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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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... biographers would never understand her horror of falsity. How does a biographer, accustomed to delve 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 ...

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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... Barack was determined to be at the centre of whatever shifts occurred. The East-West Center encouraged 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 ...

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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... which is often said to be psychosomatic (though never by any one who has had asthma), and an inability to settle for long in one place. Her restlessness meant, as her biographers Ruth First and AnnScott 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 ...

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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... a couple of years later, when Olive was 11, the father, ‘a pious, dreamy, ineffectual, German missionary’, was forced out of the ministry for trading and promptly went bankrupt. As Ruth First and AnnScott 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 ...

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 ...
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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... structure of the book. However, it is quite possible to ignore or postpone the historical documents 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 ...

Iraq, 2 May 2005

Andrew O’Hagan: Two Soldiers

6 March 2008
... family, ‘and they’re treated like gods in certain schools.’ The photograph accompanying the article 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 ...

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 ...

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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... back to her mother Nancy, a strict Christian widow. But across the river was Ironton, Ohio, and there 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 ...

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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... bombings undertaken by Spectre to nudge nine governments into pooling their intelligence resources 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 ...
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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... eight hundred million people in the world live in constant fear of starvation. Under the circumstances, 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 ...

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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... rectifies this inattention by reminding us that novels (or versions of them) were often anthologised. 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 ...

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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... cadenced prose. A multitude of European and American writers over the last three centuries have found 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 ...

Boundary Books

Margaret Meek

21 February 1980
Kate Crackernuts 
by Katharine Briggs.
Kestrel, 224 pp., £2.95, September 1980, 0 7226 5557 6
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Socialisation through Children’s Literature: The Soviet Example 
by Felicity Ann​ O’Dell.
Cambridge, 278 pp., £14, January 1979, 9780521219686
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Divide and Rule 
by Jan Mark.
Kestrel, 248 pp., £3.50, October 1980, 0 7226 5620 3
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... change in her apart from the change brought about by shock and her own imagination. Our grasp of the meaning of the event enhances the power of the magic. The dialect is as authentic as anything in Scott and promotes the arresting strangeness. The text balances plain telling with charged saying. Its author expects the discourse to strike deep chords, though we may, if Scots and Yorkshire are ...

Shatost

John Bayley

16 June 1983
Dostoevsky and ‘The Idiot’: Author, Narrator and Reader 
by Robin Feuer Miller.
Harvard, 296 pp., £16, October 1981, 0 674 21490 0
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Dostoevsky 
by John Jones.
Oxford, 365 pp., £15, May 1983, 9780198126454
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New Essays on Dostoyevsky 
edited by Malcolm Jones and Garth Terry.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £25, March 1983, 0 521 24890 6
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The Art of Dostoevsky: Deliriums and Nocturnes 
by Robert Louis Jackson.
Princeton, 380 pp., £17.60, January 1982, 0 691 06484 9
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... the language, the sense of things, the reality, or rather the thereness, of objects and people. The novel did not invent such reality, but has developed its conjuration into a fine art. Think of Scott, virtually the founder of the great classic novel, and his unemphatic and impenetrable ability to seem to order and control experience, to give a self to history and to men and women in history. From ...

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