Category: review

Isherwood

The Animals: Love Letters Between Christopher Isherwood & Don Bachardy

Reviewed by Mark Simpson in The Independent (20/9/13) Contrary to what the pop songs tell you, the language of love is not universal. It really isn’t the same the world over or even on the same street. Everyone’s love affair is utterly unintelligible to everyone else. It’s perhaps the whole point of having one. Which can make reading other people’s love…

The Anti-Christ Has All The Best Tunes

The P2P revolution is like Gutenberg plus Protestantism plus Punk all rolled into one highly compressed file, by Mark Simpson  (Independent on Sunday, August 2001) Perhaps the best thing about digital music is that it doesn’t only make listening to music more convenient and less irksome: it actually does part of the tiresome job of listening for you. ISO-MPEG Audio-Layer-3…

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How to Spot a Sodomite

Mark Simpson reviews some famous Victorian bum holes in Neil McKenna’s Fanny & Stella (the Independent) “I had never seen anything like it before… I do not in my practise ever remember to have seen such an appearance of the anus, as those of the prisoners presented.” So testified Dr Paul in shocked tones at the trial of Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton,…

Jarhead

The Few, The Proud: A Jarhead memoir of the First Gulf War

The mythology, the rituals, the dogma, the cult of masculinity and most of all the haircut, set US Marines apart. Mark Simpson takes a look at a memoir of the First Gulf War. (Independent on Sunday 23/03/2003) It may seem odd that the United States Marine Corps, the elite fourth branch of the US Armed Services, larger and better equipped…

Mad Men and Medusas

Coming across this old review of Juliet Mitchell’s ‘Mad Men and Medusas’ (Independent on Sunday, 2001) reminded me that pretty much all the main characters in the TV series of the same name launched in the late Noughties are hysterics, but most especially Madison Avenue’s Don Juan, aka Donald Draper. I hope Mitchell is getting a royalty. by Mark Simpson…

Apollo’s Acolytes

We worship the body, watch ancient battles at the multiplex, and bow down before the gods of celebrity. Mark Simpson marvels at how much our culture owes to those skirt-wearing olive-munchers, the Greeks (Independent on Sunday 30 May 2004) Philhellenes are everywhere, and everywhere they look they see the glory that was Greece. “Today we are again getting close to all…

What Happens When a Giant Brain Meets Kylie?

Genius, pop Svengali, theoretician of cool: Mark Simpson gets to grips with the man who really listens to `La la la, la la la-la la…‘ (Originally appeared in Independent on Sunday 03/08/2003) What do you hear when you listen to ‘Can’t get you out of my head’? This is a bit of a trick question as you probably don’t listen to ‘Can’t…

Jungian Complexes at the Multiplex

This week David Cronenberg’s feature-length shrink costume drama, A Dangerous Method, about the most famous — and doomed — love-affair in psychoanalysis, premières in the UK. I’m talking of course about the passionate, twisted and teasingly unconsummated romance between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Despite very mixed reviews I’ll be going to see it when it’s put on general release as I’m a…

German-American Pride and Prejudice

Review of Bryan Malessa’s new novel The War Room, by Mark Simpson in The Financial Times. As an Englishman, I’ve always found the US to be a very German-flavoured kind of place. The organisation; the presidential principle; the laws against jaywalking; the love of technology; the Protestantism. But almost nowhere do you find it acknowledged – which is odd, as…

Does My Brain Look Big in This? Susan Sontag’s ‘Where The Stress Falls’

This week is Susan Sontag’s birthday. The famous, and possibly last American intellectual, died in 2004. Below is my somewhat irreverent review of her last book (Independent on Sunday, 2002) The first sentence in Susan Sontag’s latest collection of essays is eight lines long, mentions Camus and Pasternak and ends with the word “impinging”. But would we have it any…

20 ‘Stella’ Years of Dolce & Gabbana For Men

by Mark Simpson, Arena Hommes Plus (Winter-Spring, 2010) America’s hottest new Hollywood stars – who naturally enough in this post-Hollywood era, don’t actually work in Hollywood but reality TV – were recently honoured with a profile in Interview magazine. The Italian-American ‘Guidos’ from MTV mega-hit ‘Jersey Shore’, who have conquered America with their brazenness and their Gym Tan Laundry routine,…

Army Dreamers: A Backwards Salute to Recruitment Films

by Mark Simpson, The Guardian As a boy growing up in the 1960s and 70s I was raised to fight The Second World War all over again. Airfix models. Commando comics. Air tattoos in June. Watching The Battle of Britain and The Longest Day on telly with my dad, just so I’d know what to do if I ever found myself…

Edmund White’s Vulgar Fag-ism

I’ve always liked Edmund White’s refusal to get with the contemporary gay hypocrisy program and shrewishly condemn promiscuity in the hope that this will deliver lots and lots of wedding presents. In contrast to that pasteurised movie Milk, which lied shamelessly about gay men’s sex lives in the 1970s to make it easier for them to lie about their sex lives…

Edward Carpenter – The Utopian Uranian

Mark Simpson on the forgotten ‘English Whitman’ (Independent on Sunday, 5 October, 2008) On his 80th birthday in 1924, five years before his death, the socialist Utopian poet, mystic, activist, homophile, environmentalist, feminist and nudist Edward Carpenter received an album signed by every member of Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour Cabinet. Glowing tributes appeared in the socialist papers as well as the…

The Botton Line

Mark Simpson is mystified by the aim of a book that obscures its author’s own status – and anxiety (Independent on Sunday, 07 March 2004) ‘Oh, god! Alain de Botton! Do you know how rich his family is?! His dad owned Switzerland!” This, or something very similar, is what almost every fellow scribbler exclaims when this “popular” philosopher’s name is…

actionman

Action Man – On Land, On Sea & Legs in the Air

Mark Simpson goes on a top secret mission to the bottom of the garden (Independent on Sunday, 14 March 2004) I never had an Action Man (G.I. Joe to Americans). He was for sissies. I only garrisoned my bedroom with tiny non-moving, non-camp Airfix soldiers I’d painted myself. Naturally, this didn’t stop me playing endlessly with the famous male doll…

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A Right Royal Rent Boy – The Tartiness of The Tudors

By Mark Simpson The makers of BBC2’s The Tudors, know which side their Irish buns are buttered. They recently announced that Jonathan Rhys-Meyer’s Henry will not be allowed to get fat in the third series, currently in production. In case anyone’s interested, the actual, historical Henry VIII became a big porker in later life and needed a crane to hoist…

Mussolini: "Where are we going on our Honeymoon?" Hitler: "Stalingrad"

You’re the Top! You’re Mussolini!

Mark Simpson on the oddly passionate adulation the ‘Roman Genius’ Benito Mussolini inspired – and still inspires to this day. (Independent on Sunday, 29 June 2003) ‘I grabbed her on the stairs, threw her into a corner behind a door and made her mine,’ wrote Mussolini recalling one of his teenage ‘wooings’. ‘She got up weeping and humiliated and through…

Waxing Desmond Morris

By Mark Simpson (Independent on Sunday, 21 Jan 2008) Every child wants to be a zookeeper when they grow up. To run a place where everything is in its place, and has nothing to do but eat, shit and breed – to your timetable. Maybe it’s a yen for revenge on the parents who brought them into the world without…

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