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There are some limits Marlowes just won’t cross

Christopher Tayler: Banville’s Marlowe, 3 April 2014

The Black-Eyed Blonde 
by Benjamin Black.
Mantle, 320 pp., £16.99, February 2014, 978 1 4472 3668 9
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... to think perhaps you worked in bed, like Marcel Proust,’ a waiting femme fatale says when Philip Marlowe hits his office in The Big Sleep (1939). Marlowe’s response: ‘Who’s he?’ ‘A French writer,’ she says, ‘a connoisseur in degenerates. You wouldn’t know him.’ She couldn’t have said the same to Philo Vance, S.S. Van Dine’s ...

A Wonder and a Scandal

Peter Campbell: Titian, 5 April 2001

Titian: The Complete Paintings 
by Filippo Pedrocco and Maria Agnese Chiari Moreto Weil.
Thames and Hudson, 336 pp., £50, March 2001, 0 500 09297 4
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... godfathers make in the movies before the sudden roar of laughter which takes the underling off the hook. Or maybe Aretino really would have liked a little more attention paid to his finery – including the gold chain he had from the King of France. Or then again, as a note here suggests, he may have been taking care of his ‘delicate relationship’ with ...


James Wolcott: Updike should stay at home, 1 January 2009

The Widows of Eastwick 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 308 pp., £18.99, October 2008, 978 0 241 14427 5
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... later, Wallace is no longer with us, but two of the Great Male Narcissists he cited, Updike and Philip Roth, are still displaying their self-absorbency and depriving tender young empaths of valuable column inches. With an almost audible sigh, Updike concedes that the pups have a point. ‘He or she may feel, as the grey-haired scribes of the day continue to ...

Nobbled or Not

Bernard Porter: The Central African Federation, 25 May 2006

British Documents on the End of Empire Series B Vol. 9: Central Africa: Part I: Closer Association 1945-58 
by Philip Murphy.
Stationery Office, 448 pp., £150, November 2005, 0 11 290586 2
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British Documents on the End of Empire Series B Vol. 9: Central Africa: Part II: Crisis and Dissolution 1959-65 
by Philip Murphy.
Stationery Office, 602 pp., £150, November 2005, 0 11 290587 0
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... on how many whites lived there – that is, whether there were enough to keep the blacks down.) Philip Murphy, the excellent editor of these fascinating volumes of (mainly) official documents, confesses himself at a loss to explain why Nyasaland in particular was ever included, unless it was simply to justify the title of ‘federation’, for which three ...

It ain’t him, babe

Danny Karlin, 5 February 1987

No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan 
by Robert Shelton.
New English Library, 573 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 450 04843 8
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... they had here or there?’ Whether you answer yes or no to that, doesn’t let Shelton off the hook: in fact, it makes his position worse, because he is palpably condescending both to Dylan and to his own readers. If there is pain and scandal in a person’s life, and you are broadcasting that life to others, what good does it do to mumble into the ...

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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... pressures exerted on young Daphne by her amorous, possessive father Gerald – who played Captain Hook/Mr Darling on the stage and passed on a dire Peter-Panishness to her – were the now forgotten bestsellers of a man who spoke to the anxieties of the 1890s. Peter Ibbetson (1891) was an earlier Peter Pan, the fantasy of a cloudless boyhood in pre-Haussmann ...


Jenny Turner: Martin Amis, 22 April 2010

The Pregnant Widow 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 470 pp., £18.99, February 2010, 978 0 224 07612 8
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... with Keith doing his best, as he confesses, to ‘ponce off the spirit of the times’. Philip Larkin – the usual – is quoted on the matter; there’s a bouncy riff about ‘girls acting like boys’ being ‘in the air’, and another about all the ‘cool pants’ a chick has to buy if she hopes to carry things off. Keith and his friends are ...

Narco Polo

Iain Sinclair, 23 January 1997

Mr Nice: An Autobiography 
by Howard Marks.
Secker, 466 pp., £16.99, September 1996, 0 436 20305 7
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Pulp Election: The Booker Prize Fix 
by Carmen St Keeldare.
Bluedove, 225 pp., £12.99, September 1996, 0 9528298 0 0
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... was the egg smuggler from the high Arctic who was able to brandish letters of support, signed ‘Philip’, on notepaper from Windsor Castle. (‘Falconers, just as much as birdwatchers, want to prevent the extinction of birds of prey. No one has worked harder to achieve this than Peter Whitehead.’) This was the man who now admitted – boasted of – his ...

Flat-Nose, Stocky and Beautugly

James Davidson: Greek Names, 23 September 2010

A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Vol. V.A Coastal Asia Minor: Pontos to Ionia 
edited by T. Corsten.
Oxford, 496 pp., £125, March 2010, 978 0 19 956743 0
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... names such as Tashunka Witko (‘Crazy Horse’), Tatanka Iyotake (‘Sitting Bull’), Woqini (‘Hook Nose’) and Tashunka Kokipapi (‘Young Man Afraid of His Horses’), and even those of the ancient Maya (King ‘Jaguar Paw II’, ‘Smoking Frog’, now renamed ‘Fire Is Born’), so we could refer to famous Greeks as ‘He Who Loves Horses’ (...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies, 26 January 2012

An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... activists and notifying the committee that he had fired them. Among the writers in question: Philip and Julius Epstein and Howard Koch (authors of the screenplay for Casablanca), Irwin Shaw, Albert Maltz, Clifford Odets and Ring Lardner Jr. This surrender occurred at a key moment, Hoberman says, as reports of flying saucers turned oddly epidemic in the ...

Alas! Deceived

Alan Bennett: Philip Larkin, 25 March 1993

Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life 
by Andrew Motion.
Faber, 570 pp., £20, April 1993, 0 571 15174 4
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... My mother is such a bloody rambling fool.’ wrote Philip Larkin in 1965, ‘that half the time I doubt her sanity. Two things she said today, for instance, were that she had “thought of getting a job in Woolworth’s” and that she wanted to win the football pools so that she could “give cocktail parties” ...

Bravo, old sport

Christopher Hitchens, 4 April 1991

Critical Crossings: The New York Intellectuals in Post-War America 
by Neil Jumonville.
California, 291 pp., £24.95, January 1991, 0 520 06858 0
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... The dissident Left – as opposed to the proto-Communist Left – symbolised by Dwight Macdonald, Philip Rahv and others. The Cold War hardliners, such as Melvyn Lasky, Irving Kristol, James Burnham, Sidney Hook and later Norman Podhoretz. The ‘End of Ideology’ liberal professoriat: Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, Lewis ...

Watch this man

Pankaj Mishra: Niall Ferguson’s Burden, 3 November 2011

Civilisation: The West and the Rest 
by Niall Ferguson.
Allen Lane, 402 pp., £25, March 2011, 978 1 84614 273 4
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... and influence is sought in a periodic ballyhooing of the ‘trans-Atlantic alliance’, as in Philip Bobbitt’s Terror and Consent (2008), which Niall Ferguson in an enthusiastic review claimed will ‘be read with pleasure by men of a certain age, class and education from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to London’s West End’. Ferguson himself is homo ...

Illuminating, horrible etc

Jenny Turner: David Foster Wallace, 14 April 2011

Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace 
by David Lipsky.
Broadway, 320 pp., $16.99, 9780307592439
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The Pale King: An Unfinished Novel 
by David Foster Wallace.
Hamish Hamilton, 547 pp., £20, April 2011, 978 0 241 14480 0
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... is intentional, with a tension explicitly set up early on as to when, if ever, Hal and Gately will hook up. This projected meeting will, we are told, involve the digging up of a jester’s skull; and so, the story spirals backwards, through Hamlet, and back and back. To begin with, then, the novel gives you a choice of two protagonists to fall in love ...

It’s Finished

John Lanchester: The Banks, 28 May 2009

... the second biggest UK bank after HSBC. Fred Goodwin was something of a hero in the banking world. Philip Delves Broughton, a former Telegraph journalist who went to Harvard to do an MBA and wrote a funny, depressing book about it, What They Teach You at Harvard Business School, reports that in 2003 the school made RBS the subject of one of its famous case ...

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