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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 ...

Australia’s Nineties

Clive James, 15 July 1982

Christopher Brennan: A Critical Biography 
by Axel Clark.
Melbourne, 358 pp., £20, May 1980, 0 522 84182 1
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... The Verse of Christopher Brennan, by his two old friends, A.R. Chisholm and J.J. Quinn). Christina Stead is only one of the subsequently luminous names who later said that they were inspired by his lectures, no matter how chaotically delivered. But it would have been strange if he had been anything less than inspiring. He knew a lot and was ...

Cold-Shouldered

James Wood: John Carey, 8 March 2001

Pure Pleasure: A Guide to the 20th Century’s Most Enjoyable Books 
by John Carey.
Faber, 173 pp., £6.99, September 2000, 0 571 20448 1
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... Pavese’s novels; or of Dreiser’s Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy; of Bohumil Hrabal; of Christina Stead; of Henry Green’s Loving; or of V.S. Pritchett’s short stories – Pritchett, who was told by H.G. Wells in the 1930s that the working classes could not be written about without comedy and condescension. All these writers thought Mr ...

Not to Be Read without Shuddering

Adam Smyth: The Atheist’s Bible, 20 February 2014

The Atheist’s Bible: The Most Dangerous Book That Never Existed 
by Georges Minois, translated by Lys Ann Weiss.
Chicago, 249 pp., £21, October 2012, 978 0 226 53029 1
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... the security of the Saints, then by quite abolishing the Laws of England, and setting up in their stead the Canons of Beelzebub, and A Treatise written in defence of his seizing on the Boy’s Close-stool-pan, and reserving the contents for his own profit, because the Lad was so profane to carry it on a Sunday, by ‘Alderman Atkins, Shit-breeches’. The ...

God wielded the buzzer

Christian Lorentzen: The Sorrows of DFW, 11 October 2012

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace 
by D.T. Max.
Granta, 352 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 1 84708 494 1
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... in the US has proceeded so rapidly. Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story (the line is Christina Stead’s but Wallace used it twice in his fiction and once in an essay, in reverse; Stead seems to have been misremembering or paraphrasing a line of Virginia Woolf’s about Henry James) grew out of ...

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