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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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... As far as the Soviet reader was concerned, Popov was now a non-person.’ I have taken most 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 ...
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 ...

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. Books ...

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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... women’s magazines, month after month, to reveal ‘The Secrets of Sex in just Ten Minutes’ (this 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 ...
18 September 1997
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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... Ignorance, that is Ingratitude, Dirt and Sauciness; they are, in my opinion, far inferior to a 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 ...

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 ...

From Shtetl to Boulevard

Paul Keegan: Freud’s Mother

4 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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... from different villages set out to meet but incredibly – or all too credibly – keep missing each 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 ...

Signor Cock

Roy Porter

25 June 1987
Intercourse 
by Andrea Dworkin.
Secker, 259 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 436 13961 8
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... Duras and benighted feminists such as Germaine Greer back in their unreconstructed days): a delusion 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 ...

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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... not any old bottle. ‘This is a bottle of vermouth,’ he says. ‘You like vermouth?’ When Frederic 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 ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: New New Grub Street

3 February 1983
... He would then squeeze in beside his booty and, with twinkling eye, instruct the driver to 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 ...

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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... Born in Aberdeenshire in 1671, and trained at the rising medical school of Edinburgh, Cheyne in 1702 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 ...

The Wickedest Woman in Paris

Colm Tóibín: Rupert Everett

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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... when she got carried away, the whole thing would turn into a tubercular fit and she would have 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 ...

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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... at 26, to kill the 20-year-old actor Gabriel Spencer instead of being killed by him), but Thomas Middleton 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 ...

The Tower

Andrew O’Hagan

7 June 2018
... R.D. said. ‘He’d say: “Yeah, my dad’s a drug dealer; he’s in the Mafia. Next day, my 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 ...

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