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Stand the baby on its head

John Bayley, 22 July 1993

The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales 
edited by Alison Luire.
Oxford, 455 pp., £17.95, May 1993, 0 19 214218 6
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The Second Virago Book of Fairy Tales 
edited by Angela Carter.
Virago, 230 pp., £7.99, July 1993, 1 85381 616 7
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... meaning is clear but coyly hidden, as in many modern fictions; although the examples sought out by Alison Lurie have as much cunning and high spirits in them as the old tales. In Ursula LeGuin’s ‘The Wife’s Tale’ (1982) it takes us a few pages to spot that the wife is a wolf, her husband a mere man. But the meaning is always there, urging us to ...

Dressing and Undressing

Anita Brookner, 15 April 1982

The Language of Clothes 
by Alison Lurie.
Heinemann, 272 pp., £10, April 1982, 0 434 43906 1
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The Thirties Family Knitting Book 
edited by Jane Waller.
Duckworth, 95 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 0 7156 1601 3
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Chanel and Her World 
by Edmonde Charles-Roux.
Weidenfeld, 354 pp., £25, October 1981, 0 297 78024 7
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Dior in Vogue 
by Brigid Keenan.
Octopus, 192 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 7064 1634 1
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Creative Dressing 
by Kaori O’Connor.
Penguin, 192 pp., £4.95, September 1981, 1 4004 6247 9
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Doing it with style 
by Quentin Crisp.
Eyre Methuen, 157 pp., £5.95, October 1981, 0 413 47490 9
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... plaid blouses ... To be sure, academic gatherings are not noted for their elegance, but if, as Alison Lurie tells me, clothes are signifiers, or signs, or if, to put it another way, dressing is discourse, then there are several messages to be read here that would have spelled out disquieting news for Baudelaire. The first is that all degrees of ...

Amor vincit Vinnie

Marilyn Butler, 21 February 1985

Foreign Affairs 
by Alison Lurie.
Joseph, 291 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 0 7181 2516 9
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... of film is? Are these other readers encountering looking-glass versions of themselves? At least Alison Lurie’s Foreign Affairs turns out not to be the more familiar kind of campus novel. Its heroine Vinnie Miner is going to London to do research, but she is not visiting some windswept new or crumbling old campus, and will not have to cope with ...

Ruined by men

Anthony Thwaite, 1 September 1988

The Truth about Lorin Jones 
by Alison Lurie.
Joseph, 294 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 7181 3095 2
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Latecomers 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 248 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 224 02554 6
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Where the rivers meet 
by John Wain.
Hutchinson, 563 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 9780091736170
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About the Body 
by Christopher Burns.
Secker, 193 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 436 09784 2
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Stories 
by Elizabeth Jolley.
Viking, 312 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 670 82113 6
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... Alison Lurie’s new novel is, among other things, an anthology of several characters from her earlier novels. Readers unfamiliar with these books need not be apprehensive, however: The Truth about Lorin Jones is perfectly self-contained. Indeed, that self-contained quality helps to account for the powerful, painful oppressiveness of the book, as Polly Alter becomes more and more deeply enmeshed in her quest for the eponymous woman she is pursuing ...

Adrian

Peter Campbell, 5 December 1985

... accept their lot, and find their truth in Robert Westall’s novels of the Second World War. Alison Lurie, claiming that the best children’s books are ‘on the subversive side’, has said that ‘most of the lasting works of juvenile literature express feelings not generally approved of or even recognised by grownups.’ That applies to ...

Irishtown

D.A.N. Jones, 1 November 1984

Ironweed 
by William Kennedy.
Viking, 227 pp., £7.95, September 1984, 0 670 40176 5
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In Custody 
by Anita Desai.
Heinemann, 204 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 9780434186358
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Flaubert’s Parrot 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 190 pp., £8.50, October 1984, 0 241 11374 1
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... Poor Rudy replies: ‘You ain’t filthy. You got a new suit.’ Doris Grumbach, Joseph Heller and Alison Lurie have all praised this Albany novel, the two ladies admiring its ‘low comedy’ and its ‘rollicking, black wit’. Fair enough, I suppose: but I did not laugh much myself. The story is too rough and too credible to be amusing – too like a ...

More about Marilyn

Michael Church, 20 February 1986

Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe 
by Anthony Summers.
Gollancz, 414 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 575 03641 9
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Norma Jeane: The Life and Death of Marilyn Monroe 
by Fred Lawrence Guiles.
Granada, 377 pp., £12.95, June 1985, 0 246 12307 9
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Poor Little Rich Girl: The Life and Legend of Barbara Hutton 
by C. David Heymann.
Hutchinson, 390 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 09 146010 7
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Deams that money can buy: The Tragic Life of Libby Holman 
by Jon Bradshaw.
Cape, 431 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 224 02846 4
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All Those Tomorrows 
by Mai Zetterling.
Cape, 230 pp., £9.95, November 1985, 0 224 01841 8
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Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady 
by Florence King.
Joseph, 278 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 7181 2611 4
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... no part of it. She writes with the pace and aphoristic punch of an accomplished comic novelist (Alison Lurie praises her to the skies), but her judgments are grave and the emancipation she chronicles is both moving and ...

Remembering Janet Hobhouse

Elisa Segrave, 11 March 1993

... school with her mother, I was staying with her in Key West, in a house she had rented from Alison Lurie. When I had finished reading she asked anxiously: ‘Do you think it’s self-pitying?’ (It’s not, but it is heart-rending.) A few months later, in another rented house (East Hampton in August), she was furious with me for getting the pages ...

No Concubine

Mary Beard, 28 June 1990

The Oxford Book of Marriage 
edited by Helge Rubinstein.
Oxford, 383 pp., £15, March 1990, 0 19 214150 3
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The Oriental, the Ancient and the Primitive: Systems of Marriage and the Family in the Pre-Industrial Societies of Eurasia 
by Jack Goody.
Cambridge, 542 pp., £37.50, February 1990, 0 521 36574 0
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... they are ‘at best only half-truths’ – as if ‘truth’ was at issue, and Queen Victoria, Alison Lurie and Sheila Kitzinger were closer approximations to it. Within these limits, however, Rubinstein’s anthology has done its job efficiently and with some imagination. Despite its worryingly authoritative packaging (the ‘Oxford’ in the ...

Can you spot the source?

Wendy Doniger, 17 February 2000

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 
by J.K. Rowling.
Bloomsbury, 317 pp., £10.99, July 1999, 0 7475 4215 5
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... wizards call unmagical humans. This aspect of the story is familiar from mythological literature. Alison Lurie, praising the Harry Potter books in the New York Review of Books, saw in them ‘the common childhood fantasy that the dreary adults and siblings you live with are not your real family, that you are somehow special and gifted’. Freud called ...

Hoydens

Susannah Clapp, 18 February 1988

A Woman of Passion: The Life of E. Nesbit, 1858-1924 
by Julia Briggs.
Hutchinson, 473 pp., £16.95, November 1987, 9780091682101
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Narratives of Love and Loss: Studies in Modern Children’s Fiction 
by Margaret Rustin and Michael Rustin.
Verso, 268 pp., £22.95, November 1987, 9780860911876
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... for her fantasies, which lend themselves more readily to large speculations. Julia Briggs follows Alison Lurie and Gore Vidal in pointing to the vanity-of-human-wishes theme of these fantasies, and to their use of magic as a metaphor for the writer’s imagination. Margaret and Michael Rustin go further. Narratives of Love and Loss discusses ...

Good enough for Jesus

Charlotte Brewer, 25 January 1990

The State of the Language: 1990 Edition 
edited by Christopher Ricks and Leonard Michaels.
Faber, 531 pp., £17.50, January 1990, 9780571141821
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Clichés and Coinages 
by Walter Redfern.
Blackwell, 305 pp., £17.50, October 1989, 0 631 15691 7
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Rhetoric: The Wit of Persuasion 
by Walter Nash.
Blackwell, 241 pp., £25, October 1989, 0 631 16754 4
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... on modern television from Frederic Raphael, and views on editing (John Gross), Post-Structuralism (Alison Lurie) and computers. ‘Art’ in particular contains some notable essays, among them Walter Ong on subway graffiti, and the section opens with a splendidly passionate and ambitious piece by Margaret Doody on the revision of the hymnal used by ...

His Peach Stone

Christopher Tayler: J.G. Farrell, 2 December 2010

J.G. Farrell in His Own Words: Selected Letters and Diaries 
edited by Lavinia Greacen.
Cork, 464 pp., €19.95, September 2010, 978 1 85918 476 9
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... he respected or got on with were often women: Elizabeth Bowen, Olivia Manning, Margaret Drabble, Alison Lurie. The letters from Farrell’s years of post-Booker fame are an education in the glamour of English literary celebrity. ‘I don’t want to be interfering about your azalea,’ he writes to Drabble, ‘but shouldn’t it have more light?’ To ...

In the Anti-World

Nicholas Jenkins: Raymond Roussel, 6 September 2001

Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams 
by Mark Ford.
Faber, 312 pp., £25, November 2000, 0 571 17409 4
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... and using a homemade Ouija board all those years, seem positively peasant-like and self-reliant. Alison Lurie recently described Merrill in Connecticut, chatting in his kitchen as he sliced up ‘a ripe red tomato with his little serrated knife’. Roussel, by contrast, did not want any indication that the food on his plate in the carefully controlled ...

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