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The Manners of a Hog

Christopher Tayler: Buchan’s Banter, 20 February 2020

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan 
by Ursula Buchan.
Bloomsbury, 479 pp., £25, April 2019, 978 1 4088 7081 5
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... Witch Wood (1927) was his favourite – and his status as a Scottish monument, a descendant of Scott and Stevenson. There’s nothing fanciful about this – Janet Adam Smith reported that Clement Attlee pointed out to her a borrowing from Kidnapped in The Thirty-Nine Steps – and if he had had a slightly different temperament Buchan might have become a ...


Kathleen Jamie: In the West Highlands, 14 July 2011

... in 1960, as did Born Free: both became huge films, starring the same actors, Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna. But by the year Camusfeàrna burned down, the non-human subjects were gone. The last was perhaps Kes, in Barry Hines’s novel A Kestrel for a Knave. Although that was fiction, and concerned a boy growing up in a very different milieu from that ...

The Shape of Absence

Hilary Mantel: The Bondwoman’s Narrative, 8 August 2002

The Bondwoman’s Narrative: A Novel 
by Hannah Crafts, edited by Henry Louis Gates.
Virago, 338 pp., £10.99, May 2002, 1 86049 013 1
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... you what . . . You won’t find a nicer bit of woman’s flesh to be bought for that money in old Virginia. Don’t you see what a foot she has, so dainty and delicate, and what an ankle.’ But the trader is put off, because he suspects Hannah is ‘skittish’. Women turn skittish, he remarks, when they are parted from their children, though that is not ...

Zoning Out and In

Christopher Tayler: Richard Ford, 30 November 2006

The Lay of the Land 
by Richard Ford.
Bloomsbury, 485 pp., £17.99, October 2006, 0 7475 8188 6
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... to erudition, mentioning as he does not only Keats and Emerson but also, directly or indirectly, Virginia Woolf, Socrates, Diogenes, Spinoza, Aldous Huxley, Kierkegaard, Scott Fitzgerald, Proust, Kafka, Theodore Roethke and, repeatedly, Henry James. By coincidence, the theme that holds the novel together is introduced on ...

While Statues Sleep

Thomas Laqueur, 18 June 2020

Learning from the Germans: Confronting Race and the Memory of Evil 
by Susan Neiman.
Allen Lane, 415 pp., £20, August 2019, 978 0 241 26286 3
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... 1967; 16 states retained them until 1967, when the US Supreme Court struck them down in Loving v. Virginia. This part of our past will not be mastered by a better interpretation of the Civil War. In 1967, only 3 per cent of marriages in the US were between people of different races or ethnicities; in the year Hitler came to power, by contrast, 33 per cent of ...

A Piece of Pizza and a Beer

Deborah Friedell: Who was Jane Roe?, 23 June 2022

The Family Roe: An American Story 
by Joshua Prager.
Norton, 655 pp., £25, September 2021, 978 0 393 24771 8
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... in the cause. An article Prager read in the New Yorker referred to the plaintiffs in Loving v. Virginia, which overturned bans on interracial marriage, as the beau idéal. The Lovings had said all the right things, then stayed out of the limelight – and stayed married. They even had the perfect name. The few sentences on the more ...
... quotations drawn from literary sources, often poets or writers like Tennyson and Walter Scott who often employ archaic usage. Will this not tend to produce a biased account of the history of its usage? Murray’s comment on Browning illustrates the problems posed by poets for lexicographers: ‘Browning constantly uses words without regard to their ...


Terry Castle, 3 August 1995

Jane Austen’s Letters 
edited by Deirde Le Faye.
Oxford, 621 pp., £30, March 1995, 0 19 811764 7
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... are descending & I resume my interesting Narrative’) and the twee Caledonian jests of Sir Walter Scott (‘I do not write for such dull elves!’). Elsewhere she announces: ‘I am going to write nothing but short Sentences.’ The result – rather more uncannily – is like proto-Gertrude Stein: There shall be two full stops in every Line. Layton and ...
... for ‘frightening’ a white girl. Henry Patterson for asking a white woman for a drink. Henry Scott, a Pullman porter, thrown off his train and lynched for insulting a white woman. An investigation showed that she was furious because he had asked her to wait until he finished making up another white woman’s berth. Actual sexual relations, even if ...

Dark and Deep

Helen Vendler, 4 July 1996

Robert Frost: A Biography 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Constable, 424 pp., £20, May 1996, 0 09 476130 2
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Collected Poems, Prose and Plays 
by Robert Frost, edited by Richard Poirier and Mark Richardson.
Library of America, 1036 pp., $35, October 1995, 9781883011062
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... in his courtship of Elinor, that she had rejected him; he fled from home to the Dismal Swamp in Virginia. There exists an early (undated) posthumously-voiced sonnet called ‘Despair’, where Frost imagines himself as a suicide by drowning: I am like a dead diver after all’s Done, still held fast in the weeds’ snare below ... My sudden struggle may ...

American Breakdown

David Bromwich, 2 August 2018

... fuel economy and the safety of drinking water. Trump’s first choice as administrator of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, soon after taking command, purged its website entry on climate change. (More than a year later, if you go to you are told the page is still being ‘being updated’ to ‘reflect EPA’s priorities under the leadership of ...

Ready to Go Off

Jenny Turner, 18 February 2021

A Handful of Earth, a Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia Butler 
by Lynell George.
Angel City, 176 pp., $30, November 2020, 978 1 62640 063 4
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‘Kindred’, Fledgling’, Collected Stories’ 
by Octavia E. Butler, edited by Gerry Canavan and Nisi Shawl.
Library of America, 790 pp., $31.50, January 2021, 978 1 59853 675 1
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... and Harriet Tubman. She did her research at George Washington’s plantation at Mount Vernon in Virginia, where the founding father of democracy held more than three hundred enslaved people – ‘servants’, as tour guides were still putting it in the 1970s – by the time of his death in 1799.To read Kindred now is to undergo a little of the experience ...

The Club and the Mob

James Meek: The Shock of the News, 6 December 2018

Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now 
by Alan Rusbridger.
Canongate, 464 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 1 78689 093 1
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... but the Guardian isn’t one of those. It doesn’t have investors: it’s owned by a trust, the Scott Trust, forbidden by its charter from selling the organisation to a rival, floating it on the stock market or paying dividends to shareholders. The Guardian doesn’t have licence fee income like the BBC, or state funding like Al-Jazeera and Sputnik, and ...

Magic Beans, Baby

David Runciman, 7 January 2021

A Promised Land 
by Barack Obama.
Viking, 768 pp., £35, November 2020, 978 0 241 49151 5
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... socialist’, Fanon and Gwendolyn Brooks for a ‘smooth-skinned sociology major’, Foucault and Virginia Woolf to keep up with an ‘ethereal bisexual who wore mostly black’. It didn’t work. ‘As a strategy for picking up girls my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless. I found myself in a series of affectionate but chaste relationships.’He ...

Who holds the welding rod?

James Meek: Our Turbine Futures, 15 July 2021

... new shipyard made a loss on its first three boats and the HIDB persuaded a bigger shipbuilder, Scott Lithgow, to take over. In 1971 Howarth was told he should design an eighty-foot steel trawler to replace the earlier generation of wooden boats. He convinced an experienced Scottish skipper of this plan and the two of them worked out a design with a naval ...

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