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Freedom

Lyndall Gordon, 18 September 1980

Olive Schreiner: A Biography 
by Ruth First and Ann Scott.
Deutsch, 383 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 233 97152 1
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... for a buried self, relate to a person who presents herself directly, without a mask? First and Scott record the events and emotions of Schreiner’s life with minute fidelity, but the living, brilliant-eyed woman escapes yet another attempt to pin her down. Her openness remains too disconcerting; her positions, which defy categorisation, seem to these ...

Megawoman

Penelope Fitzgerald, 13 October 1988

Olive Schreiner: Letters. Vol. 1: 1871-1899 
edited by Richard Rive.
Oxford, 409 pp., £30, February 1988, 0 19 812220 9
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... to settle for long in one place. Her restlessness meant, as her biographers Ruth First and Ann Scott point out, that she ‘lacked a constituency’. In spite of her record of friendships, she felt the pain of isolation, both personal and political. ‘Indeed the two were joined, for her sense of politics included the necessity for the individual ...

A History of Disappointment

Jackson Lears: Obama’s Parents, 5 January 2012

The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father 
by Sally Jacobs.
Public Affairs, 336 pp., £20, July 2011, 978 1 58648 793 5
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A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother 
by Janny Scott.
Riverhead, 384 pp., £18.99, May 2011, 978 1 59448 797 2
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... global ambitions and enticed the hopeful young. One of them was a girl from Seattle called Ann Dunham, who became Barack’s wife and the president’s mother. Her father Stanley was restless and ineffectual, a furniture salesman full of big plans and bad jokes; her mother Madelyn was ambitious and competent, a bank vice president whose favourite ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland, 11 July 1991

The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... was forced out of the ministry for trading and promptly went bankrupt. As Ruth First and Ann Scott tell us in their 1980 biography of Schreiner, this catastrophe ‘scattered the children and marked the end of the family home’. It seems, on the face of it, as noteworthy as the maternal spanking. The Companion is similarly silent about ...

Sergeant Farthing

D.A.N. Jones, 17 October 1985

A Maggot 
by John Fowles.
Cape, 460 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 224 02806 5
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The Romances of John Fowles 
by Simon Loveday.
Macmillan, 164 pp., £25, August 1985, 0 333 31518 9
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... and the author’s disquisitions, these ‘distancing’ devices. We might skip them, like Walter Scott’s footnotes, and pursue the thread of the story through the Q.-and-A. pattern, governed by the persistent investigator. He is a lawyer called Ayscough, sceptical, devious and sometimes choleric (or feigning to be so) and he works for a client whom he ...

Iraq, 2 May 2005

Andrew O’Hagan: Two Soldiers, 6 March 2008

... is of a tousle-haired, clean-limbed and smiling John Spahr, looking like a tragic hero out of Scott Fitzgerald. Why does one of the very best scholastic rowers in the United States go to school in North Philadelphia – when he lives in Cherry Hill? ‘It was just word of mouth,’ said John Spahr, who won the Junior National Singles championship last ...

The Danger of Giving In

Andrew Saint: George Gilbert Scott Jr, 17 October 2002

An Architect of Promise: George Gilbert Scott Jr (1839-97) and the Late Gothic Revival 
by Gavin Stamp.
Shaun Tyas, 427 pp., £49.50, July 2002, 1 900289 51 2
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... First, sort out your Scotts. George Gilbert Scott (1811-78), hereafter Sir Gilbert, designed the Albert Memorial, the Foreign Office and the tumultuous cliff of a hotel that shields St Pancras Station. A spiteful ditty, summing up the Victorian business of church restoration, also accounted him first among ‘the earnest band that spoiled half the churches in the land ...

Bang-Bang, Kiss-Kiss

Christian Lorentzen: Bond, 3 December 2015

Spectre 
directed by Sam Mendes.
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The Man with the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters 
edited by Fergus Fleming.
Bloomsbury, 391 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6547 7
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Ian Fleming: A Personal Memoir 
by Robert Harling.
Robson, 372 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 84 95493 65 1
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... in a single programme called ‘Nine Eyes’. A strong proponent of this project is C (Andrew Scott, who wouldn’t look out of place in Cameron’s cabinet), who is intent on merging MI5 and MI6, and a Spectre mole. Shuttering the double-0 programme and retiring Bond are on C’s agenda: 007 is obsolete in the age of drones and wiretaps. This is the ...

None of it is your material

Madeleine Schwartz: What Zelda Did, 18 April 2019

Save Me the Waltz 
by Zelda Fitzgerald.
Handheld Press, 268 pp., £12.99, January 2019, 978 1 9998280 4 2
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... Véra Nabokov​ , Nora Joyce, Ann Malamud, Vivien Eliot – the list of literary victim-wives is long, but none commands as much attention as Zelda Fitzgerald. Recent years have treated her husband unkindly, or maybe truthfully, exposing more drinking and more affairs, but decades after Zelda’s death in a North Carolina asylum, her cult is teeming with new acolytes ...

Gosserie

J.I.M. Stewart, 5 April 1984

Edmund Gosse: A Literary Landscape 1849-1928 
by Ann Thwaite.
Secker, 567 pp., £15, April 1984, 0 436 52146 6
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... addressed to his son the letter of ‘crowning importance’ upon which the Epilogue closes. But Ann Thwaite, in her admirable biography, produces something definite: Gosse wrote a long reply to this letter on 19 January 1870, three years after he left home to take up his employment in the Museum. Significantly, perhaps, the reply has a good deal to say ...

The way out of a room is not through the door

Christian Lorentzen: Charles Manson, 7 November 2013

Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson 
by Jeff Guinn.
Simon and Schuster, 495 pp., £20, August 2013, 978 0 85720 893 4
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... she could dance at a club called Ritzy Ray’s. That might have been the place she met Colonel Scott, a small-time local con artist who made his dimes collecting tolls from drivers crossing a free bridge. When Kathleen got pregnant, Scott told her he’d been summoned away on military business. In fact, he was a civilian ...

Noovs’ hoovs in the trough

Angela Carter, 24 January 1985

The Official Foodie Handbook 
by Ann Barr and Paul Levy.
Ebury, 144 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 85223 348 5
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An Omelette and a Glass of Wine 
by Elizabeth David.
Hale, 318 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 7090 2047 3
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Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook 
by Alice Waters, foreword by Jane Grigson .
Chatto, 340 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 7011 2820 8
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... it might indeed make good 20th-century sense to worship food, but punters of ‘foodism’ (as Ann Barr and Paul Levy jokily dub this phenomenon) are evidently not about to drop to their knees because they are starving.‘Foodies’, according to Barr and Levy, are ‘children of the consumer boom’ who consider ‘food to be an art, on a level with ...

Skipping

Claudia Johnson: The history of the novel, 8 March 2001

The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel: From Richardson to George Eliot 
by Leah Price.
Cambridge, 224 pp., £35, September 2000, 0 521 78208 2
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... Most modern readers will never have heard of Beauties of Sterne, the Wit and Wisdom of Sir Walter Scott, George Eliot’s Sayings, or the Thomas Hardy Calendar, and the few who have actually looked inside such volumes will have done so only because the ‘real’ copy of the novel they were seeking had already been taken out of the library. Trained in a ...

Post-Cullodenism

Robert Crawford, 3 October 1996

The Poems of Ossian and Related Works 
by James Macpherson, edited by Howard Gaskill.
Edinburgh, 573 pp., £16.95, January 1996, 0 7486 0707 2
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... direct or indirect sustenance in Macpherson’s poems: Burns’s visionary ‘duans’; Walter Scott’s ‘translations’ of ‘Highland Minstrelsy’ in Waverley; Fenimore Cooper’s translatorese standing in for Native American languages; Byron’s ‘Imitation of Macpherson’s Ossian’; Goethe’s Werther; and Thomas Jefferson, who said that Ossian ...

Barbie Gets a Life

Lorna Scott Fox, 20 July 1995

Barbie’s Queer Accessories 
by Erica Rand.
Duke, 213 pp., £43.50, July 1995, 0 8223 1604 8
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The Art of Barbie: Artists Celebrate the World’s Favourite Doll 
edited by Craig Yoe.
Workman, 149 pp., £14.99, October 1994, 1 56305 751 4
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... an intense desire to get Barbie into an elevator – quite common, apparently. The otherwise mousy Ann used to paint nipples on her and rub them off, over and over, when the parents were out. Barbie turned someone’s sister into an alien: ‘Now she’s just like her. She’s materialistic. And now her daughters are into Barbie.’ A sub-section called ...

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