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In the Ice-Box

Janette Turner Hospital, 12 January 1995

The Book of Intimate Grammar 
by David Grossman, translated by Betsy Rosenberg.
Cape, 343 pp., £14.99, September 1994, 0 224 03285 2
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... the only philosophy he really knew’ and he begins with the grammar closest in (to paraphrase Adrienne Rich on geography), that of the body – because beyond and above all other cages, Aron is trapped in his body, a pre-pubescent one which refuses to grow. Aron’s parents, especially his mother, would tell Aron’s story far more simply. Until the ...

Magical Orange Grove

Anne Diebel: Lowell falls in love again, 11 August 2016

Robert Lowell in Love 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Massachusetts, 288 pp., £36.50, December 2015, 978 1 62534 186 0
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... excerpts from letters written by Hardwick ‘under the stress and pain of desertion’, as Adrienne Rich put it in a damning review. ‘Aren’t you violating a trust?’ Elizabeth Bishop wrote to Lowell, urging him to reconsider his use, and particularly his alteration, of the letters. ‘Art just isn’t worth that much.’ (A year and a half ...

Torch the Getaway Car

Christian Lorentzen, 13 September 2018

Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime 
by Ben Blum.
Fourth Estate, 414 pp., £16.99, September 2017, 978 0 00 755458 4
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... book, though one that often leaves you wondering whether its author, who’s as fond of quoting Adrienne Rich (‘Truth is not one thing, or even a system. It is an increasing complexity’) as he is of dropping some Larkin, has read much Dostoevsky. The vexing question for Ben Blum is whether Alex Blum is a good person. But since being a good person ...

What more could we want of ourselves!

Jacqueline Rose: Rosa Luxemburg, 16 June 2011

The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg 
edited by Georg Adler, Peter Hudis and Annelies Laschitza, translated by George Shriver.
Verso, 609 pp., £25, February 2011, 978 1 84467 453 4
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... in 1898. The misogyny her presence provoked would become legendary (the best account is given by Adrienne Rich). And although she never self-identified as Jewish, being Jewish is something with which she was always identified. As Ettinger puts it, ‘she represented a nation the Germans considered inferior and a race that offended their ...

What a Mother

Mary-Kay Wilmers: Marianne Moore and Her Mother, 3 December 2015

Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore 
by Linda Leavell.
Farrar, Straus, 455 pp., $18, September 2014, 978 0 374 53494 3
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... Norcross was like a fourth member of the family; then at the end of 1909 she fell in love with a rich cousin. Mary was distraught and Marianne was trapped: ‘You can certainly feel assured that you were never more needed in your life and probably never will be more needed than you are just this winter by the Fawn,’ Norcross wrote to her in September ...


John Kerrigan, 18 July 1996

The ‘O’o’a’a’ Bird 
by Justin Quinn.
Carcanet, 69 pp., £7.95, March 1995, 1 85754 125 1
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Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time 
by Eavan Boland.
Carcanet, 254 pp., £18.95, April 1995, 1 85754 074 3
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Collected Poems 
by Eavan Boland.
Carcanet, 217 pp., £9.95, November 1995, 1 85754 220 7
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Captain Lavender 
by Medbh McGuckian.
Gallery Press, 83 pp., £11.95, November 1994, 9781852351427
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... place and the poem, and then ‘an act of leave-taking’. Much of this strikes me as indebted to Adrienne Rich. In ‘Blood, Bread and Poetry: The Location of the Poet’ (1984), for instance, Rich writes about the damage done by ‘alienation’ and an inadequate ‘location of the self’ in verse. Like Boland, she ...


Adrienne Mayor: Aristotle and Science, 2 July 2015

The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science 
by Armand Marie Leroi.
Bloomsbury, 501 pp., £25, August 2014, 978 1 4088 3620 0
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... Assos on the Turkish coast, and from there across the narrow strait to Lesbos where the nutrient-rich, calm lagoon harboured an abundance of salt and freshwater fish, eels, shellfish and other sea creatures, its marshy shores home to a chorus of birds, frogs and insects. The life flourishing in this sheltered pool was a boon to Aristotle’s decision to ...

Hand and Foot

John Kerrigan: Seamus Heaney, 27 May 1999

Opened Ground: Poems 1966-96 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 478 pp., £20, September 1998, 0 571 19492 3
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The Poetry of Seamus Heaney: A Critical Study 
by Neil Corcoran.
Faber, 276 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 571 17747 6
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Seamus Heaney 
by Helen Vendler.
HarperCollins, 188 pp., £15.99, November 1998, 0 00 255856 4
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... could one engage with the poetry of Dryden without assessing his politics, or with the lyrics of Adrienne Rich without considering her feminism? It is hard to be sure how seriously Vendler proposes this impoverished remit for criticism because she slips so blurringly from ‘poetry’ to ‘lyric poetry’. But she then hits another snag, because, even ...

Wobble in My Mind

Colm Tóibín: Lizzie, Cal and Caroline, 7 May 2020

The Dolphin Letters, 1970-79: Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell and Their Circle 
edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 560 pp., £35, January, 978 0 571 35741 3
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The Dolphin: Two Versions, 1972-73 
by Robert Lowell, edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Farrar, Straus, 224 pp., £11.99, December 2019, 978 0 374 53827 9
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... destructive and neurotic. You are leading a parasitic life, just like her other lovers … All the rich squalor, covering up for inability to feel and function … I do not like parasites … She will destroy you … This kind of anarchy and nihilism will certainly ruin you … You are a great American writer … You are a loss to our culture, hanging about ...

As Many Pairs of Shoes as She Likes

Jenny Turner: On Feminism, 15 December 2011

... in an article about how the 1963 publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique – about rich, educated suburban housewives suffering from ‘the problem with no name’ – became ‘the catalyst for a social change’. ‘But why a book? Why not a court case, or a boycott, as in the case of the civil rights movement – something that challenged ...

He, She, One, They, Ho, Hus, Hum, Ita

Amia Srinivasan: How Should I Refer to You?, 2 July 2020

What’s Your Pronoun? Beyond He and She 
by Dennis Baron.
Liveright, 304 pp., £16.99, February, 978 1 63149 604 2
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... Consider ‘barren’. When predicated of a woman, it means infertile, sterile or childless. As Adrienne Rich pointed out in Of Woman Born (1976), there is in English no equivalent word for describing infertile, sterile or childless men. If you say a man is ‘barren’ it will be taken metaphorically, to mean he is soulless or desolate, not that he is ...

Pipe down back there!

Terry Castle: The Willa Cather Wars, 14 December 2000

Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism 
by Joan Acocella.
Nebraska, 127 pp., £13.50, August 2000, 0 8032 1046 9
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... no one who lived through those heady days. (Bliss was it in that dawn to drink herbal tea, read Adrienne Rich and have no penis!) The time seemed ripe for a major re-evaluation of a pioneering woman writer. There was only one problem, as Acocella, now gimlet-eyed, points out. Cather herself was a full-bore raving misogynist, at least on the subject of ...

Life with Ms Cayenne Pepper

Jenny Turner: The Chthulucene, 1 June 2017

Manifestly Haraway: ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’, ‘The Companion Species Manifesto’, Companions in Conversation (with Cary Wolfe) 
by Donna Haraway.
Minnesota, 300 pp., £15.95, April 2016, 978 0 8166 5048 4
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Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene 
by Donna Haraway.
Duke, 312 pp., £22.99, August 2016, 978 0 8223 6224 1
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... clears up when you realise that Haraway is trying to address the Women Only radical feminism of Adrienne Rich, Andrea Dworkin and other widely read writers of the 1980s while bending over backwards not to cause offence. She does complain, however, about ‘growing anti-science mystery cults in dissenting and radical political movements’, and ...

We must think!

Jenny Turner: Hannah Arendt’s Islands, 4 November 2021

Hannah Arendt 
by Samantha Rose Hill.
Reaktion, 232 pp., £11.99, August, 978 1 78914 379 9
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... Mailer’, an exchange of gifts (a silk scarf, a Pottery Barn casserole), into an extraordinarily rich friendship. When friends and foes alike turned on Arendt’s Eichmann book, it was McCarthy who leaped in to defend her: ‘I freely confess that … I too heard … a paean of transcendence, heavenly music, like that of the final chorus of Figaro or the ...

The Family That Slays Together

Deborah Friedell: Lorrie Moore, 19 November 2009

A Gate at the Stairs 
by Lorrie Moore.
Faber, 322 pp., £16.99, October 2009, 978 0 571 19530 5
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... she causes the picnic bench she’s sitting on to collapse, and the baby falls and dies. ‘Adrienne went home shortly thereafter, after the hospital and the police reports, and did not leave her attic apartment for seven months’ – at which point she recovers, but it’s suggested that she would be in the attic still if it had been her own child. We ...

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