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Pen Men

Elaine Showalter, 20 March 1986

Men and Feminism in Modern Literature 
by Declan Kiberd.
Macmillan, 250 pp., £13.95, September 1985, 0 333 38353 2
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Women Writing about Men 
by Jane Miller.
Virago, 256 pp., £10.95, January 1986, 0 86068 473 3
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Phallic Critiques: Masculinity and 20th-century Literature 
by Peter Schwenger.
Routledge, 172 pp., £29.50, September 1985, 0 7102 0164 8
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... of such writers as Richardson, Rebecca West, Alexandra Kollontai, Christina Stead, Jean Rhys, Doris Lessing, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, Miller’s deliberately unsystematic readings have an impressive cumulative power. By the end of the book, as she discusses the work of black and working-class writers, women who have been so excluded from the ...

Janet and Jason

T.D. Armstrong, 5 December 1985

To the Is-Land: An Autobiography 
by Janet Frame.
Women’s Press, 253 pp., £4.95, April 1984, 0 7043 3904 8
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An Angel at My Table. An Autobiography: Vol. II 
by Janet Frame.
Women’s Press, 195 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 7043 2844 5
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The Envoy from Mirror City. An Autobiography: Vol. III 
by Janet Frame.
Women’s Press, 176 pp., £8.95, November 1985, 0 7043 2875 5
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You are now entering the human heart 
by Janet Frame.
Women’s Press, 203 pp., £7.95, October 1985, 0 7043 2849 6
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Conversation in a Train 
by Frank Sargeson.
Oxford, 220 pp., £14, February 1985, 9780196480237
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... Maniototo, has as many affinities with the work of the Latin American fabulists or with that of Doris Lessing as it does with her own early works. In the first volume of her autobiography, To the Is-Land, Frame combines an evocative and clear-sighted account of growing up in small-town New Zealand with a self-conscious sub-plot which offers an ...

Virgin’s Tears

David Craig: On nature, 10 June 1999

Nature: Western Attitudes since Ancient Times 
by Peter Coates.
Polity, 246 pp., £45, September 1998, 0 7456 1655 0
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... with the heavily worked, tarred and concreted land surface we occupy today. In African Laughter Doris Lessing presents a poignant picture of the Southern Rhodesian bush as it was in the Twenties and Thirties compared with the Zimbabwe countryside today. The population has shot up, a far greater acreage is farmed. The wild animals have gone: The bush ...


C.K. Stead, 10 June 1993

Remembering Babylon 
by David Malouf.
Chatto, 200 pp., £14.99, May 1993, 0 7011 5883 2
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... writer needs to hang on to a sense of probability and of irony. In pre-publication publicity Doris Lessing has welcomed this novel’s ‘really impressive achievement’, which is to compress ‘the myths, the poetry, the history of a vast and ancient continent’; Michael Ondaatje has likened it to ‘a spirit painting in a 19th century locket ...

You and Non-You

Blake Morrison: ‘This Mournable Body’, 7 May 2020

This Mournable Body 
by Tsitsi Dangarembga.
Faber, 384 pp., £14.99, January, 978 0 571 35551 8
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... better known. Nervous Conditions has had many admirers, including Chinua Achebe, Alice Walker and Doris Lessing, who called it ‘the novel we have all been waiting for’. The first sentence is irresistible: ‘I was not sorry when my brother died.’ But Dangarembga spent four years trying to find a publisher for it and succeeded only by looking beyond ...


Jeremy Treglown, 6 August 1992

Writers on World War Two: An Anthology 
edited by Mordecai Richler.
Chatto, 752 pp., £18.99, February 1992, 0 7011 3912 9
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Legacies and Ambiguities: Post-war Fiction and Culture in West Germany and Japan 
edited by Ernestine Schlant and Thomas Rimer.
Woodrow Wilson Center Press/Johns Hopkins, 323 pp., $35, February 1992, 0 943875 30 7
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... Beauvoir, Elizabeth Bowen, Marguerite Duras, Martha Gellhorn, Natalia Ginzburg, Shirley Hazzard, Doris Lessing and many other women writers are here (but not Anne Frank or Hannah Arendt), and among the more unexpected selections are the reminiscences of Soviet women, collected, Studs Terkel-wise, by Julia Voznesenskaya. The reaction to The Naked and the ...

Living with Armageddon

Dudley Young, 19 September 1985

The World of Lawrence: A Passionate Appreciation 
by Henry Miller.
Calder, 272 pp., £14.95, April 1985, 0 7145 3866 3
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... under way: American intellectuals propose space colonies to keep the race alive, and in England Doris Lessing also seems to have gone galactic, or at least inter-planetary. The Home Office, for its part, still promises survival for the homely. In view of all this, one is tempted to proscribe any further dealings with one’s apocalyptic self, for fear ...

Being two is half the fun

John Bayley, 4 July 1985

Multiple Personality and the Disintegration of Literary Character 
by Jeremy Hawthorn.
Edward Arnold, 146 pp., £15, May 1983, 0 7131 6398 4
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Doubles: Studies in Literary History 
by Karl Miller.
Oxford, 488 pp., £19.50, June 1985, 9780198128410
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The Doubleman 
by C.J. Koch.
Chatto, 326 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 9780701129453
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... scale. Flora Scheiber’s book Sybil (1973) is about a woman with 16 distinct personalities, and Doris Lessing felt it forced you ‘to look at yourself and the people around you in a new way’, as well it might. William James and Weir Mitchell, who looked after Edith Wharton during a breakdown, had earlier investigated the multiple self, or ...


Frank Kermode, 2 April 1981

God’s Fifth Column: A Biography of the Age, 1890-1940 
by William Gerhardie, Michael Holroyd and Robert Skidelsky.
Hodder, 360 pp., £11.95, March 1981, 0 340 26340 7
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by William Gerhardie.
Penguin, 184 pp., £1.75, February 1981, 0 14 000391 6
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... for good writing, Gerhardie finds no place in syllabuses which find room for, say, Vonnegut or Doris Lessing. Since Henry Green, arguably the best English novelist of his time, is little better off, we need not waste our time being surprised at this neglect. It would be agreeable to believe that the present stir of interest might alter the ...

Speaking for England

Patrick Parrinder, 21 May 1987

The Radiant Way 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 396 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 297 79095 1
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by Maureen Duffy.
Methuen, 224 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 9780413576408
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Moon Tiger 
by Penelope Lively.
Deutsch, 208 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 233 98107 1
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The Maid of Buttermere 
by Melvyn Bragg.
Hodder, 415 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 340 40173 7
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by A.N. Wilson.
Walker, 175 pp., £8.95, April 1987, 0 7445 0801 0
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... There is, it must be said, no easy formula for writing a successful way-we-live-now novel. Doris Lessing offers one of the main precedents for a book like The Radiant Way, but her realistic chronicle-novels, such as The Four-Gated City, have not worn as well as most readers expected they would. (And this despite the fact that ...

Look over your shoulder

Christopher Hitchens, 25 May 1995

... checks. It’s a constant whine, like the endless bleating of white Rhodesian peasants reported by Doris Lessing and called by her ‘the conversation’. The country is going to the dawgs/to hell on a sled/to hell in a handcart. The pointy-heads and the desk-job white-collar drones are responsible. At different pitches and with different timbres, this ...

The Slightest Sardine

James Wood: A literary dragnet, 20 May 2004

The Oxford English Literary History. Vol. XII: 1960-2000: The Last of England? 
by Randall Stevenson.
Oxford, 624 pp., £30, February 2004, 0 19 818423 9
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... Authors who drew most attention to their own form and language – novelists such as John Berger, Doris Lessing, or Rushdie himself; poets such as J.H. Prynne – were in this way among the most politically committed in the period. Stevenson’s prejudices are strongly aired in his chapters on poetry. He is less at ease discussing verse than he is ...

How to do the life

Lorna Sage, 10 February 1994

Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy and Her World 
by Carol Brightman.
Lime Tree, 714 pp., £20, July 1993, 0 413 45821 0
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... interesting, and allies McCarthy with all sorts of other writers and critics – Raymond Williams, Doris Lessing and (perhaps most suggestively) Iris Murdoch – who were all talking about something similar at the same time. You can describe it in many different ways, but it comes down to the disintegration of the representative function of fiction, as ...

The Buffalo in the Hall

Susannah Clapp: Beryl Bainbridge, 5 January 2017

Beryl Bainbridge: Love by All Sorts of Means, a Biography 
by Brendan King.
Bloomsbury, 564 pp., £25, September 2016, 978 1 4729 0853 7
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... who wrote as Alice Thomas Ellis. Their work had little to do with the great social explorations of Doris Lessing or with the ludic excavations of Angela Carter. Or with Philip Roth, Gabriel García Márquez or Kingsley Amis. What now seems striking is how utterly beyond this Bainbridge was. If she is to be seen as part of any tradition it is one that is ...


John Sutherland: The pushiness of young men in a hurry, 5 May 2005

by Tom Maschler.
Picador, 294 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 330 48420 6
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British Book Publishing as a Business since the 1960s 
by Eric de Bellaigue.
British Library, 238 pp., £19.95, January 2004, 0 7123 4836 0
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Penguin Special: The Life and Times of Allen Lane 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Viking, 484 pp., £25, May 2005, 0 670 91485 1
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... charmingly. Maschler quotes at length from such clients as Dahl, Vonnegut and Doris Lessing, who, if their words are to be believed, clearly care about Maschler (Jeffrey Archer one is less sure about). Writing to the Guardian to protest against the concerted ‘nastiness’ of the reviewers, Arnold Wesker recorded how helpful and ...

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