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Where mine is at

Gordon Burn, 28 May 1992

Outerbridge Reach 
by Robert Stone.
Deutsch, 409 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 223 98774 3
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... bombed, directionless, wasted, disillusioned America – ‘the desperate, ruthless, wandering, savage part of American life’, in Truman Capote’s words. And so cosmic preoccupations, heavily mysto speculations about the Big Picture, keep breaking through the conventional surface of the narrative like fat wax-headed weeds through city tarmac. Tom Wolfe ...

Preceding Backwardness

Margaret Anne Doody, 9 January 1992

Women’s Lives and the 18th-Century English Novel 
by Elizabeth Bergan Brophy.
University of South Florida Press, 291 pp., $29.95, April 1991, 0 8130 1036 5
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Fictions of Modesty: Women and Courtship in the English Novel 
by Ruth Bernard Yeazell.
Chicago, 306 pp., £19.95, August 1991, 0 226 95096 4
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... as Yeazell shows us, Darwin like other contemporary scientists was unwilling to deal: ‘savage’ life stands for that which has fallen away from the natural order, tumbling into the pit of licentiousness and abomination. ‘Good Englishman that he is, he much prefers animals to “savages” and prefers them because he imagines them as ...

Slick Chick

Elaine Showalter, 11 July 1991

The Haunting of Sylvia Plath 
by Jacqueline Rose.
Virago, 288 pp., £14.99, June 1991, 1 85381 307 9
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Passions of the Mind 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 340 pp., £17, August 1991, 0 7011 3260 4
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... Fame, the ambiguously titled (bitter to whom?) and extraordinarily hostile biography written by Anne Stevenson with the assistance of Olwyn Hughes, this criticism suggests that something terrible about Plath herself, a kind of plathology, is the source of lies, distortions, perversions and obsessions. At the other extreme has been a polemical feminist ...

What Charlotte Did

Susan Eilenberg, 6 April 1995

The Brontës 
by Juliet Barker.
Weidenfeld, 1003 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 297 81290 4
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... remarked) resembled ‘growing potatoes in a cellar’, wild and motherless, neglected by their savage and withdrawn father, cut off in their remote Yorkshire parsonage from all civilised pleasures and practices, the interests of the girls sacrificed to those of their worthless brother. Charlotte’s role in this version of things was that of designated ...

Angry ’Un

Terry Eagleton, 8 July 1993

The Hand of the Arch-Sinner: Two Angrian Chronicles of Branwell Brontë 
edited by Robert Collins.
Oxford, 300 pp., £30, April 1993, 0 19 812258 6
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... child’ who speaks a kind of ‘gibberish’, and who will later be variously labelled beast, savage, demon and lunatic. It’s clear that this little Caliban has a nature on which nurture will never stick; and that’s merely an English way of saying that he’s quite possibly Irish. Later in the novel, Heathcliff will stage a mysterious disappearance ...

All the girls said so

August Kleinzahler: John Berryman, 2 July 2015

The Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 427 pp., £11.99, October 2014, 978 0 374 53455 4
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77 Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 84 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53452 3
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Berryman’s Sonnets 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 127 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53454 7
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The Heart Is Strange 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 179 pp., £17.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 22108 9
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Poets in their Youth 
by Eileen Simpson.
Farrar, Straus, 274 pp., £11.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 23559 8
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... in 1970, he was walking to a bar in Minneapolis one evening in the mid-1950s with his second wife, Anne, the two of them joking back and forth, when Berryman volunteered that he ‘hated the name Mabel more than any other female name’. Anne decided Henry was the name she found ‘unbearable’. For a long time ...

Carlyle’s Mail Fraud

Rosalind Mitchison, 6 August 1981

The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle: Vol. VIII 1835-1836, Vol. IX 1836-1837 
edited by Charles Sanders and Kenneth Fielding.
Duke, 365 pp., £32.95, May 1981, 0 8223 0433 3
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... desk with spots before his eyes, ‘a green cloud of bile’, and Volume II. It will be ‘a wild savage ruleless very Bad Book ... reverent of nothing but what is reverable in all ages and places,’ he writes to Emerson – a ‘book written by a wild man’, ‘looking king and beggar in the face with an indifference of brotherhood,’ he tells his ...

Cocteaux

Anne Stillman: Jean Cocteau, 13 July 2017

Jean Cocteau: A Life 
by Claude Arnaud, translated by Lauren Elkin and Charlotte Mandell.
Yale, 1024 pp., £30, September 2016, 978 0 300 17057 3
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... half-leopard’ and Arnaud suggests that most of Cocteau’s lovers ‘would have a savage, animalistic touch of Nijinsky about them’. The famous scandal of the ballet’s première was partly plotted by the ringmaster himself, Diaghilev. The audience laughed, booed, hissed; ladies cried out during the obscene dances, while, from the ...

Bought a gun, found the man

Anne Hollander: Eadweard Muybridge, 24 July 2003

Motion Studies: Time, Space and Eadweard Muybridge 
by Rebecca Solnit.
Bloomsbury, 305 pp., £16.99, February 2003, 0 7475 6220 2
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... shots of places and persons, no violence. They helped create the myth of the Noble American Savage even as they were documenting his suppression, just as Muybridge’s Yosemite views were promoting the savage beauty of the American wilderness while his shots of miners and railroad workers were recording its demolition ...

Lotti’s Leap

Penelope Fitzgerald, 1 July 1982

Collected Poems and Prose 
by Charlotte Mew, edited by Val Warner.
Carcanet/Virago, 445 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 85635 260 8
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... out that she was left, badly off, and lamented that she would have to let off half of the house. Anne had trained at the Queen’s Square Female School of Art as a screen and furniture painter. Charlotte had been trained for nothing, so she wrote. She wrote slowly, and, like the heroine of New Grub Street, did her time in the British Museum Reading ...

Alcohology

Victor Mallet, 8 December 1988

Constructive Drinking: Perspectives on Drink from Anthropology 
edited by Mary Douglas.
Cambridge, 291 pp., £25, September 1987, 0 521 33504 3
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For Prayer and Profit: The Ritual, Economic and Social Importance of Beer in Gwembe District, Zambia, 1950-1982 
by Elizabeth Colson and Thayer Scudder.
Stanford, 147 pp., $32.50, August 1988, 0 8047 1444 4
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... longshoremen and wondering who would buy the next round, and why. Even books are not safe. Lisa Anne Gurr combed through Simenon’s Maigret books to confirm that drinks indicate social class and that Maigret drinks a great deal of beer, brandy, wine and coffee; he has herb tea when ill. Anthropologists anxious to examine the habits of their fellow drinkers ...

Slice of Life

Colin Burrow: Robin Robertson, 30 August 2018

The Long Take 
by Robin Robertson.
Picador, 256 pp., £14.99, February 2018, 978 1 5098 4688 7
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... neutralise its pain is very much Robertson’s thing. That has made him a very good translator of savage deaths and dismemberments in classical poetry. His output includes great brutal versions of the flaying of Marsyas (‘Hock to groin, groin to hock./That’s your inside leg done:/no more rutting for you, cunt’), and of Actaeon being torn apart by his ...

No looking at my elephant

Mary Wellesley: Menageries, 15 December 2016

Menagerie: The History of Exotic Animals in England 1100-1837 
by Caroline Grigson.
Oxford, 349 pp., £25, January 2016, 978 0 19 871470 5
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... the king had her stuffed. Exotic beasts didn’t always find such favour. When Lady Lisle gave Anne Boleyn a monkey in 1534, she wasn’t pleased. ‘As to touching your monkey,’ John Hussee wrote to Lisle the following year, ‘of a truth, madam, the queen loveth no such beasts nor can scarce abide the sight of them.’ What happened to the monkey ...

Dead Man’s Coat

Peter Pomerantsev: Teffi, 2 February 2017

Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea 
by Teffi, translated by Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Anne Marie Jackson and Irina Steinberg.
Pushkin, 352 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 1 78227 169 7
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Rasputin and Other Ironies 
by Teffi, translated by Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Rose France and Anne Marie Jackson.
Pushkin, 224 pp., £8.99, May 2016, 978 1 78227 217 5
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Subtly Worded 
by Teffi, translated by Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Anne Marie Jackson, Natalia Wase, Clare Kitson and Irina Steinberg.
Pushkin, 304 pp., £12, June 2014, 978 1 78227 037 9
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... allegories, the killer dog as an expression of the Revolution which is itself part of some sort of savage unconscious. Teffi must have been aware of similarly dark impulses on the rise in Europe: by 1936, when the story was written, some of her émigré Russian friends had started to flirt with fascism in the hope it would be an antidote to communism. In the ...

If It Weren’t for Charlotte

Alice Spawls: The Brontës, 16 November 2017

... a painted-over figure, presumably a self-portrait. The order is thought to be, from left to right, Anne, Emily, Charlotte. Hassall compiled her scene from different sources: Patrick’s profile, with his distinctive high neckerchief (worn, we are told, because of his fear of bronchitis), was copied from a photograph taken late in his life, when all his ...

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