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Pour a stiff drink

Tessa Hadley: Elizabeth Jane Howard, 6 February 2014

All Change 
by Elizabeth Jane Howard.
Mantle, 573 pp., £18.99, November 2013, 978 0 230 74307 6
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... in an abstract way – the draped dishevelled big bed, prodigal dressing table, strewn sofa …’ Alice Munro is at the plain end of the spectrum of style. ‘Maury was in the front bedroom looking for his swimming trunks, though everybody had told him that the water would be too cold for swimming. He said the store would not be open.’ The facts ...

Getting the Undulation

Benjamin Lytal: Willa Cather’s Letters, 20 February 2014

The Selected Letters of Willa Cather 
edited by Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout.
Knopf, 715 pp., £24, April 2013, 978 0 307 95930 0
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... like Bob, but not in big cities.’ You see that, sometimes, she fuelled her loves with hates. Alice Munro​ , writing in 1980, laid her finger on the sore spot of Cather appreciation in a short story called ‘Dulse’. The narrator, a 45-year-old woman, encounters an 81-year-old Cather devotee at a country inn – a deliberate echo, perhaps, of ...

Who’s sorry now?

Andrew O’Hagan: Michael Finkel gets lucky, 2 June 2005

True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa 
by Michael Finkel.
Chatto, 312 pp., £15.99, May 2005, 0 7011 7688 1
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Burning Down My Master’s House 
by Jayson Blair.
New Millennium, 288 pp., $24.95, March 2004, 9781932407266
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The Journalist and the Murderer 
by Janet Malcolm.
Granta, 163 pp., £8.99, January 2004, 1 86207 637 5
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... a writer himself only heightens the matter. Finkel becomes his writing tutor, sending stories by Alice Munro and Lorrie Moore, and buying him a copy of the New Oxford American Dictionary (‘which cost me $45.50’), as if the gift would begin to compensate Longo for the damage the journalist was about to do with words. It looks as though Longo may have ...

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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... tremendous EGO’ required to do the work? Simone de Beauvoir, Gertrude Stein, Hannah Arendt, Alice Munro, Jeanette Winterson, Anne Carson. Why am I even making this list? By the end of the book, I felt for Flaubert. ‘The humid element’, the ‘tears, chatter, breast-feeding … menses’, was too much for me, too. I was more comfortable in Part ...

Reality Is Worse

Adam Mars-Jones: Lydia Davis, 17 April 2014

Can’t and Won’t 
by Lydia Davis.
Hamish Hamilton, 304 pp., £16.99, April 2014, 978 0 241 14664 4
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... so many pieces being extremely short is that quite modestly substantial ones (by the standards of Alice Munro, let alone Henry James) come to seem monumental. Two of these longer pieces, not widely separated in the book, make claim to some sort of symmetry with their titles (‘The Cows’ and ‘The Seals’), when in fact they represent opposite ...

Mole

Salman Rushdie, 4 February 1982

Saki: A Life of Hector Hugh Munro 
by A.J. Langguth.
Hamish Hamilton, 366 pp., £12.50, October 1981, 0 241 10678 8
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... the possible perils of such hyperbole ... but I digress. Having now read rather more of Munro’s fictions, I am in a position to reveal to a breathlessly anticipatory world that the down-to-earth social realism of the Studge saga is present throughout the oeuvre. This is not, by and large, the quality for which Saki has been most ...

Elegant Extracts

Leah Price: Anthologies, 3 February 2000

The Oxford Book of English Verse 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 690 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 19 214182 1
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The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume One 
edited by M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt.
Norton, 2974 pp., £22.50, December 1999, 0 393 97487 1
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The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume Two 
edited by M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt.
Norton, 2963 pp., £22.50, February 2000, 9780393974911
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The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume One 
edited by David Damrosch.
Longman, 2963 pp., $53, July 1999, 0 321 01173 2
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The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume Two 
edited by David Damrosch.
Longman, 2982 pp., $53, July 1999, 0 321 01174 0
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Night & Horses & The Desert: An Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature 
edited by Robert Irwin.
Allen Lane, 480 pp., £25, September 1999, 0 7139 9153 4
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News that Stays News: The 20th Century in Poems 
edited by Simon Rae.
Faber, 189 pp., £9.99, October 1999, 0 571 20060 5
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Time’s Tidings: Greeting the 21st Century 
by Carol Ann Duffy.
Anvil, 157 pp., £7.95, November 1999, 0 85646 313 2
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Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the 20th Century in Poetry 
edited by Peter Forbes.
Penguin, 640 pp., £12.99, February 1999, 9780140588996
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... Norton turns outward to include a staggering array of post-colonial writers, from Chinua Achebe to Alice Munro to Les Murray. (None of the ten 20th-century authors added to this edition is English.) The Longman translates US multiculturalism more obliquely into UK devolution, turning inward to trace cultural differences within the British Isles, from the ...

Time of the Red-Man

Mark Ford: James Fenimore Cooper, 25 September 2008

James Fenimore Cooper: The Early Years 
by Wayne Franklin.
Yale, 708 pp., £25, July 2008, 978 0 300 10805 7
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... and fortitude. Gazing in wonder at Uncas’s ‘free air and proud carriage’, the young fair Alice feels as if she’s looking ‘upon some precious relic of the Grecian chisel’. Alas, a ‘precious relic’ of a passing era is what Uncas proves to be, a ‘vanishing American’, the last of the Mohicans of the book’s title. Cooper goes to some ...

The Uncommon Reader

Alan Bennett: A Story, 8 March 2007

... he was a bit of a dark horse. Sitting there with his hands pressed together like something out of Alice in Wonderland he gave no hint of what he was thinking and so she was pleasantly surprised to find on reading his biography that he had said afterwards that had she been a boy he would have fallen in love with her. Of course he couldn’t actually have said ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Notes on 1997, 1 January 1998

... as they find it off-putting. One of the extras asks me what I am reading. I show him my book, some Alice Munro short stories, whereupon he says, ‘I’m reading this,’ and takes out a paperback of My Secret Life, the saga of the sexual adventures of a middle-class gentleman in Victorian London. It’s a book with more sex per page than almost any ...

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