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21 February 1985
The Dark Hole Days 
by Una Woods.
Blackstaff, 127 pp., £3.50, December 1984, 0 85640 316 4
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Superior Women 
by Alice Adams.
Heinemann, 374 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 0 434 00631 9
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The Collected Stories 
by Frank Tuohy.
Macmillan, 410 pp., £12.95, December 1984, 0 333 38534 9
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The Apple in the Dark 
by Clarice Lispector, translated by Gregory Rabassa.
Virago, 361 pp., £10.95, January 1985, 0 86068 605 1
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Family Ties 
by Clarice Lispector and Giovanni Pontiero.
Carcanet, 140 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 0 85636 569 6
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... run out, and she had to tie off at least some of those maddening endless threads. Belfast lurches towards symbolism in the process, and begins to look like a writerly city. No such difficulties beset AliceAdams, whose world is writerly from the start. Superior Women is a kind of compendium not so much of American attitudes or American history as of attitudes to attitudes, so to speak – the hearsay ...

‘Mmmmm’ not ‘Hmmm’

Michael Wood: Katharine Hepburn

11 September 2003
Kate Remembered 
by A. Scott Berg.
Simon and Schuster, 318 pp., £18.99, July 2003, 0 7432 0676 2
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... much of the pleasure of Berg’s work is in the detail, and in the sense of time passing. He interweaves a direct and lucid account of Hepburn’s career, from early films such as Little Women and AliceAdams, through the comedies with Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy, notably Bringing Up Baby and Adam’s Rib, to The African Queen and then Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and On Golden Pond, into the ...

How did she get those feet?

Alice​ Spawls: The Female Detective

20 February 2014
The Notting Hill Mystery: The First Detective Novel 
by Charles Warren Adams.
British Library, 312 pp., £8.99, February 2012, 978 0 7123 5859 0
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The Female Detective: The Original Lady Detective 
by Andrew Forrester.
British Library, 328 pp., £8.99, October 2012, 978 0 7123 5878 1
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Revelations of a Lady Detective 
by William Stephens Hayward.
British Library, 278 pp., £8.99, February 2013, 978 0 7123 5896 5
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... a plan of the victim’s house, a facsimile of a fragment of a letter in French, a transcript of the fragment and then an attempt to complete and translate it. The book’s author, Charles Adams, may have been trying to compensate for the flimsy plot. Twin girls, who share a psychic ability to feel each other’s pain, are separated as children when the younger, Catherine, is stolen by ...

‘I thirst for his blood’

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Henry James

25 November 1999
Henry James: A Life in Letters 
edited by Philip Horne.
Penguin, 668 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 7139 9126 7
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A Private Life of Henry James: Two Women and His Art 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Chatto, 500 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 7011 6166 3
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... is undoubtedly the most useful collection we have had. Horne has not hesitated to reprint deservedly famous pieces, like the eloquent response of 1914 to a ‘melancholy outpouring’ from Henry Adams, in which James pronounced himself ‘that queer monster the artist, an obstinate finality, an inexhaustible sensibility’, and urged his friend to ‘cultivate’ his consciousness in full ...

After-Time

Christopher Hitchens

19 October 1995
Palimpsest: A Memoir 
by Gore Vidal.
Deutsch, 432 pp., £17.99, October 1995, 0 233 98891 2
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... Creek Cemetery in Washington. You take a few paces down the slope from the graveyard’s centrepiece, which is the lachrymose and androgynous Mourning Figure sculpted by August St Guldens for Henry Adams’s unhappy wife Clover (whose name always puts me in mind of an overworked pit pony). And there in the grass is a stone slab, bearing the names and dates of birth of Vidal and his lifelong companion ...
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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... status’, or (Marge Piercy, Fred Pohl) ‘perkind and uz status’. Aldiss soft-pedals feminist Science Fiction, quite rightly, because the best of it – as in the stories of James Tiptree, alias Alice Sheldon, author of ‘The Women Men Don’t See’ – has got past social concerns and the bewailing of present conditions to redefinitions (again), and a search for future propositions that will ...

No Accident

Zachary Leader: Gore Vidal’s Golden Age

21 June 2001
The Golden Age: A Novel 
by Gore Vidal.
Little, Brown, 467 pp., £17.99, October 2000, 0 316 85409 3
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... pedagogical purposes obtrude and distract. The central characters are Emma’s daughter, Caroline Sanford, and Caroline’s half-brother, Blaise. The most important historical figures are Hay, Henry Adams, William Randolph Hearst, and Presidents McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, though there are cameo appearances from many others, including Adams’s brother Brooks, author of the imperialist manifesto ...

Upstaging

Paul Driver

19 August 1993
Shining Brow 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 86 pp., £5.99, February 1993, 0 571 16789 6
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... Gavin Ewart has provided saucy verses for Robin Holloway’s opera buffa about sexuality, Boys and Girls Come out to Play, currently awaiting the offer of a production. The American poet Alice Goodman wrote two libretti for the American minimalist composer John Adams: Nixon in China, with a text mostly in rhyming couplets, and The Death of Klinghoffer. She has also finished fresh dialogue ...

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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... on inventing it in his private life.’ The reaction started with the publication of Death in the Afternoon in 1932, the hero of which, as Kenneth Lynn cogently expresses it, is not ‘a haunted Nick Adams, or a crippled Jake Barnes, or a hollowed-out Frederic Henry, but an overbearing know-it-all named Ernest Hemingway’. Max Eastman said Hemingway had false hair on his chest. Gertrude Stein, in The ...

Omnipresent Eye

Patrick Wright: The Nixon/Mao Show

16 August 2007
Seize the Hour: When Nixon Met Mao 
by Margaret MacMillan.
Murray, 384 pp., £25, October 2006, 0 7195 6522 7
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... first of many carefully held handshakes. That, as Margaret MacMillan confirms, is more or less what took place at Beijing airport on Monday, 21 February 1972. It’s also the opening scene of John Adams’s opera Nixon in China, premiered in Houston in 1987, and staged again at the London Coliseum over a few evenings last summer. An actual occurrence then, but also, as Adams and his librettist Alice ...

Understanding Forwards

Michael Wood: William James

20 September 2007
William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism 
by Robert Richardson.
Mariner, 622 pp., £15, September 2007, 978 0 618 43325 4
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... recent in a long run of biographies. Its predecessors were by Ralph Barton Perry (1935), Gay Wilson Allen (1967) and Linda Simon (1998). There are also fine portraits in Jean Strouse’s biography of Alice James (1980) and in Louis Menand’s Metaphysical Club (2001). No lack of attention, then, but Richardson’s book is very welcome, in part because of his refusal to stop worrying about his subject ...

Utopia in Texas

Glen Newey: Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’

19 January 2017
Utopia 
by Thomas More, edited by George M. Logan, translated by Robert M. Adams.
Cambridge, 141 pp., £9.99, August 2016, 978 1 107 56873 0
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Utopia 
by Thomas More, translated by Gilbert Burnet.
Verso, 216 pp., £8.99, November 2016, 978 1 78478 760 8
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... What if I believe that Arlington, Texas is utopia?’ Irony is not generally the forte of this sort of utopian. For that one can look to the Aboriginal community Utopia, two hundred miles north of Alice Springs and often cited as among the most deprived in Australia. In 2013 John Pilger made a film about the place, whose name seems to be an anglicised corruption of uturupa, an aboriginal word for ...
16 March 2000
Morgan: American Financier 
by Jean Strouse.
Harvill, 816 pp., £25, June 1999, 9781860463556
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... their heads have no middle. They can’t say “I”. They aren’t in fact, and so they’re supermen. Pierpont Morgan has never said “I” in his life.’ Strouse would agree. ‘He was, as Henry Adams said of Theodore Roosevelt, “pure act”.’ But Schlegel goes on to say, ‘if you could pierce through him, you’d find panic and emptiness in the middle’, which Strouse wouldn’t say of ...

In His Hot Head

Andrew O’Hagan: Robert Louis Stevenson

17 February 2005
Robert Louis Stevenson: A Biography 
by Claire Harman.
HarperCollins, 503 pp., £25, February 2005, 0 00 711321 8
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...  and loved mincing around its shortcomings – but saw him as ‘an indispensable light’. To others he appeared like a wraith or a tramp or a bag of bones, a hollow-eyed, coughing wretch. Henry Adams thought he looked like ‘an insane stork’, and to the people of Samoa in the 1890s he was a king or a sort of god, Tusi Tala, ‘teller of tales’. He is variously described by witnesses as ...

Bonfire in Merrie England

Richard Wilson: Shakespeare’s Burning

3 May 2017
... an awful lot of smoke’ pouring from the back of the building. When she told her aunt she was reassured that it was only ‘Mr Gisbourne’s bonfire’. An hour later, the theatre manageress, Alice Rainbow, was finally warned that the building was on fire. She ran through the theatre opening all the doors and windows in the misguided hope that this would curb it. By early afternoon, as Sally ...

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