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Surviving the Sixties

Hilary Mantel, 18 May 1989

Shoe: The Odyssey of a Sixties Survivor 
by Jonathan Guinness.
Century Hutchinson, 233 pp., £14.95, March 1989, 0 09 173857 1
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Lilly: Reminiscences of Lillian Hellman 
by Peter Feibleman.
Chatto, 364 pp., £14.95, February 1989, 0 7011 3441 0
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... the way Shoe might tell it, if she could write. From now on,’ he asserts, ‘I am Susan Mary Taylor, born in Oldham, Lancashire, on 26 July 1944.’ While the author has explained, in his foreword, what he means to do, nothing quite prepares one for the shock of the switch into the first person and it is only when the switch occurs that one becomes ...

Breeds of New Yorker

Christine Smallwood: ‘The Group’ Revisited, 11 February 2010

A Fortunate Age 
by Joanna Smith Rakoff.
Scribner, 399 pp., $26, April 2009, 978 1 4165 9077 4
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The Group 
by Mary McCarthy.
Virago, 448 pp., £7.99, December 2009, 978 1 84408 593 4
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... story, and everything else in A Fortunate Age, follows a template: the novel is a rewriting of Mary McCarthy’s The Group (1963), which charted the lives of eight members of the Vassar class of 1933 in the years after graduation. More than a decade before she wrote The Group, McCarthy published an essay in Holiday ...

Hey, Mister, you want dirty book?

Edward Said: The CIA, 30 September 1999

Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War 
by Frances Stonor Saunders.
Granta, 509 pp., £20, July 1999, 1 86207 029 6
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... of characters at social events on Morningside Heights: Diana and Lionel Trilling, Daniel Bell, Mary McCarthy, Dwight Macdonald – all of them brilliant, feisty, friendly and endlessly voluble. Some of their hangers-on were third-rate intellectual goons like Arnold Beichmann (former Communist, rabid anti-Communist, now an aged relic of the Hoover ...

Old Ladies

D.A.N. Jones, 20 August 1992

Dear Departed: A Memoir 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Maria Louise Ascher.
Aidan Ellis, 346 pp., £18, April 1992, 0 85628 186 7
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Anna, Soror 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Walter Kaiser.
Harvill, 256 pp., £7.99, May 1992, 0 00 271222 9
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That Mighty Sculptor, Time 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Walter Kaiser.
Aidan Ellis, 224 pp., £18, June 1992, 9780856281594
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Coming into the End Zone: A Memoir 
by Doris Grumbach.
Norton, 256 pp., £13.95, April 1992, 0 393 03009 1
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Anything Once 
by Joan Wyndham.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 178 pp., £15.95, March 1992, 9781856191296
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Within Tuscany 
by Matthew Spender.
Viking, 366 pp., £16.99, April 1992, 0 670 83836 5
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... men friends, they all seem to be dying of Aids. She has written several novels and a biography of Mary McCarthy, but, in the States, she seems most widely known for her broadcast book reviews on National Public Radio, and elsewhere for her annual contribution to the Britannica Book of the Year. By chance, she meets, once again, the withered near-death ...

Bravo, old sport

Christopher Hitchens, 4 April 1991

Critical Crossings: The New York Intellectuals in Post-War America 
by Neil Jumonville.
California, 291 pp., £24.95, January 1991, 0 520 06858 0
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... given the reverse emphasis in most discussions of his subject, is by no means disproportionate. Mary McCarthy described the fell consequences of getting the proportions wrong in her essay ‘My Confession’. Having airily declared, at a fellow-travellers’ publishing party, that Trotsky should be allowed his day in court, she found her signature ...

The Heart’s Cause

Michael Wood, 9 February 1995

The Beginning of the Journey: The Marriage of Diana and Lionel Trilling 
by Diana Trilling.
Harcourt Brace, 442 pp., $24.95, May 1994, 0 15 111685 7
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... will allow us to find whatever ground we share. The work of James Agee, Hannah Arendt, Fred Dupee, Mary McCarthy, Dwight Macdonald, Philip Rahv, Delmore Schwartz, Edmund Wilson – these are some of the names Mrs Trilling mentions – gave the myth one of the best runs it has had anywhere. The language of the myth looks a little odd now – people have ...

Victor Ludorum

Julian Symons, 20 December 1990

The Complete Short Stories 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 1220 pp., £25, November 1990, 0 7011 3712 6
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Lasting Impressions 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 171 pp., £15.99, November 1990, 0 7011 3606 5
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... the limits imposed by ‘society’, expressing rebellious feelings outwardly by (according to Mary McCarthy) wearing long dark-belted coats of shaggy material, and in their work by exalting individual values against those of the mass. The work of committed writers, in contrast, was rooted not only in the visible world but also in the rapidly changing ...

Americans

Stephen Fender, 2 July 1981

The Life of John O’Hara 
by Frank MacShane.
Cape, 274 pp., £10, March 1981, 9780224018852
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... apparently, the native American type was awaiting fulfilment in fiction. Take a gangster, wrote Mary McCarthy in an essay called ‘Characters in Fiction’, ‘who was in the slot-machine racket, decided to go straight and became a laundromat king, sent his daughter to Bennington, where she married a poet-in-residence or a professor of modern ...

A Turn of Events

Frank Kermode, 14 November 1996

Reality and Dreams 
by Muriel Spark.
Constable, 160 pp., £14.95, September 1996, 0 09 469670 5
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... Kallman, Graham Greene, Allen Tate, Louis MacNeiec, Tennessee Williams, Noel Coward, John Braine, Mary McCarthy ... (a shade slyly, Mrs Spark, after all a director in her own way, may here be self-indulgently thinking of some of her own old pals). He meditates the great turn of the times that may be upon us, and dreads God’s dreams because, unlike ...

Diary

Blake Morrison: On the Independent on Sunday , 27 May 1993

... beside me (Ian Hamilton and Ted Hughes on the life of Sylvia Plath, Alison Lurie’s obituary of Mary McCarthy, Salman Rushdie on Graham Greene, Claire Tomalin on Coleridge, Anthony Burgess on Fielding, other reviews by Anita Brookner, Peter Conrad, Roy Foster and Hilary Mantel), and as the limits on the new paper’s resources became apparent I thought ...

Firm Lines

Hermione Lee, 17 November 1983

Bartleby in Manhattan, and Other Essays 
by Elizabeth Hardwick.
Weidenfeld, 292 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 297 78357 2
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... Janet Flanner (New Yorker correspondent from 1925 to 1975), Elizabeth Hardwick’s friend Mary McCarthy, and the Californian novelist and essayist Joan Didion. There is really nothing to compare with it in England, unless one excepts Orwell (who rather resembles Wilson in his analyses of the Depression, of false language and of ...

Knives, Wounds, Bows

John Bayley, 2 April 1987

Randall Jarrell’s Letters 
edited by Mary Jarrell.
Faber, 540 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 571 13829 2
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The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore 
edited by Patricia Willis.
Faber, 723 pp., £30, January 1987, 0 571 14788 7
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... of wives seem as smooth and effortless as the gears on the sports cars Jarrell so much fancied. Mary Jarrell has done a loyal and meticulous job, her comments on friends and situations are humorously vivid: but she also leaves the surface of the literary life quite undisturbed. There is no trace here of the competitive insight which produced the memorable ...

Still Superior

Mark Greif: Sex and Susan Sontag, 12 February 2009

Reborn: Early Diaries, 1947-64 
by Susan Sontag, edited by David Rieff.
Hamish Hamilton, 318 pp., £16.99, January 2009, 978 0 241 14431 2
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... misassigned her to the journal’s theatre column, the post that had been held by an unknown Mary McCarthy in the late 1930s. In the diaries Sontag zaps McCarthy’s ‘low-fashion red+blue print suit’ and ‘clubwoman gossip’. An old story has it that when McCarthy met ...

Last Man of Letters

Frank Kermode, 15 September 1983

The Forties: From the Notebooks and Diaries of the Period 
by Edmund Wilson, edited and introduced by Leon Edel.
Macmillan, 369 pp., £14.95, August 1983, 0 333 21212 6
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The Portable Edmund Wilson 
edited by Lewis Dabney.
Penguin, 647 pp., £3.95, May 1983, 0 14 015098 6
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To the Finland Station 
by Edmund Wilson.
Macmillan, 487 pp., £5.95, September 1983, 0 333 35143 6
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... the years it covers saw the death of Scott Fitzgerald, Wilson’s marriage to and divorce from Mary McCarthy, a new marriage, the first seven years at the New Yorker, the publication of To the Finland Station, Memoirs of Hecate County, The Wound and the Bow, and six other books, to say nothing of a world war and much assiduous travel. Perhaps it ...

Alexander the Brilliant

Edward Said, 18 February 1988

Corruptions of Empire: Life Studies and the Reagan Era 
by Alexander Cockburn.
Verso, 479 pp., £14.95, November 1987, 0 86091 176 4
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... philosopher Russell Jacoby, laments the disappearance of the Edmund Wilson. Randolph Bourne, Mary McCarthy type of literary intellectual, who addressed a large audience from positions of institutional independence and serious cultural engagement. Today, according to Jacoby, whose book has been much celebrated by the Right (even though he is himself ...

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