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Under the Staircase

Karl Whitney: Hans Jonathan, Runaway Slave, 19 October 2017

The Man Who Stole Himself: The Slave Odyssey of Hans Jonathan 
by Gisli Palsson, translated by Anna Yates.
Chicago, 288 pp., £19, October 2016, 978 0 226 31328 3
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... In the spring​ of 1801 a young man called Hans Jonathan left the mansion in Copenhagen where he worked as a slave. Going for a walk was allowed: despite his status, he had a degree of autonomy within the walls of the city, then a thriving port with around one hundred thousand inhabitants. But this time he didn’t return. His owner, Henrietta Cathrina Schimmelmann, reported his escape to the police, claiming he had stolen money from her son ...

Kay Demarest’s War

Penelope Fitzgerald, 17 September 1987

The Other Garden 
by Francis Wyndham.
Cape, 106 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 0 224 02475 2
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The Engine of Owl-Light 
by Sebastian Barry.
Carcanet, 390 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 85635 704 9
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A Singular Attraction 
by Ita Daly.
Cape, 144 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 224 02438 8
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Cold Spring Harbor 
by Richard Yates.
Methuen, 182 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 413 14420 8
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The Changeling 
by Catharine Arnold.
Hodder, 223 pp., £9.95, July 1987, 0 340 40542 2
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... him to laugh this out with the author), and in this character he talks beguilingly and not unlike Anna Livia Plurabelle: ‘Moll, your hand is too cold for me shins. Your hand is too cold for all and aught.’ According to the book’s epigraph from Sir Thomas Browne, the considering man ‘may conceive himself in some manner to have lived from the beginning ...

The First Hundred Years

James Buchan, 24 August 1995

John Buchan: The Presbyterian Cavalier 
by Andrew Lownie.
Constable, 365 pp., £20, July 1995, 0 09 472500 4
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... downtable), but with two English writers of almost unbelievable crudity, ‘Sapper’ and Dornford Yates. Despite defences of John Buchan by Gertrude Himmelfarb in an essay in Encounter in 1960, and Janet Adam Smith in her biography of 1965, the mud stuck. By the end of the Sixties in England, John Buchan was sinking towards oblivion, the sort of forgotten ...

For the Sake of the Dollars

Lynne Vallone: The original Siamese twins, 12 September 2019

Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History 
by Yunte Huang.
Liveright, 416 pp., £11.99, May 2019, 978 1 63149 545 8
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... to everyone apart from the brothers themselves and the local sisters, Sarah and Adelaide Yates, who accepted their proposals – much to the horror of their parents. The two couples were married in April 1843 and returned home, where an extra-wide bed awaited them. The newspapers were filled with speculation about and condemnation of what went on in ...

I just let him have his beer

Christopher Tayler: John Williams Made it Work, 19 December 2019

The Man who Wrote the Perfect Novel: John Williams, ‘Stoner’ and the Writing Life 
by Charles Shields.
Texas, 305 pp., £23.99, October 2018, 978 1 4773 1736 5
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Nothing but the Night 
by John Williams.
NYRB, 144 pp., $14.95, February 2019, 978 1 68137 307 2
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... 2003 and NYRB Classics did the same three years later. Then, in 2011, a translation into French by Anna Gavalda, a popular novelist, became a bestseller. Spanish, German and Italian translations also did well, and for five weeks in 2013 Stoner was the bestselling novel in the Netherlands. Vintage’s marketing team went to work and more than 160,000 copies ...

Sisyphus at the Selectric

James Wolcott: Undoing Philip Roth, 20 May 2021

Philip Roth: The Biography 
by Blake Bailey.
Cape, 898 pp., £30, April, 978 0 224 09817 5
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Philip Roth: A Counterlife 
by Ira Nadel.
Oxford, 546 pp., £22.99, May, 978 0 19 984610 8
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Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth 
by Benjamin Taylor.
Penguin, 192 pp., £18, May 2020, 978 0 525 50524 2
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... chose Blake Bailey, the well-regarded biographer of Charles Jackson (The Lost Weekend), Richard Yates and John Cheever, three alcohol-plagued novelists whose torments kept late hours. As it happened Atlas would outlive Roth only by a year, dying in September 2019 from complications of a lung condition. At the close of Remembering Roth, he bids sad adieu to ...

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