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4 September 1986
Ocean of Story: The Uncollected Stories of Christina Stead 
edited by R.G. Geering.
Viking, 552 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 670 80996 9
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The Salzburg Tales 
by Christina Stead.
498 pp., £4.95, September 1986, 0 86068 691 4
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... Macauley, editor of the Kenyon Review, who had accepted a story of mine. He asked was I related to Christina Stead. I had never heard of her. He told me she had written one of the great novels of the century, The Man Who Loved Children. When my story appeared someone wrote to Janet Frame recommending it. She wrote to say how much she’d enjoyed it but ...
8 June 1995
Christina SteadA Biography 
by Hazel Rowley.
Secker, 646 pp., £12.99, January 1995, 0 436 20298 0
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... subject was better described as ‘fair of face’ or‘ill-favoured’ if the subject were not Christina Stead (1902-83) and the question had not figured so importantly in her conception of herself. The pictorial evidence is contradictory; but it appears that as a young woman she had good features, a fine, keen, intelligent face, somewhat spoiled by ...

Bullies

Jane Miller

8 November 1979
Miss Herbert (The Suburban Wife) 
by Christina Stead.
Virago, 308 pp., £5.95
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... Eleanor, in Christina Stead’s most recent novel, is a writer and a rewriter, whose somewhat parasitical achievement it is to have turned a story written by her father into a modest best-seller; a wry sort of apology, perhaps, for the wonderful novels, which have not been best-sellers. Christina Stead herself has written about oppressively exuberant fathers, but a judgment as well on those who live within borrowed scenarios ...

I don’t even get bananas

Madeleine Schwartz: Christina Stead

2 November 2017
The Man Who Loved Children 
by Christina Stead.
Apollo, 528 pp., £10, April 2016, 978 1 78497 148 9
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Letty Fox: Her Luck 
by Christina Stead.
Apollo, 592 pp., £14, May 2017, 978 1 78669 139 2
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... She​ was famous for being neglected,’ Lorna Sage once said of Christina Stead. In 1955, Elizabeth Hardwick, writing in the New Republic, described trying to obtain Stead’s address from her last American publisher. Only a few years before the New Yorker had called her ‘the most extraordinary woman novelist produced by the English-speaking race since Virginia Woolf ...

Unhappy Families

Angela Carter

16 September 1982
The Beauties and Furies 
by Christina Stead.
Virago, 329 pp., £3.95, July 1982, 0 86068 175 0
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... To open a book, any book, by Christina Stead and read a few pages is to be at once aware that one is in the presence of greatness. Yet this revelation is apt to precipitate a sense of confusion, of strangeness, even of acute anxiety, not only because Stead has a devastating capacity to flay the reader’s sensibilities, but also because we have grown accustomed to the idea that we live in pygmy times ...

Grumbles

C.K. Stead

15 October 1981
Flaws in the Glass: A Self-Portrait 
by Patrick White.
Cape, 272 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 9780224029247
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... or melodramatic. Australia has produced at least three major novelists since the 1930s – Christina Stead, Xavier Herbert and White. In 1975, two years after White’s Nobel award, Herbert published his greatest novel, Poor Fellow My Country, and I remember wondering whether Australia had got its Nobel too soon. On reflection, I think it unlikely ...

Up from Under

John Bayley

18 February 1988
The Faber Book of Contemporary Australian Short Stories 
edited by Murray Bail.
Faber, 413 pp., £12.95, January 1988, 0 571 15083 7
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... the lady would have had no story at another time and in another country. The same could be said of Christina Stead’s masterpiece of a story, ‘A Harmless Affair’. Although Christina Stead went to New York, and her story is about a New York situation, it has none of the faux-naif cosmetic glibness associated ...

Bewitchment

James Wood

8 December 1994
Shadow Dance 
by Angela Carter.
Virago, 182 pp., £9.99, September 1994, 1 85381 840 2
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Flesh and the Mirror: Essays on the Art of Angela Carter 
edited by Lorna Sage.
Virago, 358 pp., £8.99, September 1994, 1 85381 760 0
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... at the confidence with which she rolls up the old heavy carpet of detailed narration and dangles instead her own brighter mat: menacing fairytale. Often, Carter’s prose is brilliantly suggestive, at once playful and black: ‘May progressed slowly. The white lilacs in the churchyard where Honey said Ghislaine had been raped and hurt browned at the edges and ...

I, too, write a little

Lorna Sage: Katherine Mansfield

18 June 1998
The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks: Vol I 
edited by Margaret Scott.
Lincoln University Press, 310 pp., NZ $79.95, September 1997, 0 908896 48 4
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The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks: Vol II 
edited by Margaret Scott.
Lincoln University Press, 355 pp., NZ $79.95, September 1997, 0 908896 49 2
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... which is much less original. And her line on punctuation is distinctly interventionist. Instead of preserving Mansfield’s careless, impatient dashes, she has changed them in the interests of readability: In the early notebooks she was scribbling so fast that the only form of punctuation she used was a dash. A dash was quicker and easier to make ...

The Slightest Sardine

James Wood: A literary dragnet

20 May 2004
The Oxford English Literary History. Vol. XII: 1960-2000: The Last of England? 
by Randall Stevenson.
Oxford, 624 pp., £30, February 2004, 0 19 818423 9
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... difficult road for many untutored readers. But theory is not the culprit, rather the symptom of a steady academicising. That theory is not per se the problem we can deduce from the many writers who have studied it, absorbed its findings, and emerged undamaged (i.e. emerged writers and not academics). This absence of a general, non-academic literary criticism ...
22 May 1980
On the Edge of the Cliff 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 179 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 7011 2438 5
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The Tale Bearers: Essays on English, American and Other Writers 
by V.S. Pritchett.
Chatto, 223 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 7011 2435 0
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... by this ‘artist’s necessity’, but his professional fair-mindedness always keeps the picture steady. As in his stories, he has the curious ability to let art shine through him, helplessly. Pritchett is a mirror, not a lamp. He goes at criticism the old way, creeping up on a writer through the life, the letters, the creative temperament on offer. When he ...

Chastened

Lorna Tracy

3 September 1981
The Habit of Being: Letters by Flannery O’Connor 
edited by Sally Fitzgerald.
Farrar, Straus/Faber, 639 pp., £8.25, January 1979, 0 571 12017 2
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The violent bear it away 
by Flannery O’Connor.
Faber, 226 pp., £2.95, September 1980, 0 571 12017 2
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A good man is hard to find 
by Flannery O’Connor.
Women’s Press, 251 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7043 2832 1
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... do – oppress one another emotionally. For savagery some of her family scenes are worthy of Christina Stead. It’s when pride’s progression to the inevitable fall adheres most strictly to Roman Catholic equations concerning purgatory, punishment and the price of knowledge that O’Connor comes into the arbitrary violence that is the severest ...

Pen Men

Elaine Showalter

20 March 1986
Men and Feminism in Modern Literature 
by Declan Kiberd.
Macmillan, 250 pp., £13.95, September 1985, 0 333 38353 2
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Women Writing about Men 
by Jane Miller.
Virago, 256 pp., £10.95, January 1986, 0 86068 473 3
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Phallic Critiques: Masculinity and 20th-century Literature 
by Peter Schwenger.
Routledge, 172 pp., £29.50, September 1985, 0 7102 0164 8
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... at Hardy’s reaction to women’s suffrage, let alone his relationships with his two wives. Instead he describes their relationship to feminism as personal and psychological, not tracing their attitudes towards women’s education, work, role in the family, or creativity, but rather analysing their representations of ‘the relationship between a ...

Whitlam Fictions

Zachary Leader

16 February 1989
Kisses of the Enemy 
by Rodney Hall.
Faber, 622 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 0 571 15091 8
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Postcards from Surfers 
by Helen Garner.
Bloomsbury, 180 pp., £11.95, January 1989, 0 7475 0272 2
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Forty-Seventeen 
by Frank Moorhouse.
Faber, 175 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 571 15210 4
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... 1983. At the heart of this novella, whose disturbing power recalls the fiction of Ian McEwan and Christina Stead, lies a family on the brink of collapse. Dexter and Athena, the parents, can barely bring themselves to check that their children are asleep at night before abandoning them in their beds to roam the streets of suburban ...

Apologising

James Wood

24 August 1995
The Burning Library: Writings on Art, Politics, Sexuality 1969-93 
by Edmund White.
Picador, 385 pp., £20, May 1995, 0 330 33883 8
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Skinned Alive 
by Edmund White.
Chatto, 262 pp., £12.99, March 1995, 0 7011 6175 2
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... the harsh power of clichés is invoked.’ He can be pedagogical while being platitudinous: Christina Stead ‘resists the evil reductionism of our culture and never “totalises” the self (an ugly but useful word)’; ‘In great fiction the language is not only satisfying in itself, but it also fulfils larger purposes of design.’ This ...

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