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Short Cuts

Paul Myerscough: Iris Murdoch, 7 February 2002

... priggish about the cinema. ‘A kiss is love. A broken cup is jealousy. A grin is happiness,’ Virginia Woolf complained in 1926, and the feeling persists. Even the best images won’t do. The scene in Iris that everyone seems to like most has her in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, tearing blank pages from her notebook and pinning them to the beach ...


Ardis Butterfield: Who was Chaucer?, 27 August 2015

... I learned about the first from a New York Times review of Hermione Lee’s 1997 biography of Virginia Woolf. In the midst of Daphne Merkin’s somewhat dutiful praise there erupts a moment of real excitement: Art and Affection: A Life of Virginia Woolf, by Panthea Reid, while not nearly as strong as Ms ...

Short Cuts

Rosemary Hill: What Writers Wear, 27 July 2017

... hours alone. They can wear anything – or nothing – and nobody is any the wiser. Yet as Virginia Woolf wrote in Orlando, clothes have ‘more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.’ In the novel clothes propel the narrative of Orlando’s passage through time and ...

Pool of Consciousness

Jane Miller, 21 February 1980

by Dorothy Richardson.
Virago, £3.50, November 1980, 0 86068 100 9
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... pages long, who have complained that it is boringly avant-garde, inchoate, and vitiated by what Virginia Woolf called ‘the damned egotistical self’. It was not just perversity which provoked her to court such charges. She set out to write a novel about ‘the startling things that are not important’, and to do so through the experiences of a ...

Problem Parent

Michael Wood, 17 August 1989

Memories of Amnesia 
by Laurence Shainberg.
Collins Harvill, 190 pp., £10.95, April 1989, 0 00 272024 8
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We find ourselves in Moontown 
by Jay Gummerman.
Cape, 174 pp., £11.95, June 1989, 0 224 02662 3
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The Russia House 
by John le Carré.
Hodder, 344 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 0 340 50573 7
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My Secret History 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 468 pp., £13.95, June 1989, 0 241 12369 0
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... Look within,’ Virginia Woolf said, but she wasn’t thinking of brain surgery. Memories of Amnesia is a black joke about inner landscapes, or more precisely, about a mind turned inside out. Subjectivity, that spreading territory of so much modern writing, becomes a sort of intellectual circus, an arena where hectic and unanswerable arguments cross like missiles in the night ...

The least you can do is read it

Ian Hamilton, 2 October 1997

Cyril Connolly: A Life 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Cape, 653 pp., £25, May 1997, 0 224 03710 2
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... like Flaubert, Proust and James (or, as he contended for a while, Edith Sitwell, Aldous Huxley and Virginia Woolf), and therefore he could scarcely be expected to function at the same level as industrious pen-pushers like, say, Bennett or Galsworthy. He would much rather talk Proust over a posh dinner than sit at home and read a new novel by Jack ...

Make mine a Worcester Sauce

John Bayley, 23 June 1994

Richard Hughes 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Deutsch, 491 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 233 98843 2
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... actors are not, so to speak, up to the technology, a point noted with characteristic sharpness by Virginia Woolf in a letter to Hughes. ‘It’s full of remarkable things. What I’m not sure is whether they coalesce ... on the one hand there’s the storm: on the other the people. And between them there’s a gap, in which there’s some want of ...

Pound & Co.

August Kleinzahler: Davenport and Kenner, 26 September 2019

Questioning Minds: Vols I-II: The Letters of Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner 
edited by Edward Burns.
Counterpoint, 1817 pp., $95, October 2018, 978 1 61902 181 5
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... In​ 1882, the year Virginia Woolf and William Carlos Williams were born, Friedrich Nietzsche bought a typewriter, a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball. It wasn’t as good as a Remington but it was cheaper. Nietzsche was losing his eyesight, probably as a result of syphilis, and hoped the Writing Ball would help. But first he had to master touch-typing ...

On the Feast of Stephen

Karl Miller: Spender’s Journals, 30 August 2012

New Selected Journals, 1939-95 
by Stephen Spender and Lara Feigel, edited by John Sutherland.
Faber, 792 pp., £45, July 2012, 978 0 571 23757 9
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... and Connolly are targets for the hardest knocks in the book. The stories come in various sizes. Virginia Woolf called Isaiah Berlin a ‘violent Jew’ (I throw in a further story here, to the effect that at his funeral or synagogue memorial service an earwitness friend of mine heard two old Oxford panjandrums agree that the service had gone well ...


Jenny Turner, 10 March 1994

In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding 
by Deborah Baker.
Hamish Hamilton, 462 pp., £25, October 1993, 9780241128343
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... as sole proprietor, for 14 years, from 1926 to 1940. London literary society did not take to her: Virginia Woolf called her ‘a shallow, egotistical, cock-crowing creature’ and ‘a damned had poet’. Riding retaliated with a string of knockabout, attention-seeking essays and reviews. Of To the Lighthouse, for example, she wrote that ‘all this ...

A Car of One’s Own

Andrew O’Hagan: Chariots of Desire, 11 June 2009

... that the joys and vexations of community always threatened to turn into an upholstered void. Virginia Woolf was almost right: all one really needs is a car of one’s own, the funds to keep it on the road and the will to encounter oneself within. Though most of those men aren’t listening to ...

A Tulip and Two Bulbs

Jenny Turner: Jeanette Winterson, 7 September 2000

The PowerBook 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Cape, 243 pp., £14.99, September 2000, 0 224 06103 8
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... of her books. She only engages with the most irreproachable writers: Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf. The only constitutive human relationship is to the partner, a shadowy figure, a troubadour’s muse. For a writer who so wonderfully emerged in such a flurry of strife and conflict, it has all gone quiet and comfy, surely, a bit like those ...

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 ...

A Toast at the Trocadero

Terry Eagleton: D.J. Taylor, 18 February 2016

The Prose Factory: Literary Life in England since 1918 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 501 pp., £25, January 2016, 978 0 7011 8613 5
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... of feminist criticism, which receives one rather surly reference. American feminist critics of Virginia Woolf, while praiseworthy in developing new vantage points on her work (that’s Taylor being charitable again), have ended up waging an ‘ideological crusade’. He is not himself, need one say, an ideological critic: he is a card-carrying ...

Raymond and Saxon and Maynard and …

Penelope Lively, 19 February 1981

by Frances Partridge.
Gollancz, 238 pp., £9.95, January 1981, 0 575 02912 9
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Notes from Sick Rooms 
by Leslie Stephen.
Puckerbrush, 52 pp., £1.50, March 1981, 0 913006 16 5
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... the poor woman was left to rest in peace? The intense analysis of the manner and chronology of Virginia Woolf’s suicide that has been going on in the pages of other journals can just about be justified in terms of literary history: Virginia Woolf was a great novelist. But Carrington was a minor painter ...

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