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Little Nips

Penelope Fitzgerald, 26 May 1994

The Moment between the Past and the Future 
by Grigorij Baklanov, translated by Catherine Porter.
Faber, 217 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 571 16444 7
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The Soul of a Patriot 
by Evgeny Popov, translated by Robert Porter.
Harvill, 194 pp., £8.99, April 1994, 0 00 271124 9
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... of these details from the helpful introduction to The Soul of a Patriot by its translator, Robert Porter. The manuscript had to wait ‘in the desk-drawer’ until 1989 before it was published in Russia, and it is the first of Popov’s novels to be published in English. Porter tells us that in an interview Popov named his ...

Intelligent Theory

Frank Kermode, 7 October 1982

Figures of Literary Discourse 
by Gérard Genette, translated by Alan Sheridan.
Blackwell, 303 pp., £15, August 1982, 0 631 13089 6
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Theories of the Symbol 
by Tzvetan Todorov, translated by Catherine Porter.
Blackwell, 302 pp., £15, July 1982, 0 631 10511 5
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The Breaking of the Vessels 
by Harold Bloom.
Chicago, 107 pp., £7, April 1982, 0 226 06043 8
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The Institution of Criticism 
by Peter Hohendahl.
Cornell, 287 pp., £14.74, June 1982, 0 8014 1325 7
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Unspeakable Sentences: Narration and Representation in the Language of Fiction 
by Ann Banfield.
Routledge, 340 pp., £15.95, June 1982, 0 7100 0905 4
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... The first four books would normally be described as literary criticism, though they exhibit a considerable variety of interests, sociological, historical, theoretical; in Harold Bloom’s case ordinary language is defeated, for we need some such compound as cabbalistic-rhapsodic. None of them shows much interest in British writing, or the British literary scene, or in literary criticism as it is now practised and taught here ...

Without Looking

Anne Hollander, 3 August 1995

The Empire of Fashion: Dressing Modern Democracy 
by Gilles Lipovetsky, translated by Catherine Porter.
Princeton, 276 pp., £19.95, December 1994, 0 691 03373 0
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... The first striking thing about Gilles Lipovetsky’s book is the complete absence of illustrations, even diagrams and graphs. This may be the first book about fashion without pictures – even Roland Barthes used diagrams. Of course, Balzac’s ‘Physiologie de la toilette’ didn’t have any, but that originally appeared in a magazine, and journal publication can preclude pictures even now ...
By the Banks of the Neva: Chapters from the Lives and Careers of the British in 18th-Century Russia 
by Anthony Cross.
Cambridge, 496 pp., £60, November 1996, 0 521 55293 1
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... well-taught Bear.’ Russian criticisms of English indolence are rare, although it is mentioned in Catherine the Great’s decree regulating building at her summer residence of Tsarskoe Selo: ‘It has been noted that the English workmen arrive late for work and depart early and moreover celebrate not only their own but also our festivals.’ Anglophilia was ...

Manly Voices

Bernard Porter: Macaulay & Son, 22 November 2012

Macaulay and Son: Architects of Imperial Britain 
by Catherine Hall.
Yale, 389 pp., £35, October 2012, 978 0 300 16023 9
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... Thomas Babington Macaulay – later Lord Macaulay, and ‘Tom’ to Catherine Hall – was the most influential of all British historians. Sales of the first two volumes of his great History of England, published in 1848, rivalled those of Scott and Dickens. The main reason for his popularity, apart from his literary style, was that he flattered the English by crediting them with a unique history of evolving ‘freedom ...

Simply Doing It

Thomas Laqueur, 22 February 1996

The Facts of Life: The Creation of Sexual Knowledge in Britain 1650-1950 
by Roy Porter and Lesley Hall.
Yale, 414 pp., £19.95, January 1995, 0 300 06221 4
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... in January’s Cosmopolitan) suggest that maybe there is nothing to tell, only telling itself. Roy Porter and Lesley Hall say they agree with Michel Foucault that ‘sex must be understood as discursively produced.’ (Actually, I don’t think they do agree, but more about that later.) If we take the point, then the history of sexual knowledge becomes the ...

Signor Cock

Roy Porter, 25 June 1987

by Andrea Dworkin.
Secker, 259 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 436 13961 8
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... requiring drastic demystification. Or maybe desire is real enough, but needs, as St Jerome or St Catherine told us all those centuries ago, to be resisted in the name of a higher asceticism or celibacy. The trouble with this book is that on basic, even banal issues like this, it remains silent. Reading it is rather like hearing a sermon slamming sin. Well ...

From Shtetl to Boulevard

Paul Keegan: Freud’s Mother, 5 October 2017

Freud: In His Time and Ours 
by Elisabeth Roudinesco, translated by Catherine Porter.
Harvard, 580 pp., £27.95, November 2016, 978 0 674 65956 8
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Freud: An Intellectual Biography 
by Joel Whitebook.
Cambridge, 484 pp., £30, February 2017, 978 0 521 86418 3
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... other. Lanzer’s story involves scribbled messages, missed trains, timetables, a postmistress, a porter, a waiter, a long-suffering friend in Vienna, a series of redundant captains. Everyone along the way is recruited to play a part in the charade of his obsessive endeavour knowingly to repay the wrong person. His sense of guilt is real enough, but it ...

Issues for His Prose Style

Andrew O’Hagan: Hemingway, 7 June 2012

The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Vol. I, 1907-22 
edited by Sandra Spanier and Robert Trogdon.
Cambridge, 431 pp., £30, October 2011, 978 0 521 89733 4
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... makes it to Milan, a little boy runs out and fetches him a bottle of grappa. ‘I sent for the porter and when he came I told him in Italian to get me a bottle of Cinzano at the wine shop, a fiasco of chianti and the evening papers.’ Once he’s up and ready to start courting Catherine Barkley in the style she ...


Ian Hamilton: New New Grub Street, 3 February 1983

... stop off in the Lane en route for Garrick Street, or Paddington. To the novice bookman with only a Catherine Cookson and a Roland Barthes between him and the workhouse this was indeed a stirring image of literary success. Gissing would have loved it. Now and then, of course, one pondered the doubtful morality of these Friday expeditions. After all, these books ...

Fat is a manifest tissue

Steven Shapin: George Cheyne, 10 August 2000

Obesity and Depression in the Enlightenment: The Life and Times of George Cheyne 
by Anita Guerrini.
Oklahoma, 304 pp., $25.95, February 2000, 0 585 28344 3
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... sought his fortune in the seething medical marketplace of London. The metropolis then was, as Roy Porter has said, ‘a world of quacks’. It was also a world of orthodox medical princes. And sometimes it was hard to tell the difference. The properly credentialled physicians who rode about in their coaches-and-six, and lashed out at the unprincipled ...

Bereft and Beruffed

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Last Plays, 6 June 2019

Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage: Myth, Music and Poetry in the Last Plays 
by Seth Lerer.
Chicago, 276 pp., £20.50, November 2018, 978 0 226 58254 2
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... and John Fletcher both died in their mid-forties, Francis Beaumont at thirty, while Henry Porter (whose Two Angry Women of Abingdon influenced The Merry Wives of Windsor) may have been still younger when he was killed in a duel by John Day, another playwright, in 1599. John Lyly, who gave up writing for 15 years to concentrate on his unsuccessful ...

The Wickedest Woman in Paris

Colm Tóibín, 6 September 2007

Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins 
by Rupert Everett.
Abacus, 406 pp., £7.99, July 2007, 978 0 349 12058 4
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... to call off the show.’ One night he nearly met Yves Saint Laurent, Rudolf Nureyev, Andy Warhol, Catherine Deneuve and someone called Betty Catroux. In fact, on the dancefloor, Nureyev took his hand and twirled him round and round for what, he tells us (and it must be so), ‘seemed like an eternity’. Then Rupert went to drama school, where they found that ...

The Tower

Andrew O’Hagan, 7 June 2018

... dad’s a doctor; he’s a nurse. A gardener.’ Yasin’s father, Abdulaziz, 52, was actually a porter at University College Hospital. His mother, Faouzia, was involved in the sewing group at the Westway Trust. ‘She sat by the window,’ a colleague said, ‘dropping a stitch when she saw something funny outside.’ R.D.’s family were from Casablanca ...

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