wed 06/07/2022

biography

Alyn Shipton: On Jazz - A Personal Journey - digging jazz deeply and musically

“I suppose you’re going to ask all the usual questions...?” When Keith Jarrett was interviewed by Alyn Shipton for the very first time, the pianist, who could often be tetchy in such situations, clearly had low expectations. Deftly, Shipton asked...

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Laura Beatty: Looking for Theophrastus review - adventures in psychobiography

Laura Beatty is a kind of Shirley Valentine figure in contemporary English literature. A decade and a half ago she published an astonishing debut novel entitled Pollard about female emancipation from the strictures of English life. In that story her...

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Broken Wings, Charing Cross Theatre review - new musical fails to fly

Somewhere in the world right now, one can hear Mister Mister's AOR hit, "Broken Wings" on an MOR radio station, capturing mid-Eighties synth pop perfectly. Few listeners will know that its inspiration is a 1912 autobiographical novel by Lebanese-...

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Belfast review - coming of age amid the terror of the Troubles

For all his achievements as actor and director, Kenneth Branagh isn’t immediately thought of as a screenwriter, despite his multiple Shakespeare adaptations. That may all change with Belfast, because Branagh’s deeply personal account (he’s both...

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Long Promised Road review - another attempt to probe the fragile genius of Brian Wilson

There has been no shortage of documentaries about king Beach Boy Brian Wilson, not to mention the 2014 bio-drama Love & Mercy, so the purpose of this new effort by director Brent Wilson (no relation) isn’t altogether clear. Certainly Wilson (the...

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Ananyo Bhattacharya: The Man from the Future review - the man, the maths, the brain

Suppose I’m a novelist plotting a panoramic narrative through world-shaping moments of the first half of the 20th century. I’ll need a character who can visit a bunch of key sites. Göttingen in the 1920s, where the essentials of quantum mechanics...

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Oliver Sacks: His Own Life review - a complex portrait of a complex man

It’s well worth tracking down one of the September 29 special cinema screenings of Ric Burns' lovingly made documentary portrait of the writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks, or seeking it out online. Famous for his vivid, insightful descriptions of...

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Frances Larson: Undreamed Shores review - journeys without maps

Beatrice Blackwood had lived in a clifftop village between surf and jungle on Bougainville Island, part of the Solomon archipelago in the South Pacific. She hunted, fished and grew crops with local people as she studied their social and sexual lives...

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Jackie Kay: Bessie Smith review – vivid writing about the Empress of the Blues

Blues singer Bessie Smith (1894-1937) had much more than an astonishingly powerful voice. It may already be almost a hundred years since she made her most significant recordings – she is from an era before amplification –  and yet her unfailing...

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One Night in Miami review - black history come alive

In 1964, Cassius Clay, NFL superstar Jim Nathaniel Brown, soul legend Sam Cooke and political firebrand Malcolm X gathered for one night in a dingy room at the Hampton Motel. It was a meeting that became a symbol of hope for black Americans. A photo...

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Mank review – David Fincher’s brilliant, bitter-sweet paean to Hollywood’s Golden Age

For so much of the year, Tenet was cited as the film that was going to save cinema – the tentpole extravaganza that would draw virus-conscious punters back to the big screen. The assertion was always fanciful, the pandemic being too long a...

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William Feaver: The Lives of Lucian Freud: Fame 1968-2011 review - mesmerising, exhaustive and obsessively detailed

This is a biography like no other, more or less dictated by Lucian Freud. William Feaver spoke with the artist perhaps almost daily for nearly 40 years, visiting frequently, taking notes, recording, and being shown work in progress. The second...

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