Michael Wood (NYRB) reviews four biographies of the American filmmaker and raconteur
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Orson Welles arrives at the premiere of Citizen Kane on 1 May 1941. The actor, director, producer, and co-screenwriter is 25 years old.
There is a special risk in writing about Orson Welles. The dimensions may get a little out of hand, as if they had to mime the physical size and imaginative reach of the subject. Patrick McGilligan’s excellent biography of Alfred Hitchcock takes 750 pages to cover the director’s life and his fifty films. By page 706 of Young Orson, Welles is about to start shooting Citizen Kane, his first full-length movie: he is twenty-five years old, and he lived till he was seventy. There is a thirty-nine-page postlude about the day and night of Welles’s death.

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Leland de la Durantaye publishes a new book on Samuel Beckett’s writing

A press release from Harvard University Press:

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Samuel Beckett

Readers have long responded to Samuel Beckett’s novels and plays with wonder or bafflement. They portray blind, lame, maimed creatures cracking whips and wielding can openers who are funny when they should be chilling, cruel when they should be tender, warm when most wounded. His works seem less to conclude than to stop dead. And so readers quite naturally ask: what might all this be meant to mean?

In a lively and enlivening study of a singular creative nature, Leland de la Durantaye helps us better understand Beckett’s strangeness and the notorious difficulties it presents. He argues that Beckett’s lifelong campaign was to mismake on purpose—not to denigrate himself, or his audience, nor even to reconnect with the child or the savage within, but because he believed that such mismaking is in the interest of art and will shape its future. Whether called “creative willed mismaking,” “logoclasm,” or “word-storming in the name of beauty,” Beckett meant by these terms an art that attacks language and reason, unity and continuity, art and life, with wit and venom.
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New open-access journal launched to celebrate Roland Barthes’ centenary

Introducing Barthes Studies

Neil Badmington

And lead us not into doxa… I have an uneasy feeling that Roland Barthes, were he still alive, would have doubts about this venture. An academic journal bearing his name and devoted to his work? In English? The noun ‘studies’, with its ring of stillness and seizure? The implicit claim to a field or a fold? Is not the very idea of a publication called Barthes Studies at odds with the drift, the unlearning, the reinvention, the non-arrogance, the escape, the non-vouloir-saisir, and the ‘desperate resistance to any reductive system’ which so often fire the pages of Roland Barthes? Might not this journal set or settle at once into doxa – that fatal term enlisted repeatedly in Barthes’s work to describe established knowledge, common sense, the obvious, the natural, what-goes-without-saying? Have I forgotten that Barthes told the audience at the conference held in his honour at Cerisy-la-Salle in 1977 that he had twice refused the invitation, and that he only accepted on the third occasion because he did not wish to create the image of ‘hewho-refuses-conferences-in-his-name’?

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