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Diary

Christian Lorentzen: At the Conventions, 27 September 2012

... this would come to the surface in the form of wild applause for union-busting governors like Scott Walker of Wisconsin or Chris Christie of New Jersey. Imagine Nikki Haley’s joy when she saw the first Boeing built in South Carolina roll down the tarmac ‘surrounded by six thousand non-union employees’. That Monday night, after the protest, I met two ...

Grub Street Snob

Terry Eagleton: ‘Fanny Hill’, 13 September 2012

Fanny Hill in Bombay: The Making and Unmaking of John Cleland 
by Hal Gladfelder.
Johns Hopkins, 311 pp., £28.50, July 2012, 978 1 4214 0490 5
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... single-author studies. They do not sell, unlike postcolonial anthologies and bluffer’s guides to Virginia Woolf. In the prelapsarian 1960s, a typical critical essay might be entitled ‘Window Imagery in the Later Pasternak’, while in the theoretico-political 1970s, ‘Class Struggle in The Divine Comedy’ was a more predictable topic. By the 1980s and ...

Miracle on Fleet Street

Martin Hickman: Operation Elveden, 7 January 2016

... failure to stop after a traffic accident. Flattley’s handler, the Sun’s defence editor, Virginia Wheeler, made no secret of her source when she asked the paper’s news editors for cash. ‘Please could I get a £500 cash payment for my Chelsea copper contact for the female murder story the other week?’ she asked the head of news, Chris Pharo, by ...

Animal Experiences

Colin Tudge: At the zoo, 21 June 2001

A Different Nature: The Paradoxical World of Zoos and Their Uncertain Future 
by David Hancocks.
California, 280 pp., £19.95, May 2001, 0 520 21879 5
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... riddance’ was the general response. In the wake of her role as Joy Adamson in Born Free, Virginia McKenna and her husband, Bill Travers, founded Zoo Check, in essence anti-zoo. As London Zoo languished, Zoo Check flourished. In 1990, the post-Zuckerman Council declared that London Zoo must close. It was saved by the ‘Reform Group’: a few ...

Iraq, 2 May 2005

Andrew O’Hagan: Two Soldiers, 6 March 2008

... is of a tousle-haired, clean-limbed and smiling John Spahr, looking like a tragic hero out of Scott Fitzgerald. Why does one of the very best scholastic rowers in the United States go to school in North Philadelphia – when he lives in Cherry Hill? ‘It was just word of mouth,’ said John Spahr, who won the Junior National Singles championship last ...

Little Green Crabs

John Bayley, 12 October 1989

Albertine gone 
by Marcel Proust, translated by Terence Kilmartin.
Chatto, 99 pp., £11.95, August 1989, 0 7011 3359 7
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Marcel Proust: A Biography 
by George Painter.
Chatto, 446 pp., £20, August 1989, 0 7011 3421 6
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The Book of Proust 
by Philippe Michel-Thiriet, translated by Jan Dalley.
Chatto, 406 pp., £25, August 1989, 0 7011 3360 0
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Marcel Proust. Selected Letters: Vol II, 1904-1909 
essays by Philip Kolb, translated by Terence Kilmartin.
Collins, 482 pp., £25, September 1989, 0 00 217078 7
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... identify itself with an aesthetic, and it was this, perhaps, which aroused the envy and wonder of Virginia Woolf, who found herself unable to work the artistic miracle the other way round, to move from the aesthetic and the social into the world of desire which unites and animates the two. In a sense, the most blatant of Proust’s pretences is the whole ...

Her way of helping me

Hugo Young, 6 December 1990

Listening for a Midnight Tram: Memoirs 
by John Junor.
Chapmans, 341 pp., £15.95, October 1990, 9781855925014
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... sex marches side by side with slavering after pretty women. These range from the tennis player Virginia Wade – ‘Quite a girl. Warm and vibrant. We lunched together a few times but, alas, remained only good friends’ – to Anna Ford (‘I had the feeling that her first love was men and work came second’), and ‘my friend and discovery Selina ...

Wounds

Stephen Fender, 23 June 1988

Hemingway 
by Kenneth Lynn.
Simon and Schuster, 702 pp., £16, September 1987, 0 671 65482 9
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The Faces of Hemingway: Intimate Portraits of Ernest Hemingway by those who knew him 
by Denis Brian.
Grafton, 356 pp., £14.95, May 1988, 0 246 13326 0
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... the latter always be accepted as the truth? Or when Hemingway writes (in A Moveable Feast) that Scott Fitzgerald admitted to having been a virgin before he married Zelda, and the English actress Rosalinde Fuller writes that, on the contrary, she had a passionate affair with Fitzgerald before his marriage, should her evidence be proclaimed a ‘telling ...

What’s wrong with that man?

Christian Lorentzen: Donald Antrim, 20 November 2014

The Emerald Light in the Air: Stories 
by Donald Antrim.
Granta, 158 pp., £12.99, November 2014, 978 1 84708 649 5
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... you’re in the wrong corridor. You’ll have to make a half-turn and backtrack through Sir Walter Scott. This is tricky. Be careful not to go too far because the Waverley novels will return you, inevitably, to The Castle of Perseverance, and you’ll never get out. It’s better to remain in the 19th century if you can get there. As you know, we’ve had ...

Ways to Be Pretentious

Ian Penman, 5 May 2016

M Train 
by Patti Smith.
Bloomsbury, 253 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6768 6
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Collected Lyrics 1970-2015 
by Patti Smith.
Bloomsbury, 303 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6300 8
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... or Beyoncé popular; but neither is she some divisive figure out on the blasted perimeter, like Scott Walker. Devoted fans prize her as one of our culture’s great ungovernable Outsiders. This fan club includes the grandees of the French establishment, who in 2005 named her a commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, making Smith about as much of an ...

You better not tell me you forgot

Terry Castle: How to Spot Members of the Tribe, 27 September 2012

All We Know: Three Lives 
by Lisa Cohen.
Farrar Straus, 429 pp., £22.50, July 2012, 978 0 374 17649 5
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... one of her essays on biography, “Lives of the Obscure”,’ Cohen notes in the preface, Virginia Woolf writes that ‘one likes romantically to feel oneself a deliverer advancing with lights across the waste of years to the rescue of some stranded ghost … waiting, appealing, forgotten, in the growing gloom.’ This romance has its appeal. I have ...

Puellilia

Pat Rogers, 7 August 1986

Mothers of the Novel: One Hundred Good Women Writers before Jane Austen 
by Dale Spender.
Pandora, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 86358 081 5
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Scribbling Sisters 
by Dale Spender and Lynne Spender.
Camden Press, 188 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 948491 00 0
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A Woman of No Character: An Autobiography of Mrs Manley 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 176 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13934 5
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Cecilia 
by Fanny Burney.
Virago, 919 pp., £6.95, May 1986, 0 86068 775 9
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Millenium Hall 
by Sarah Scott.
Virago, 207 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86068 780 5
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Marriage 
by Susan Ferrier.
Virago, 513 pp., £4.50, February 1986, 0 86068 765 1
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Belinda 
by Maria Edgeworth.
Pandora, 434 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 074 2
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Self-Control 
by Mary Brunton.
Pandora, 437 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 9780863580840
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The Female Quixote: The Adventures of Arabella 
by Charlotte Lennox.
Pandora, 423 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 080 7
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... Lever, M.G. Lewis, Thomas Lodge, Henry MacKenzie [sic], Thomas Malory, Charles Maturin, Walter Scott, Philip Sidney, Horace Walpole ... twenty, plus the recognised fathers of the novel ... Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, Samuel Richardson, Tobias Smollett and Lawrence [sic] Sterne; generosity indeed to double the number!’ A list so nakedly daft obviates ...

Resurrecting the Tudors

John Pemble: James Anthony Froude, 23 May 2013

James Anthony Froude: An Intellectual Biography of a Victorian Prophet 
by Ciaran Brady.
Oxford, 500 pp., £45, May 2013, 978 0 19 966803 8
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... be open in every biography worth a publisher’s advance. The subjects of Victorian biography, as Virginia Woolf put it, had been ‘like the wax figures now preserved in Westminster Abbey, that were carried in funeral processions through the street’. Froude’s Carlyle blew open the citadel of privacy. It encouraged public speculation about what Jane ...

Out of the Gothic

Tom Shippey, 5 February 1987

Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction 
by Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove.
Gollancz, 511 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 575 03942 6
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Eon 
by Greg Bear.
Gollancz, 504 pp., £10.95, October 1986, 0 575 03861 6
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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Four Parts 
by Douglas Adams.
Heinemann, 590 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 434 00920 2
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Humpty Dumpty in Oakland 
by Philip K. Dick.
Gollancz, 199 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 575 03875 6
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The Watcher 
by Jane Palmer.
Women’s Press, 177 pp., £2.50, September 1986, 0 7043 4038 0
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I, Vampire 
by Jody Scott.
Women’s Press, 206 pp., £2.50, September 1986, 0 7043 4036 4
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... series, which stresses female ability to cope with the weirdest of upheavals – as in Jody’s Scott’s I, Vampire, which takes another classic image of the rejected daughter, and traces her through vampirism, successful Cosmopolitan-style female executivehood, and a business as a Famous Donor Sperm collector, to galactic war and resurrection by an avatar ...

Self-Made Man

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Edith Wharton’s Domestic Arrangements, 5 April 2007

Edith Wharton 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 853 pp., £25, February 2007, 978 0 7011 6665 6
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... take up an invitation to complete the English version of Le Temps retrouvé after the death of Scott-Moncrieff. Though her admiration for Proust seems to have reached its limit at Sodome et Gomorrhe – ‘Alas! Alas!’ was her final comment – some of her other verdicts were less predictable. Like Proust, she was a Dreyfusard, for example; and her taste ...

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