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A Mere Piece of Furniture

Dinah Birch: Jacqueline Rose’s take on Proust, 7 February 2002

by Jacqueline Rose.
Chatto, 205 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 7011 6976 1
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... tragedy. Denied the dignity of his tragic heroism, the noble Hamlet is a destructive force. In John Updike’s recent novel Gertrude and Claudius, Hamlet is still more unlovable. He is coldly manipulative, while his kingly father is reduced to a clumsy and egotistical bully. Updike is also engaged in an act of rehabilitation. But he turns his attention to ...

Never Mind the Bollocks

Hilary Rose and Steven Rose: Brains and Gender, 28 April 2011

Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences 
by Rebecca Jordan-Young.
Harvard, 394 pp., £25.95, September 2010, 978 0 674 05730 2
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... the brain. This is what has come to be known as brain organisation theory, a concept pioneered by John Money in the 1960s. It is currently the leading explanation for the essential difference between men and women. The real world question, however, still goes back to Aristotle: do such differences legitimately naturalise the different places in which men and ...

Baby Face

John Bayley, 24 May 1990

William Gerhardie: A Biography 
by Dido Davies.
Oxford, 411 pp., £25, April 1990, 0 19 211794 7
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Memoirs of a Polyglot 
by William Gerhardie.
Robin Clark, 381 pp., £5.95, April 1990, 0 86072 111 6
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by William Gerhardie.
Robin Clark, 198 pp., £4.95, April 1990, 0 86072 112 4
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God’s Fifth Column: A Biography of the Age 1890-1940 
by William Gerhardie, edited by Michael Holroyd and Robert Skidelsky.
Hogarth, 360 pp., £8.95, April 1990, 0 7012 0887 2
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... early novels were done made them look like the literary future, not just to Evelyn Waugh but to Rebecca West and Arnold Bennett – the young and the old alike – H.G. Wells, Elizabeth Bowen, Olivia Manning, Anthony Powell. In his time Gerhardie was at least as potent a literary influence in England as Hemingway, and more pervasive, more part of the new ...

Twenty Types of Human

John Lanchester: Among the Neanderthals, 17 December 2020

Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art 
by Rebecca Wragg Sykes.
Bloomsbury, 400 pp., £20, August 2020, 978 1 4729 3749 0
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... full account of what we currently know about the Neanderthals. It is Neanderthal-centric: Rebecca Wragg Sykes’s project is to write about Neanderthals as an end in themselves, not as a failed version of modern humanity or an evolutionary false start. She is deeply immersed in the latest archaeology on the topic. At the same time, she is an unashamed ...

Adulterers’ Distress

Philip Horne, 21 July 1983

A Nail on the Head 
by Clare Boylan.
Hamish Hamilton, 135 pp., £7.95, July 1983, 0 241 11001 7
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New Stories 8: An Arts Council Anthology 
edited by Karl Miller.
Hutchinson, 227 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 9780091523800
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The Handyman 
by Penelope Mortimer.
Allen Lane, 199 pp., £6.95, May 1983, 0 7139 1364 9
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Open the Door 
by Rosemary Manning.
Cape, 180 pp., £7.95, June 1983, 0 224 02112 5
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A Boy’s Own Story 
by Edmund White.
Picador, 218 pp., £2.50, July 1983, 0 330 28151 8
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... pairs two longish stories set in Scotland, David Craig’s ‘Jason and the Green Woman’ and John Murray’s ‘The Señor and the Celtic Cross’, which operate quite different ironies about the limits of civilised society. The latter story, told in a tormented parodic mélange of styles, recounts a tourist’s experience of sex, superstition and the ...


Rebecca Solnit: After the Oil Spill, 5 August 2010

... and looking just like paint thinner or gasoline.And then there’s the aerial footage taken by John Wathen, or Hurricane Creekkeeper, that’s gone viral on YouTube, Facebook, other facets of the internet, and the media, including CNN. It shows great plumes of smoke rising from the sea, as the oil is burned off the surface. The flames are invisible but the ...

With Luck

John Lanchester, 2 January 1997

The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage 
edited by R.W. Burchfield.
Oxford, 864 pp., £16.99, November 1996, 0 19 869126 2
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... Murder in the Cathedral) wrote If you make charges, Then in public I will refute them, and when Rebecca West wrote The case against most of them must have been so easily refuted that they could hardly rank at suspects, both writers could be assured that their use of refute was beyond reproach. At some point in the second half of the ...

Short Cuts

Duncan Campbell: Courthouse Hotel, 20 May 2021

... has a long tradition in Britain. Thomas Grant, in his book about the Old Bailey, Court Number One (John Murray, £10.99), gives special credit to Rebecca West, who wrote about treason and spy cases from the 1940s to the 1960s, and Sybille Bedford, whose account of the trial of Dr Bodkin Adams in 1957 is ‘generally regarded ...

Holy Terrors

Penelope Fitzgerald, 4 December 1986

‘Elizabeth’: The Author of ‘Elizabeth and her German Garden’ 
by Karen Usborne.
Bodley Head, 341 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 370 30887 5
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Alison Uttley: The Life of a Country Child 
by Denis Judd.
Joseph, 264 pp., £15.95, October 1986, 0 7181 2449 9
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Richmal Crompton: The Woman behind William 
by Mary Cadogan.
Allen and Unwin, 169 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 04 928054 6
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... her independent. Independence made her Elizabeth. ‘It is by independence we live,’ she wrote. Rebecca West, who competed later with the Countess as a lover of H.G. Wells, was wrong in calling the book ‘a not too creditable early success’. There was no shortage, in the 1890s, of enigmatic, slight-seeming, best-selling novels – Beatrice Harraden’s ...

End of the Century

John Sutherland, 13 October 1988

Worlds Apart 
by David Holbrook.
Hale, 205 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 9780709033639
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Story of My Life 
by Jay McInerney.
Bloomsbury, 188 pp., £11.95, August 1988, 0 7475 0180 7
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Forgotten Life 
by Brian Aldiss.
Gollancz, 284 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 575 04369 5
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Incline Our hearts 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £11.95, August 1988, 0 241 12256 2
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... and the latest drug culture. It was to cocaine (the snuffed, not the smoked variety) what John Barleycorn was to booze, what Naked Lunch was to heroin and what Dog Soldiers was to hallucinogens. Anyone who read Bright Lights, Big City could feel an expert on the modish drug of choice, even if he had never put anything stronger than Friar’s Balsam up ...


Rosemary Dinnage: Evacuees, 14 October 1999

... On the voyage to Canada, one of my schoolmates, 12 years old, was put in charge of three-year-old Rebecca. She remembers the child clinging to a seaman throughout the trip – perhaps he reminded her of her father? Father and mother travelled out some weeks later to take charge of Rebecca: on the City of Benares. We ...

Mortal Beauty

Paul Delany, 21 May 1981

Feminine Beauty 
by Kenneth Clark.
Weidenfeld, 199 pp., £10, October 1980, 0 297 77677 0
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Of Women and their Elegance 
by Norman Mailer.
Hodder, 288 pp., £12.50, March 1981, 0 340 23920 4
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Nude Photographs 1850-1980 
edited by Constance Sullivan.
Harper and Row, 204 pp., £19.95, September 1981, 0 06 012708 2
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... characteristic have obvious affinities with sacred and profane, the icy Rowena and the sensuous Rebecca. Leafing through Clark’s plates, it seems to be Rebecca who gets the upper hand as we approach the modern era – though with notable exceptions, like the superb movie still of Greta Garbo in The Kiss. The major ...

Making strange

John Sutherland, 19 March 1981

Other people 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 223 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 224 01766 7
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The Magic Glass 
by Anne Smith.
Joseph, 174 pp., £6.50, March 1981, 9780718119867
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The Book of Ebenezer Le Page 
by Gerald Edwards.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £7.50, March 1981, 0 241 10477 7
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Sharpe’s Eagle 
by Bernard Cornwell.
Collins, 266 pp., £6.50, February 1981, 0 00 221997 2
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by Len Deighton.
Hutchinson, 397 pp., £6.95, March 1981, 0 09 144570 1
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... Wilson), ‘wickedly funny’ (A.S. Byatt), ‘very nourishing entertainment’ (Dame Rebecca West). The manuscript’s progress through the hands of less enthusiastic publishers has been recorded in various gossip columns. Anne Smith, editor of the Literary Review, is a canny publicist for herself and her journal. Now, at last, we have this ...

Thanks to the Fels-Naptha Soap King

Miles Taylor: George Lansbury, 22 May 2003

George Lansbury: At the Heart of Old Labour 
by John Shepherd.
Oxford, 407 pp., £35, September 2002, 0 19 820164 8
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... their families to the coast. The inspiration behind the scheme was George Lansbury, the subject of John Shepherd’s biography, a book as meticulous as it is generous. It is nonetheless timely: just as the prison service has brown-filled this pleasant site, so, too, New Labour has trampled on the radical socialism of which Lansbury was one of the finest ...

Young and Old

John Sutherland, 15 October 1981

Life Stories 
by A.L. Barker.
Hogarth, 319 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 7012 0538 5
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Many Men and Talking Wives 
by Helen Muir.
Duckworth, 156 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 7156 1613 7
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Good Behaviour 
by Molly Keane.
Deutsch, 245 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 9780233973326
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A Separate Development 
by Christopher Hope.
Routledge, 199 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 7100 0954 2
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From Little Acorns 
by Howard Buten.
Harvester, 156 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 7108 0390 7
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Fortnight’s Anger 
by Roger Scruton.
Carcanet, 224 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 0 85635 376 0
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... with some ugly secrets): ‘Bring him back! ... Better not.’ The dedicatee of Life Stories is Rebecca West. When one recalls how affectionately she brought her father back in The fountain overflows, one concludes that Barker is her Blakean partner, the tank that contains. She wants to write an autobiography, but is unwilling to give anything away. As she ...

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