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Joan Didion’s Style

Martin Amis, 7 February 1980

The White Album 
by Joan Didion.
Weidenfeld, 223 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 297 77702 5
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... proceeds: ‘I tell you this not as aimless revelation but because I want you to know, as you read me, precisely who I am and where I am and what is on my mind. I want you to understand exactly what you are getting: you are getting a woman who for some time now has felt radically separated from most of the ideas that seem to interest other people. You are ...

The Wrong Stuff

Christopher Hitchens, 1 April 1983

The Purple Decades 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 396 pp., £8.95, March 1983, 0 224 02944 4
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... its glass of fashion and its mould of form – was attained by Wolfe himself when he attended Leonard Bernstein’s never-to-be-forgotten cocktail party for the Black Panthers. ‘Radical Chic’ has passed so far into the Anglo-American argot that it may be futile, 13 years later, to attempt to expose it. For one thing, it was so nearly right. Everybody ...

Whose Greece?

Martin Bernal, 12 December 1996

Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History 
by Mary Lefkowitz.
Basic Books, 222 pp., $24, February 1996, 0 465 09837 1
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Black Athena Revisited 
edited by Mary Lefkowitz and Guy MacLean Rogers.
North Carolina, 544 pp., £14.75, September 1996, 0 8078 2246 9
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... to a number of intellectual positions, ranging from ‘All good things come from Africa’ or, as Leonard Jeffries, the outspoken professor of African Studies at City University in New York, put it, ‘Africa creates, Europe imitates,’ to the many who merely maintain that Africans, or peoples of African descent, have made significant contributions to world ...

Put it away, like a good girl

August Kleinzahler, 16 March 2000

Where I Live Now: Stories 1993-98 
by Lucia Berlin.
Black Sparrow, 240 pp., $25, March 1999, 1 57423 091 3
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... writer, by which I do not mean a genre writer of cowboy tales like Zane Grey or the younger Elmore Leonard, but that her stories, with only a few exceptions, are situated west of the Great Plains or in Mexico. Berlin herself was born in Alaska and spent most of her childhood in Chile – a setting for several stories. The daughter of a mining man, she also ...

Cold Shoulders, Short Trousers

Ian Hamilton, 12 March 1992

Will this do? 
by Auberon Waugh.
Century, 288 pp., £15.99, October 1991, 0 7126 3734 6
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Mr Wu and Mrs Stitch: The Letters of Evelyn Waugh and Diana Cooper 
edited by Artemis Cooper.
Hodder, 344 pp., £19.99, October 1991, 0 340 53488 5
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... deeply embarrassing letter telling him how much I admired him’. The letter was intended to be read ‘in the event of my pre-decease’. Even as Bron penned it, though, Evelyn was telling Diana Cooper that he had no plans to fly out to his stricken son – unless the boy died, of course, in which event he might feel obliged to put in an appearance. The ...

Thinking Persons

John Ellis, 14 May 1992

Addressing Frank Kermode: Essays in Criticism and Interpretation 
edited by Margaret Tudeau-Clayton and Martin Warner.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £40, July 1991, 9780333531372
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The Poverty of Structuralism: Literature and Structuralist Theory 
by Leonard Jackson.
Longman, 317 pp., £24, July 1991, 0 582 06697 2
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Inconvenient Fictions: Literature and the Limits of Theory 
by Bernard Harrison.
Yale, 293 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 300 05057 7
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Reading Minds: The Study of English in the Age of Cognitive Science 
by Mark Turner.
Princeton, 298 pp., £18.99, January 1992, 0 691 06897 6
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Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics 
by Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson.
Stanford, 530 pp., $49.50, December 1990, 0 8047 1821 0
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... reading public without which literature cannot exist; and university teachers of literature ‘can read what they like and deconstruct or neo-historicise what they like, but in the classroom they should be on their honour to make people know books well enough to understand what it is to love them. If they fail in that, either because they despise the ...

I dive under the covers

Sheila Heti: Mad Wives, 6 June 2013

Heroines 
by Kate Zambreno.
Semiotext(e), 309 pp., £12.95, November 2012, 978 1 58435 114 6
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... husband, not him her – and even in their domestic life she speaks of ‘John who wifes me. Who Leonard Woolfs me.’ The hated vampirisms of the modernist husbands are never far from her own vampirisms (or her vamping). There’s something dizzying and grotesque in her performance, as she tries to resurrect these women while inadvertently shrouding ...

Diary

Duncan McLean: Frank Sargeson, 7 June 2018

... I knew nothing of New Zealand literature, still less that Sargeson was said to have created it. I read some Frame, but it was the image of Sargeson that kept coming back to me. It was hard to find Frame’s books in Scotland in the 1990s, but it was almost impossible to find Sargeson’s. It took me years to find half a dozen, including two of his ...

Plot 6, Row C, Grave 15

Malcolm Gaskill: Death of an Airman, 8 November 2018

... his mother said, ‘and gave us a military salute as he disappeared behind the door.’ She had read a piece in the Spectator that described the departing soldiers as modern crusaders, but she felt ‘there is something that they have that no crusader ever had, and it was shining in V.D.’s face today.’ Fernald’s ship docked at Le Havre, from where he ...

Timo of Corinth

Julian Symons, 6 August 1992

A Choice of Murder 
by Peter Vansittart.
Peter Owen, 216 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 0 7206 0832 5
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Portrait of the Artist’s Wife 
by Barbara Anderson.
Secker, 309 pp., £13.99, June 1992, 9780436200977
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Turtle Moon 
by Alice Hoffman.
Macmillan, 255 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 0 333 57867 8
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Double Down 
by Tom Kakonis.
Macmillan, 308 pp., £14.99, April 1992, 0 333 57492 3
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... most venerated writer’, Jack Macalister. Present is wife Sarah, who urges those present to read his books, the Macalister girls Dora and Emily, twenty years apart in age, and Jack’s friend and first publisher Charles Bremner, who was also Sarah’s lover. Funeral and reception over, we go back to childhood, when all three main characters grew up in ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: Samuel Palmer’s dream landscapes, 17 November 2005

... beyond all praise for care and fullness’. At the end of his life it was an open commission from Leonard Rowe Valpy, Ruskin’s solicitor, which gave him the freedom to produce a cycle of landscapes based on ‘L’Allegro’ and ‘Il Penseroso’ – paintings cited by those who wish to find proof that his poetic vision hadn’t faded. They are worth ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: Running Out of Time, 8 January 2015

... seventy pages, though some of them are pictures of sunsets and dawns over water. Iyer’s guru was Leonard Cohen, now a friend, after he went to visit him in his mountain retreat: ‘The sun was scattering diamonds across the ocean as I drove toward the deserts of the east.’ From Cohen, Iyer learned that happiness comes only if you take a ...

A Family of Acrobats

Adam Mars-Jones: Teju Cole, 3 July 2014

Every Day Is for the Thief 
by Teju Cole.
Faber, 162 pp., £12.99, April 2014, 978 0 571 30792 0
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... the distance between them can be closed, but the narrator knows differently: He reminds me of Leonard Bast in Howards End. The acute awareness of a social gap and the hope, yet, that the gap can be bridged by enthusiasm and application. He reminds me, painfully, of myself, of times when I was the one in socially asymmetrical situations, in my early years ...

Lost Property

Andrew O’Hagan, 20 December 2018

... printout of your novel, will you, Jenny?’ ‘Certainly not,’ she said. ‘But I want to read it. I just can’t lay my hands on it.’ ‘If someone gives you their novel, put it in a drawer,’ she said, ‘and take it out and read it when you can. But don’t lose it.’ ‘But I haven’t lost ...

Forster in Cambridge

Richard Shone, 30 July 2020

... to each other until Roger Ackerley’s death) and Ackerley’s own sexual problems. I had read it, with great enjoyment, in a proof copy that Nancy had lent me. (Soon afterwards she gave me a bound copy inscribed: ‘Dearest Richard, I know you like this book, and you know I don’t! but here it is with my love, Nance.’) Forster had not liked ...

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