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Perfect Light

Jenny Diski, 9 July 1992

Diana: Her True Story 
by Andrew Morton.
Michael O’Mara, 165 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 1 85479 191 5
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Shared Lives 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 285 pp., £16.99, April 1992, 0 7475 1164 0
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Antonia White: Diaries 1958-1979 
edited by Susan Chitty.
Constable, 352 pp., £19.95, May 1992, 0 09 470660 3
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... each other, and I recognised the not-quite-extraterrestrial, dumpy, middle-aged forms of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton panting their way up the hill. The glow was not, of course, from their outward perfection, nor their inner beauty and wisdom, but the result of years and years of attention from precision-ground lenses and high-wattage lights being ...

Lost in Beauty

Michael Newton: Montgomery Clift, 7 October 2010

The Passion of Montgomery Clift 
by Amy Lawrence.
California, 333 pp., £16.95, May 2010, 978 0 520 26047 4
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... version of Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), Clift lets the women take centre-stage; it’s Elizabeth Taylor’s film, then Katharine Hepburn’s. Here, as in Freud, he’s a ‘listener’. Of all the early films, it’s in the last, Vittorio De Sica’s excellent (though butchered) Indiscretion of an American Wife (1953) that Clift takes the greatest ...

From culture to couture

Penelope Gilliatt, 21 February 1985

The ‘Vogue’ Bedside Book 
edited by Josephine Ross.
Hutchinson, 256 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 09 158520 1
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The Art of Zandra Rhodes 
by Anne Knight and Zandra Rhodes.
Cape, 240 pp., £18, November 1984, 0 395 37940 7
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... represented in this book is – and very funny about women’s insistence on the human; Elizabeth Taylor on Ivy Compton-Burnett (1951), remarking that her heroine’s bi-nominal titles can make reading a solicitor on ‘Landlords and Tenants’ an exciting prospect. Infected as one is bound to be by the style of a writer that one admires enough to write ...

Meg, Jo, Beth and Me

Elaine Showalter, 23 March 1995

Little Women 
directed by Gillian Armstrong.
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... Solt wrote Mervyn LeRoy’s 1949 remake, with June Allyson as Jo, Janet Leigh as Meg, Elizabeth Taylor as Amy and Margaret O’Brien as Beth. Peter Lawford played a glamorous Laurie – indeed, the screenplay describes Laurie as looking ‘not unlike our idea of Edgar Allan Poe’. Armstrong’s Little Women is the most British and Pickwickian of the ...

What Blair Threw Away

Ross McKibbin: Feckless, Irresponsible and Back in Power, 19 May 2005

... leader. In reply to the argument that in 1931 Ramsay MacDonald had to think of the nation, A.J.P. Taylor once said that he shouldn’t have been thinking of the country, he should have been thinking of the Labour Party. Blair, too, should have been thinking of the Labour Party. What on earth did he imagine was going to happen in those seats where the Muslim ...

Inside Mr Shepherd

James Wood: In conversation with Jane Austen, 4 November 2004

Jane Austen and the Morality of Conversation 
by Bharat Tandon.
Anthem, 303 pp., £45, March 2003, 1 84331 101 1
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Jane Austen, or The Secret of Style 
by D.A. Miller.
Princeton, 108 pp., £12.95, September 2003, 0 691 09075 0
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... about the ideological price of that harmony. Do Emma and Mr Knightley, Elizabeth and Darcy, Anne and Captain Wentworth, Fanny and Edmund, represent ideal or merely idealised marriages? Do Austen’s novels foreclose their own vitality by choosing the safety of proper settlements? Are romance and marriage at odds ...

Her pen made the first move

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 7 July 1994

Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Chatto, 418 pp., £17.99, March 1994, 9780701161378
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Shared Lives 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Vintage, 285 pp., £6.99, March 1994, 0 09 942461 4
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The Sickroom in Victorian Fiction: The Art of Being Ill 
by Miriam Bailin.
Cambridge, 169 pp., £30, April 1994, 0 521 44526 4
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... intimate relations with the other women in her life. One of these, the outspoken feminist Mary Taylor, emigrated to New Zealand, never married, and eventually published a polemical novel, Miss Miles, or A Tale of Yorkshire Life Sixty Years Ago (1890), whose evident kinship with Brontë’s Shirley prompts Gordon to wonder what Charlotte said in the many ...

Shockers

Jeremy Treglown, 6 August 1992

Writers on World War Two: An Anthology 
edited by Mordecai Richler.
Chatto, 752 pp., £18.99, February 1992, 0 7011 3912 9
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Legacies and Ambiguities: Post-war Fiction and Culture in West Germany and Japan 
edited by Ernestine Schlant and Thomas Rimer.
Woodrow Wilson Center Press/Johns Hopkins, 323 pp., $35, February 1992, 0 943875 30 7
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... Natalia Ginzburg, Shirley Hazzard, Doris Lessing and many other women writers are here (but not Anne Frank or Hannah Arendt), and among the more unexpected selections are the reminiscences of Soviet women, collected, Studs Terkel-wise, by Julia Voznesenskaya. The reaction to The Naked and the Dead perpetuated into peacetime one of the standard responses of ...

A Hammer in His Hands

Frank Kermode: Lowell’s Letters, 22 September 2005

The Letters of Robert Lowell 
edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 852 pp., £30, July 2005, 0 571 20204 7
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... were all self-consciously poètes maudits, and they all died before Lowell. So did his pupils Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. Dying at 60, Lowell, for all his self-destructive ways, was a survivor. Speaking of life in Boston during one of his spells there, Lowell tells Bishop that ‘in some groups we’ – he and his wife – ‘seem unspeakably strange ...

Tell me everything

Joanna Biggs: Facebook Feminism, 11 April 2013

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead 
by Sheryl Sandberg.
W.H. Allen, 230 pp., £14.99, March 2013, 978 0 7535 4162 3
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The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network 
by Katherine Losse.
Free Press, 256 pp., £18.99, July 2012, 978 1 4516 6825 4
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... Facebook may have started as a way to rank one woman’s hotness over another’s, but it has been quick to produce its first feminists. Everything goes faster in Silicon Valley: code is written overnight; engineers get around the office on aerodynamic skateboards called RipStiks; a company less than ten years old is worth $104 billion for a day before losing $35 billion in value ...

The Crowe is White

Hilary Mantel: Bloody Mary, 24 September 2009

Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor 
by Eamon Duffy.
Yale, 249 pp., £19.99, June 2009, 978 0 300 15216 6
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... had the opportunity to go into hiding or, if they had the connections, to flee abroad. Rowland Taylor was a friend of Cranmer and was married to William Tyndale’s niece. Arrested, released, arrested, he had plenty of chances to keep clear of the authorities, but ‘Verbum Dei made us goo to London.’ He was burned on the same day as Bishop Hooper, who ...

Don’t wear yum-yum yellow

Theo Tait: Shark Attack!, 2 August 2012

Demon Fish: Travels through the Hidden World of Sharks 
by Juliet Eilperin.
Duckworth, 295 pp., £18.99, January 2012, 978 0 7156 4291 7
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... motivation are no consolation if your ‘encounter’ turns out like this: The victim, Shirley Anne Durdin, was snorkelling for scallops with her husband, Barry, and a friend, Keith Coventry, out from Wiseman’s Beach, Peake Bay, South Australia. Peake Bay had always been a popular picnic spot and the beach was dotted with families, including Mrs ...

Reduced to Ashes and Rubbage

Jessie Childs: Civil War Traumas, 3 January 2019

Battle-Scarred: Mortality, Medical Care and Military Welfare in the British Civil Wars 
edited by David Appleby and Andrew Hopper.
Manchester, 247 pp., £80, July 2018, 978 1 5261 2480 7
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... onwards, they are downplayed. I would guess that more people know the date of the execution of Anne Boleyn than of Charles I. Writers found events hard to comprehend at the time. ‘Whosoever will be curious to read the future story of this intricate Warre,’ the royalist pamphleteer James Howell wrote in 1644, ‘will find himself much stagger’d, and ...

Mandela: Death of a Politician

Stephen W. Smith: Mandela, the Politician, 9 January 2014

... opinion, which has now canonised Mandela, would be outraged were a ‘warlord’ such as Charles Taylor not brought to justice, though Taylor gave up power in 2003 when he left Monrovia for exile in Nigeria. In 2006, when the former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano negotiated with Joseph Kony for his peaceful ...

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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... provenance’, but never quite decides what it does seek to be. Judicious selections from Edward Taylor and Anne Bradstreet extend the anthology’s reach beyond what Ricks terms ‘our precious stones from Land’s End to John o’Groats, leave alone the emerald of Ireland’. On the other hand, the editorial policy ...

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