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Signposts along the way that Reason went

Richard Rorty, 16 February 1984

Margins of Philosophy 
by Jacques Derrida, translated by Alan Bass.
Harvester, 330 pp., £25, May 1983, 0 7108 0454 7
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... of our century are likely to show Derrida as standing to Heidegger as Wittgenstein stands to Russell. What Russell did to Mill, Wittgenstein did to Russell by finding something right in Mill after all – the empirical character of the a priori. What Heidegger did to ...

Hang Santa

Wendy Doniger, 16 December 1993

Unwrapping Christmas 
edited by Daniel Miller.
Oxford, 239 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 19 827903 5
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... the structuralist Claude Lévi-Strauss, literally – an essay by him comes first, after Daniel Miller’s introduction – and, in varying degrees, intellectually. What they discover when they unwrap Christmas present – Christmas now, throughout the world – are the human structures of the cover-up, disguising, beneath a number of hilarious cultural ...

First Movie in the White House

J. Hoberman: ‘Birth of a Nation’, 12 February 2009

D.W. Griffith’s ‘The Birth of a Nation’: A History of ‘The Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time’ 
by Melvyn Stokes.
Oxford, 414 pp., £13.99, January 2008, 978 0 19 533679 5
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... when looking at the past, are somewhat tongue-tied before Griffith’s film,’ the film historian Russell Merritt wrote early in the 1970s. ‘We are troubled that Griffith can so successfully build the Klan into a glorious Armada.’ Griffith’s ‘ultimate achievement’, Merritt thought, was ‘the intensity with which he forced and continues to force his ...

Does one flare or cling?

Alice Spawls, 5 May 2016

‘Vogue’ 100: A Century of Style 
by Robin Muir.
National Portrait Gallery, 304 pp., £40, February 2016, 978 1 85514 561 0
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‘Vogue’ 100: A Century of Style 
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... was more interested in writers and artists than clothes: Dylan Thomas, Kingsley Amis, Bertrand Russell and Simone de Beauvoir all wrote for Vogue under her editorship and she ran features on Gore Vidal, Isherwood, Bacon, Freud and Matisse. She employed Elizabeth David to write on food. And she was a socialist. Her serious-mindedness gave Vogue the gravitas ...

A Rumbling of Things Unknown

Jacqueline Rose: Marilyn Monroe, 26 April 2012

... it might have been because he began by showing no interest in her; he had gone to interview Arthur Miller just before filming started on The Misfits, which would be Monroe’s last finished film. ‘I’ve seen you talk,’ he reports her saying, ‘to everyone but me.’ In fact he couldn’t forgive her for having turned ...

An American Genius

Patrick Parrinder, 21 November 1991

The Runaway Soul 
by Harold Brodkey.
Cape, 835 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 224 03001 9
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... Faulkner nor Hemingway had quite managed it, and Henry James had defected to England. From Henry Miller to J.D. Salinger, any aspiring genius who did not have a shot at it was not doing his duty by Uncle Sam. The truth is, of course, that the GAN had long been written – for what is Moby Dick if not the Great White Whale as put down on paper by the Great ...

Heroes of Our Time

Karl Miller, 19 May 1988

The Monument 
by T. Behrens.
Cape, 258 pp., £11.95, May 1988, 0 224 02510 4
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The Passion of John Aspinall 
by Brian Masters.
Cape, 360 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 224 02353 5
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... presence and beauty’. Aspinall’s prose ‘rises to the elegance and sophistication of Bertrand Russell, without his paralysing logical inhibitions’. And yet the author’s passion for Aspinall is not at all points idolatrous, or blasphemous. It is a surprise to discover, amid the sighs and genuflections, a deftly-written book on an important subject. It ...

Biscuits. Oh good!

Anna Vaux: Antonia White, 27 May 1999

Antonia White 
by Jane Dunn.
Cape, 484 pp., £20, November 1998, 9780224036191
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... who saw White romantically as a wild animal kept safe ‘behind the suburban-zoo bars’. Henry Miller and Alfred Perles (who published some of White’s poems in their magazine the Booster) thought madness ‘a mysterious conundrum to be embraced as intellectually inspiring, an ennobling risk one ran in the creation of great art’ (Dunn’s words). White ...

No. 1 Scapegoat

John Foot: Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, 7 February 2002

Senior Service 
by Carlo Feltrinelli, translated by Alastair McEwen.
Granta, 464 pp., £20, November 2001, 1 86207 456 9
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... Nehru’s Autobiography (Feltrinelli was an early convert to ‘Thirdworldism’) and Lord Russell of Liverpool’s The Scourge of the Swastika. The books were boldly designed and aggressively marketed. Local politicians and Party activists were invited to suggest sites for bookshops across Italy; and there would in time be branches in Pisa, in Milan ...

I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters, 24 January 2013

Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... the life, said not enough money was coming in just now, wanted to get unused to the money. Arthur Miller a bit tight addressing me as usual on the subject of his latest openings. Benevolent, even comradely in a Jewish-1915 way, but would never think of saying a word, asking a word, about anyone else’s work … Caroline Kennedy (Schlossberg) was there. The ...

Domineering

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 7 November 1985

The Courtship of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett 
by Daniel Karlin.
Oxford, 281 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 19 811728 0
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... paying tribute to Browning’s ‘genius’ as a ‘true poet’ in her correspondence with Mary Russell Mitford: ‘I estimate him very highly – – so do you,’ she had rather coercively informed the more sceptical Mitford almost three years earlier, ‘– so must all who know what poetry is – turn their faces towards its presence willingly.’ But ...

Bring some Madeira

Thomas Keymer: Thomas Love Peacock, 8 February 2018

Nightmare Abbey 
by Thomas Love Peacock, edited by Nicholas A. Joukovsky.
Cambridge, 297 pp., £84.99, December 2016, 978 1 107 03186 9
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Crotchet Castle 
by Thomas Love Peacock, edited by Freya Johnston and Matthew Bevis.
Cambridge, 328 pp., £79.99, December 2016, 978 1 107 03072 5
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... turncoats, but he wouldn’t have enjoyed Peacock’s lyric about             the miller, a Quaker in verity, Rigid of limb and complacent of face, And behind him a Scotchman was singing ‘Prosperity’, And picking his pocket with infinite grace. An off-the-cuff remark Peacock made in 1837 while testifying to a parliamentary committee on ...

Knife, Stone, Paper

Stephen Sedley: Law Lords, 1 July 2021

English Law under Two Elizabeths: The Late Tudor Legal World and the Present 
by John Baker.
Cambridge, 222 pp., £22.99, January, 978 1 108 94732 9
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The Constitutional Balance 
by John Laws.
Hart, 144 pp., £30, January, 978 1 5099 3545 1
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... for the double humiliation inflicted on the government by the Supreme Court at the hands of Gina Miller, apart from apparently serious suggestions that the Supreme Court should be given a less grand name or moved back to the Palace of Westminster where the law lords used to sit, presumably to remind them who’s really in charge.As​ a judge, Laws handed ...

The Miller’s Tale

J.B. Trapp, 4 November 1993

Erasmus: His Life, Work and Influence 
by Cornelis Augustijn, translated by J.C. Grayson.
Toronto, 239 pp., £16.25, February 1991, 0 8020 5864 7
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Erasmus: A Critical Biography 
by Léon-E. Halkin, translated by John Tonkin.
Blackwell, 360 pp., £45, December 1992, 0 631 16929 6
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Erasmus, Man of Letters: The Construction of Charisma in Print 
by Lisa Jardine.
Princeton, 278 pp., £19.95, June 1993, 0 691 05700 1
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... They are ground into the pure flour of hope, faith and love, scooped up and bagged by Erasmus the miller under the supervision of the dove of the Holy Ghost and handed on to Luther the baker, bent over his kneading tub. The Church hierarchy refuse the product. Behind looms a peasant with his flail, while a dragon shrieks excommunication. This graphic ...

Post-its, push pins, pencils

Jenny Diski: In the Stationery Cupboard, 31 July 2014

Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace 
by Nikil Saval.
Doubleday, 288 pp., £20, June 2014, 978 0 385 53657 8
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... period with the vertical cities designed by Sullivan, Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, Henry-Russell Hitchcock. The Philadelphia Savings Fund Society Building, the Rockefeller Center, the UN Secretariat Building, Lever House and the Seagram Building were visually stunning statements of corporate power and prevailed by making the perceived virtues of ...

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