History of Art and Its Dealers 
by Philip Hook.
Profile, 282 pp., £20, January 2017, 978 1 78125 570 4
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Donald Judd: Writings 
edited by Flavin Judd and Caitlin Murray.
David Zwirner, 1054 pp., £28, November 2016, 978 1 941701 35 5
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... But diminished supply isn’t the whole story. In fact, as we are reminded in Rogues’ Gallery, Philip Hook’s survey of prominent art dealers from the Renaissance to today, the equivalents of de Pury’s ‘overlords’ and ‘titans’ were keen purchasers of very expensive contemporary art in the 19th century, when there was no shortage of Old ...

It’s just a book

Philip Horne, 17 December 1992

by Paul Auster.
Faber, 245 pp., £14.99, October 1992, 0 571 16786 1
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... something.’ The author in The New York Trilogy saw a girl at Grand Central Station reading his hook and quizzed her about it. Her response made him think of punching her in the face: ‘It’s no big deal. It’s just a book.’ Sachs speaks with the same levity of his own work (‘It’s only a novel’), and rebukes his earlier stuff as ‘too ...

At the Courtauld

Peter Campbell: Cranach’s Nudes, 19 July 2007

... painter to the electors of Saxony. He was close to members of the faculty of the university – Philip Melanchthon was one. Cupid Complaining to Venus relates to a Greek verse Melanchthon used as the basis for Latin moralities. Contemporaries would have registered that the roebuck, which laps water in the foreground of Adam and Eve, was famously faithful ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Leviathan’, 8 January 2015

directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev.
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... of a man whose wife (he thinks) has committed suicide. ‘Canst thou draw out leviathan with a hook?’ the priest asks, ‘or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?’ The words he doesn’t cite, at least in the subtitles, are even more appropriate: ‘Will he make many supplications unto thee? Will he speak soft words unto thee?’ The priest ...

Better than Ganymede

Tom Paulin: Larkin, 21 October 2010

Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica 
edited by Anthony Thwaite.
Faber, 475 pp., £22.50, October 2010, 978 0 571 23909 2
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... Philip Larkin met Monica Jones in 1946 at Leicester University College. She was an assistant lecturer there, and Larkin was an assistant librarian. Both had firsts in English from Oxford. Monica Jones was an able lecturer, but she never published anything and so was never promoted, although she stayed at Leicester until she retired in 1981 ...

Among the quilters

Peter Campbell, 21 March 1991

by Michael Ignatieff.
Chatto, 313 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 7011 3509 3
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Health and Happiness 
by Diane Johnson.
Chatto, 260 pp., £13.99, January 1991, 0 7011 3597 2
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by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 388 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 1 872180 08 6
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... sets the story rolling, and those of Dr Evans (her physician, a man for the heroic intervention), Philip Watts (star diagnostician, properly modest on medicine’s behalf when faced with the body’s rebellions) and Mimi Franklin (paid volunteer, divorced, with a housing problem) come as neatly as commercial breaks. Interest does not flag and the medical ...

White Boy Walking

Evan Hughes: Jonathan Lethem, 5 July 2007

You Don’t Love Me Yet 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Faber, 224 pp., £10.99, May 2007, 978 0 571 23562 9
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... Wars. His first four novels, which explored and extended the bounds of sci-fi, owe a large debt to Philip K. Dick. Lethem even sold the author’s estate ‘a few dozen’ paperback copies of out-of-print titles they didn’t have, so that the executor could seek their republication. ‘Vulcan’s Hammer, in other words, is sort of my fault,’ Lethem once ...

Turncoats and Opportunists

Alexandra Walsham: Francis Walsingham, 5 July 2012

The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I 
by John Cooper.
Faber, 400 pp., £9.99, July 2012, 978 0 571 21827 1
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... two children. His sole surviving daughter, Frances, married the poet and Protestant courtier Sir Philip Sidney. Cooper acknowledges the problems these gaps in the record pose to a biographer, but doesn’t shy away from sifting Walsingham’s motives and gauging the nature and depth of his religious beliefs. For Cooper, Walsingham is a man of principle ...
Djuna Barnes 
by Philip Herring.
Viking, 416 pp., £20, May 1996, 0 670 84969 3
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... Barnes later said that she loved her grandmother Zadel ‘as a child usually loves its mother’, Philip Herring quotes letters to her from Zadel which say things like ‘Pink Tops are simply gasping with love!’ (‘Pink Tops’ are Zadel’s breasts) and feature cartoons of naked women on top of one another. He also claims that Barnes may have been raped ...

Blame it on the boogie

Andrew O’Hagan: In Pursuit of Michael Jackson, 6 July 2006

On Michael Jackson 
by Margo Jefferson.
Pantheon, 146 pp., $20, January 2006, 0 375 42326 5
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... and adventure. ‘I’m youth, I’m joy,’ he crowed to his enemy, the wicked, unloved Captain Hook. Hook and his pirates were the only adults on the island. Peter and his band of Lost Boys killed them all. But they never discussed fathers. Mothers, he told Wendy, were not to be trusted. When Jane Fonda told Michael ...

Gentlemen Travellers

Denis Donoghue, 18 December 1986

Between the Woods and the Water 
by Patrick Leigh Fermor et al.
Murray, 248 pp., £13.95, October 1986, 0 7195 4264 2
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by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 301 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 00 272119 8
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The Grand Tour 
by Hunter Davies.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11907 3
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... his father in Simla and his mother in London, Patrick Leigh Fermor set off to walk from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul. He was 19, an engaging lad, especially attractive to aristocrats who lived in castles and had similarly disposed friends further along the way. His inspiration for these peregrinations was Helen Waddell’s The Wandering Scholars ...


Paul Foot, 2 March 1989

The Wilson Plot: The Intelligence Services and the Discrediting of a Prime Minister 
by David Leigh.
Heinemann, 271 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 434 41340 2
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A Price too High 
by Peter Rawlinson.
Weidenfeld, 284 pp., £16, March 1989, 0 297 79431 0
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... could take over the Labour leadership. This fantastic nonsense has been finally laid to rest in Philip Williams’s biography of Gaitskell. Arthur Martin’s obsession was quickly passed on to his colleague Peter Wright. ‘Spycatcher’ Wright never once in his long and unglamorous career caught a spy. Instead, he and Martin pursued ‘suspects’ in the ...

Whose war is it anyway?

David Daiches, 24 August 1995

Days of Anger, Days of Hope: A Memoir of the League of American Writers, 1937-1942 
by Franklin Folsom.
Colorado, 376 pp., £24.50, July 1994, 0 585 03686 1
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... literary scene were anti-Stalinist socialists who defended Trotsky. In 1937 William Philips and Philip Rahv had revived Partisan Review as a left-wing anti-Stalinist literary journal. The Committee for Cultural Freedom was founded in 1939 by the philosophers John Dewey and Sidney Hook with a similar programme. Lionel ...

On Luljeta Lleshanaku

Michael Hofmann: Luljeta Lleshanaku, 4 April 2019

... Like the best of the ‘Eastern’ poets, or the poets of ‘the other Europe’ (Al Alvarez and Philip Roth) or ‘the poets of survival’ (Daniel Weissbort), Lleshanaku is material, then metaphorical, then material again: The search for unknown words is a complete failure. They have all been discovered. They are round and soft, without mystery little ...

Golden Dolly

John Pemble: Rich Britons, 24 September 2009

Who Were the Rich? A Biographical Directory of British Wealth-Holders. Vol. I: 1809-39 
by William Rubinstein.
Social Affairs Unit, 516 pp., £20, May 2009, 978 1 904863 39 7
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... were rare; but failing a silver spoon or a golden handshake, you could generally use a title to hook a ‘golden dolly’. These heiresses from the nouveaux riches, willing to barter their dowries for a name, are a staple of society fiction – but fiction hardly does justice to reality. Heading the golden dolly league in Regency London was the Coutts ...

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