Robert Tanitch’s Round-Up of Books No 2. (2019)
Philosophers: Their Lives and Works (DK £20). Confucius to Aquinas to Descartes to Voltaire to Rousseau, to Hegle and Kierkegaard, to Bertrand Russell, Wittgenstein and on to Chomsky and many other philosophers who found a new way of understanding the world and the history of ideas. These neat biographies are richly illustrated. It’s great just to browse and perfect for a quick check and at £20 a real bargain.
Marius Petipa: The Emperor’s Ballet Master by Nadine Meisner (Oxford University Press (£22.99). Petipa (1818-1910) is the single most influential choreographer in the history of classical ballet. He collaborated with Tchaikovsky and created The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake remain in the repertoires of ballet companies across the globe and can still fill theatres to capacity. As a dancer he scored a big success in Giselle and Le Corsaire. He was influential in the re-staging of Coppelia and La Sylphide. He used the corps dramatically and spectacularly. He invented the climatic grand deux which allowed dancers to showcase their skill.
Quentin Tarantino: The Iconic Filmmaker and his Work by Ian Nathan (White Lion Publishers £25). If you had seen Reservoir Dogs, stylish, witty, sharp, excellently cast, you would have wanted to see all of Tarantino’s excessively violent films and in particular Pulp Fiction, Django. Unchained and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. “I didn’t go to film school,” he says, I went to films.” Tarantino loves movies. This book complements and compliments his brash, exuberant, exhibitionistic style.
Who Am I, Again? By Lenny Henry (Faber £20). Lenny Henry has been entertaining audiences since he was 15. He charts his progress from childhood (being beaten by his ma with a frying pan) and the racist bullying at school (where the teachers did not bother to prepare him for the 11 Plus) to his audition for New Faces. He was the only person of colour to appear in The Black and White Minstrels (in an era when it was not considered an offensive show). The book ends with advice to would-be comedians. Lenny Henry, who learned his comic skills from watching comedians on TV, can be seen in his one-man tour of the UK which is part biography and part Q&A.
Alexander McQueen: Fashion Visionary by Judith Watt (Goodman £30) charts the rise of the controversial fashion designer, who was branded the bad boy of fashion, the hooligan of fashion, the Edgar Allan Poe of Fashion. He was always rebellious, provocative and outrageous. His collections in London and Paris were spectacular theatre and had titles such as Highland Rape, Picnic at Hanging Rock and Widows of Culloden. His fantastic and incredible costumes (not clothes to wear!) are beautiful, cruel and disturbing works of art. “I’m a romantic schizophrenic,” he said, “I find beauty in the grotesque.” He committed suicide in 2010 at the age of 40.
Henry Poole & Co.: The First Tailor of Savile Row by James Sherwood (Thames and Hudson £35). Poole’s clients include emperors and maharajahs, politicians and financiers, kings and queens, artists and writers. There are portraits and notes on Benjamin Disraeli, King Edward VII, William Randolph Hearst, Winston Churchill (notorious for not paying his bills), Bram Stoker, Ronald Firbank, Stephen Ward, Buffalo Bill, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, Charles de Gaulle and many more.