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Coming out with something

Susannah Clapp, 6 July 1989

Laughter and the Love of Friends: A Memoir 1945 to the Present Day 
by Ursula Wyndham.
Lennard, 208 pp., £14.95, March 1989, 1 85291 061 5
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1939: The Last Season of Peace 
by Angela Lambert.
Weidenfeld, 235 pp., £14.95, April 1989, 0 297 79539 2
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Rosehill: Portraits from a Midland City 
by Carol Lake.
Bloomsbury, 179 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 9780747503019
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... chap, but he did not volunteer.’ Nearly every bit of this vocabulary is foreign to the world of Carol Lake, which contains no balls, no volunteers and few workmen. Like Ursula Wyndham, Carol Lake is a single woman – no spinster – who is detached from but committed to the community in which she was brought ...

Lovers on a Train

Susannah Clapp, 10 January 1991

Carol 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Bloomsbury, 240 pp., £13.99, October 1990, 0 7475 0719 8
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... a stunned, Janet-and-John quality. But the restaurant served only beer and wine, so they left. Carol did not stop anywhere for her drink as they drove back towards New York. Carol asked her if she wanted to go home or come out to Carol’s house for a while, and Therese said to ...

Heads and Hearts

Patrick Parrinder, 28 May 1992

Underworld 
by Peter Conrad.
Chatto, 252 pp., £14.99, April 1992, 0 7011 3895 5
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A Case of Curiosities 
by Allen Kurzweil.
Hamish Hamilton, 358 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 0 241 13235 5
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Rotten Times 
by Paul Micou.
Bantam, 266 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 593 02621 7
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The Republic of Love 
by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 366 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 1 872180 88 4
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... Syndrome, brought on while he was shaving in an aircraft flying through a thunderstorm. Even Carol Shields’s The Republic of Love, by far the most mundane of these novels, starts off with a sentence that could easily have graced a Science Fiction magazine: ‘As a baby, Tom Avery had 27 mothers’. ‘It was the idea of the bodiless head which appealed ...

Hands Full of Rose Thorns and Fridge Oil

Elizabeth Lowry: ‘Triomf’, 20 January 2000

Triomf 
by Marlene van Niekerk, translated by Leon de Kock.
Little, Brown, 444 pp., £16.99, November 1999, 0 316 85202 3
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... South Africa House. Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo have been signed up by Heinz to carol ‘Inkanyezi Nezazi’ in an advertisment showing blond children eating tomato soup. In Britain we are occasionally treated to a television documentary or news headline about the spread of Aids among South Africa’s black population, the decline in the ...

Trauma Style

Joanna Kavenna: Joyce Carol Oates, 19 February 2004

The Tattooed Girl 
by Joyce Carol Oates.
Fourth Estate, 307 pp., £16.99, January 2004, 0 00 717077 7
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... Joyce Carol Oates is fascinated by the seedy corners of American life. Her recent novels are narrated by orphans, mutilated girls, the abused, the impoverished, celebrities destroyed by fame, children from families destroyed by rape. Oates’s books often open with a riddling exposition which implies a hidden trauma ...

Zest

David Reynolds: The Real Mrs Miniver, 25 April 2002

The Real Mrs Miniver 
by Ysenda Maxtone Graham.
Murray, 314 pp., £17.99, November 2001, 0 7195 5541 8
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Mrs Miniver 
by Jan Struther.
Virago, 153 pp., £7.99, November 2001, 1 85381 090 8
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... that if the French or British fleet fell into Hitler’s hands the Atlantic would become a German lake. Roosevelt talked of the new age of air-power. What if the Nazis established themselves in Fascist states in South America, within a few hours’ bombing time of Washington DC? America’s own Air Force was negligible; its antiquated fleet was based mostly ...

Risky Business

Elaine Showalter, 22 September 1994

Telling Women’s Lives: The New Biography 
by Linda Wagner-Martin.
Rutgers, 201 pp., $22.95, July 1994, 0 8135 2092 4
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... especially when the subject is a woman. In a review of a book about Jean Stafford in 1988, Joyce Carol Oates declared her disgust with ‘pathography’, a narrative focused on dysfunction, breakdown, addiction and disaster, rather than on the mysterious process whereby artists spin their dirty straw into gold. Writing about the Sylvia Plath industry in The ...

Dark and Deep

Helen Vendler, 4 July 1996

Robert Frost: A Biography 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Constable, 424 pp., £20, May 1996, 0 09 476130 2
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Collected Poems, Prose and Plays 
by Robert Frost, edited by Richard Poirier and Mark Richardson.
Library of America, 1036 pp., $35, October 1995, 9781883011062
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... died of a post-partum infection; Irma was permanently confined in an insane asylum; Carol, the only son, committed suicide); the exhaustion of Elinor, whose heart gave out in her sixties after many changes of dwelling and ten pregnancies – the last when she was 52; the final years of public fame, culminating in Frost’s reading of ‘The Gift ...

Too Close to the Bone

Allon White, 4 May 1989

... to learn that the most important single event of my childhood was the death of my young sister, Carol. Without the least suspicion, I had lived, worked and loved in the shadow of her death. Its hold upon me had been as complete as it was unsuspected. Certainly, when I wrote the novel my drowned sister never entered my head. But all those marshes and ...

Sorrows of a Polygamist

Mark Ford: Ted Hughes in His Cage, 17 March 2016

Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life 
by Jonathan Bate.
William Collins, 662 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 00 811822 8
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... and rights holder, but in March 2014 Bate learned that the Hughes Estate, run by his widow, Carol, was withdrawing its co-operation. So he had to find a new publisher, and his right to quote Hughes’s own words was severely curtailed, resulting in long passages of paraphrase that one senses have been carefully scrutinised by legal counsel. This ...

The End of British Farming

Andrew O’Hagan: British farming, 22 March 2001

... of foot and mouth disease across Britain. On my first acquaintance with the hill farmers of the Lake District, on a plot high above Keswick, I had a view of the countryside for tens of miles. I thought of the fields that had passed underfoot, all the way back to Essex, through Dumfriesshire, Northumberland or Sussex. Later I would continue on my way to ...

Diary

Stephen Sedley: Judges’ Lodgings, 11 November 1999

... council; though I can’t believe that the ensuite bathroom, where the bidet has a jet resembling Lake Geneva’s, is as it was in her day. A small dinner party – all I could manage – huddled at one end of the 30-foot dining-table. Lady Astor did not have a good press in my family. My father had served in North Africa and Italy with the Eighth Army, which ...
The Invasion Handbook 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 201 pp., £12.99, April 2002, 0 571 20915 7
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... a ‘loy’ is an Irish spade. And so on. The ‘jeddo’ turns out to be the jet d’eau in the lake at Geneva. Meanwhile the verses bearing these novelties rattle like unsprung carts over ruts. Wheat dust ‘skinks and twindles’, sledges ‘skitter and slip’. ‘There was heard the plockplock of horsehooves/a toltering bustle clipped scatter/like ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: The Almanach de Gotha, 2 July 1998

... de I’Almanach de Gotha 1998. From these pages I learn that Michael or Mihai was born to King Carol in 1921 and ‘reigned, firstly’, from 1927 to 1930, or in other words between the ages of six and nine. He was then made Crown Prince and Grand Voivode of Alba Julia, before becoming sovereign again between 1940 and 1947. He now lives in Switzerland. He ...

More than ever, and for ever

Michael Rogin: Beauvoir and Nelson Algren, 17 September 1998

Beloved Chicago Man: Letters to Nelson Algren 1947-64 
by Simone de Beauvoir, edited by Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir.
Gollancz, 624 pp., £25, August 1998, 0 575 06590 7
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America Day by Day 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Carol Cosman.
California, 355 pp., $27.50, January 1999, 0 520 20979 6
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... years covered by these letters, Force of Circumstance (as translated by Richard Howard), and in Carol Cosman’s version of America Day by Day. The difference between Beloved Chicago Man and The Mandarins is that Beauvoir could speak to Algren as she could to no one else. Anyone reading these extraordinary communications will urgently want the answers to ...

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