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Madd Men

Mark Kishlansky: Gerrard Winstanley

17 February 2011
The Complete Works of Gerrard Winstanley 
by Thomas Corns, Ann Hughes and David Loewenstein.
Oxford, 1065 pp., £189, December 2009, 978 0 19 957606 7
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... version of the tracts that would have facilitated analysis of Winstanley’s ideas. Nevertheless, the editors, David Loewenstein and Thomas Corns, both professors of English, and a historian, AnnHughes, have brought to bear on them deep learning about textual and editorial matters. This is everything one could ask for in a scholarly edition. There may be room to question the inclusion of The True ...

Last in the Funhouse

Patrick Parrinder

17 April 1986
Gerald’s Party 
by Robert Coover.
Heinemann, 316 pp., £10.95, April 1986, 0 434 14290 5
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Caracole 
by Edmund White.
Picador, 342 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 330 29291 9
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Lake Wobegon Days 
by Garrison Keillor.
Faber, 337 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 571 13846 2
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In Country 
by Bobbie Ann​ Mason.
Chatto, 245 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 7011 3034 2
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... Party as the work of a writer imprisoned in his own success. If this were to be the last of the funhouse novels I doubt if anyone would complain very much. Edmund White, Garrison Keillor and Bobbie Ann Mason belong to the generation of American writers born during the Second World War. White’s Caracole is set in an imaginary country, part European and part Third World, in the midst of a pre ...

Damn all

Scott Malcomson

23 September 1993
Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America 
by Robert Hughes.
Oxford, 224 pp., £12.95, June 1993, 0 19 507676 1
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... is far enough from my wish. I must be put on my defence, I must take up the gauntlet continually, or I find I lose ground ‘I am nothing, if not critical.’ The predicament is one which Robert Hughes shares with Hazlitt, of whom Keats gamely wrote: ‘if ever I am damn’d – damn me if I shouldn’t like him to damn me.’ In Culture of Complaint (a bestseller in the US), Hughes damns damn near ...

No wonder it ached

Dinah Birch: George Eliot

13 May 1999
The Journals of George Eliot 
edited by Margaret Harris and Judith Johnston.
Cambridge, 447 pp., £55, February 1999, 0 521 57412 9
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George Eliot: The Last Victorian 
by Kathryn Hughes.
Fourth Estate, 384 pp., £20, November 1998, 1 85702 420 6
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... as Mary Anne Evans, daughter of Robert Evans, a sturdy and prosperous land agent in Warwickshire. But Mary Anne sounds rather like a servant’s name (the White Rabbit’s housemaid is called Mary Ann). As the rising fortunes of the family gave her a lady’s education, she began to experiment and adapt – trying out Marianne, losing the final ‘e’, and later settling on Marian. Throughout her ...

I’m an intelligence

Joanna Biggs: Sylvia Plath at 86

20 December 2018
The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. I: 1940-56 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1388 pp., £35, September 2017, 978 0 571 32899 4
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The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. II: 1956-63 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1025 pp., £35, September 2018, 978 0 571 33920 4
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... Then the next day: ‘No mail. Who am I? Why should a poet be a novelist? Why not?’ Then, in late 1962, after she’d torn the phoneline out of the wall during an argument with her husband, Ted Hughes, and he had left her and their two infant children in Devon, there were only letters. ‘I am fine,’ she wrote to her mother in America. ‘Just need a settled nanny & to rest & write & letters. I ...

Picassomania

Mary Ann​ Caws: Roland Penrose’s notebooks

19 October 2006
Visiting Picasso: The Notebooks and Letters of Roland Penrose 
by Elizabeth Cowling.
Thames and Hudson, 408 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 500 51293 0
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... Picasso as a ‘victim of his own absurdly inflated reputation’. So far as Penrose was concerned, Picasso was a force of nature, whose unique vitality was just as evident in his late work. Robert Hughes was scathing in Time magazine: The last Picassos are also the worst. It seems hardly imaginable that so great a painter could have whipped off, even in old age, such hasty and superficial doodles ...

Jihad

James Wood

5 August 1993
TheNew Poetry 
edited by Michael Hulse, David Kennedy and David Morley.
Bloodaxe, 352 pp., £25, May 1993, 1 85224 244 2
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Who Whispered Near Me 
by Killarney Clary.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, February 1993, 1 85224 149 7
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Sunset Grill 
by Anne Rouse.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, March 1993, 1 85224 219 1
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Half Moon Bay 
by Paul Mills.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £6.95, February 1993, 9781857540000
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Shoah 
by Harry Smart.
Faber, 74 pp., £5.99, April 1993, 0 571 16793 4
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The Autonomous Region 
by Kathleen Jamie.
Bloodaxe, 79 pp., £7.95, March 1993, 9781852241735
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Collected Poems 
by F.T. Prince.
Carcanet, 319 pp., £25, March 1993, 1 85754 030 1
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Stirring Stuff 
by Selwyn Pritchard.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 145 pp., £8.99, April 1993, 9781856193085
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News from the Brighton Front 
by Nicki Jackowska.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 86 pp., £7.99, April 1993, 1 85619 306 3
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Translations from the Natural World 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 67 pp., £6.95, March 1993, 1 85754 005 0
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... to remind us that the subtext in Larkin, even when his subject was horses at grass, rarely strayed far from the political decline of England.’ Later, in a sudden frenzy, they claim that ‘Carol Ann Duffy’s work is written out of a conviction that poetry must get its hands dirty if it is to take on the enemy and help preserve a liberal society and humanist culture.’ Of course, they don’t ...

I blame Foucault

Jenny Diski: Bush’s women

22 September 2005
Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species 
by Laura Flanders.
Verso, 342 pp., £10, July 2005, 1 84467 530 0
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... W. stands for women,’ cried Barbara Bush, Laura Bush, Lynne Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Karen Hughes, Elaine Chao and Gale Ann Norton at the 2004 Republican National Convention, and in case the Good Ol’ Boy’s good old ladies didn’t get it, a banner explained: ‘The country and my administration have benefited from the ...

On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move

13 September 2018
Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... loss of the great sense of strangeness, splitting, wounding, of the irresolvable interior and exterior drama that is to be found in Fighting Terms. Gunn’s first Selected, a volume shared with Ted Hughes, came out in 1962, when he had published only three books of poetry. It was to sell more than eighty thousand copies. The original idea was also to include Philip Larkin, a poet both Gunn and Hughes ...

Grendel gongan

Richard North

10 October 1991
The Cambridge Companion to Old English Literature 
by Malcolm Godden and Michael Lapidge.
Cambridge, 298 pp., £30, June 1991, 0 521 37438 3
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... was going to be my dish... I learned enough to read it, and Anglo-Saxon and Middle English poetry have been one of my strongest, most lasting influences.’ Readers might wonder where the poetry of Hughes, Heaney or Hill would be without some filtering of the tradition of Old English accentual poetry through Auden or Hopkins. Hopkins’s use of Old English is well-known (‘a vastly superior thing to ...

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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... offs lie elsewhere. Prosy even in the entries devoted to Heaney and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, its postwar section makes room for Monty Python but not Geoffrey Hill, or Tony Harrison, or Thom Gunn, or Ted Hughes, or Craig Raine, or James Fenton, or Paul Muldoon, all of whom the Norton squeezes in at the eleventh hour. Ricks, for whom Heaney provides an effective endpoint, is probably right that many ...

Callaloo

Robert Crawford

20 April 1989
Northlight 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 81 pp., £8.95, September 1988, 0 571 15229 5
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A Field of Vision 
by Charles Causley.
Macmillan, 68 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 333 48229 8
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Seeker, Reaper 
by George Campbell Hay and Archie MacAlister.
Saltire Society, 30 pp., £15, September 1988, 0 85411 041 0
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In Through the Head 
by William McIlvanney.
Mainstream, 192 pp., £9.95, September 1988, 1 85158 169 3
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The New British Poetry 
edited by Gillian Allnutt, Fred D’Aguiar, Ken Edwards and Eric Mottram.
Paladin, 361 pp., £6.95, September 1988, 0 586 08765 6
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Complete Poems 
by Martin Bell, edited by Peter Porter.
Bloodaxe, 240 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 1 85224 043 1
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First and Always: Poems for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital 
edited by Lawrence Sail.
Faber, 69 pp., £5.95, October 1988, 0 571 55374 5
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Birthmarks 
by Mick Imlah.
Chatto, 61 pp., £4.95, September 1988, 0 7011 3358 9
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... need for some such common cultural home seems evident in many of the themes and titles of the poems selected, such as Gillian Allnutt’s ‘Alien’, Eavan Boland’s ‘The Oral Tradition’, Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Telephoning home’ and ‘Foreign’, Selima Hill’s ‘Crossing the Desert in a Pram’, Maria Jastrzebska’s ‘Bi-lingual’, and Evangeline Paterson’s ‘Dispossessed’. There ...

Sex’n’Love

Blake Morrison

21 February 1991
The Chatto Book of Love Poetry 
edited by John Fuller.
Chatto, 374 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 7011 3453 4
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The Faber Book of Blue Verse 
edited by John Whitworth.
Faber, 305 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 571 14095 5
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Self-Portrait with a Slide 
by Hugo Williams.
Oxford, 62 pp., £5.95, June 1990, 0 19 282744 8
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The Virago Book of Love Poetry 
edited by Wendy Mulford.
Virago, 288 pp., £6.99, November 1990, 1 85381 030 4
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Erotica: An Anthology of Women’s Writing 
edited by Margaret Reynolds, foreword by Jeanette Winterson .
Pandora, 362 pp., £19.99, November 1990, 9780044406723
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Daddy, Daddy 
by Paul Durcan.
Blackstaff, 185 pp., £5.95, August 1990, 0 85640 446 2
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... than anything, the blue verse tradition is about being in control – of your verse-form as well as your feelings. There is no room in this tradition for a poem about sexual compulsion such as Ted Hughes’s ‘A Childish Prank’. Instead of Hughes, we get (three times) Kingsley Amis’s nonplussed Evans, who straight after his father’s funeral arranges to meet his mistress in the pub: You’ll ...

Dream On

Katha Pollitt: Bringing up Babies

11 September 2003
I Don't Know How She Does It 
by Allison Pearson.
Vintage, 256 pp., £6.99, May 2003, 0 09 942838 5
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A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother 
by Rachel Cusk.
Fourth Estate, 224 pp., £6.99, July 2002, 1 84115 487 3
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The Truth about Babies: From A-Z 
by Ian Sansom.
Granta, 352 pp., £6.99, June 2003, 1 86207 575 1
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What Are Children For? 
by Laurie Taylor and Matthew Taylor.
Short Books, 141 pp., £6.99, January 2003, 1 904095 25 9
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The Commercialisation of Intimate Life 
by Arlie Russell Hochschild.
California, 313 pp., £32.95, May 2003, 0 520 21487 0
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... tone yourself down, and do it sooner rather than later. To the puzzlement of pundits and despite masses of publicity, these books tend to languish on the shelves. The commercial flop of Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s Baby Hunger (published in the US as Creating a Life) was noted on the front page of the New York Times. But why the surprise? Only women buy this kind of book about women, and women know ...

Hoist that dollymop’s sail

John Sutherland: New Victorian Novels

31 October 2002
Fingersmith 
by Sarah Waters.
Virago, 549 pp., £12.99, February 2002, 1 86049 882 5
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The Crimson Petal and the White 
by Michel Faber.
Canongate, 838 pp., £17.99, October 2002, 1 84195 323 7
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... hand. It can’t have been easy either for Faber, who reportedly spent 12 years writing and researching his (appropriately massive) novel. Some think it time well spent. Faber’s American publisher, Ann Patty, prefaces her edition of The Crimson Petal and the White with the declaration: ‘Dear Reader, You hold in your hands the first great 19th-century novel of the 21st century. In my 25 years this ...

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