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Astonishing Heloise

Barbara Newman, 23 January 2014

The Letter Collection of Peter Abelard and Heloise 
edited by David Luscombe.
Oxford, 654 pp., £165, August 2013, 978 0 19 822248 4
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... Nine hundred years ago, a celebrity philosopher fell in love with his star student and seduced her. Peter Abelard’s once brilliant lectures grew tepid, while his love songs placed the name of Heloise on every tongue. Passionate letters flew, and the Parisian gossip mill went into overdrive – until pregnancy, as so often, betrayed the secret ...

Green Pastel Redness

Colin Kidd: The Supreme Court Coup, 24 March 2022

Dissent: The Radicalisation of the Republican Party and Its Capture of the Supreme Court 
by Jackie Calmes.
Twelve, 478 pp., £25, July 2021, 978 1 5387 0079 2
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Justice on the Brink: The Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Rise of Amy Coney Barrett, and Twelve Months that Transformed the Supreme Court 
by Linda Greenhouse.
Random House, 300 pp., £22.50, November 2021, 978 0 593 44793 2
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... months longer, Joe Biden would have been able to nominate her successor; instead that privilege fell to Donald Trump. To avoid something like this happening again, political pressure grew on the 83-year-old Breyer to retire while the Democrats hold the presidency and fifty seats in the Senate, whose members confirm the appointment of presidential nominees ...

Brown Goo like Marmite

Neal Ascherson: Memories of the Fog, 8 October 2015

London Fog: The Biography 
by Christine Corton.
Harvard, 408 pp., £22.95, November 2015, 978 0 674 08835 1
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... scientifically – should never be seen again. But then, that’s what they thought before 1962.Christine Corton’s excellent book explores three questions: how people accounted for London fog, what they did about it, and how it became such an enormous, apparently inexhaustible cultural resource and metaphor. Liability to fog has ultimately something to do ...

The Fug o’Fame

David Goldie: Hugh MacDiarmid’s letters, 6 June 2002

New Selected Letters 
by Hugh MacDiarmid, edited by Dorian Grieve.
Carcanet, 572 pp., £39.95, August 2001, 1 85754 273 8
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... is still something awful in letters such as the one written in 1938 to his estranged daughter, Christine, which is full of complaint at the wrongs done to ‘my high character and great kindliness of nature’, and advances the pitiful threat that ‘when I die, the whole situation will be open to public view and you will be involved in immense ...


Tom Nairn, 3 July 1980

Gramsci and Marxist Theory 
edited by Chantal Mouffe.
Routledge, 288 pp., £9.50, November 1979, 0 7100 0358 7
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Gramsci and the State 
by Christine Buci-Glucksmann.
Lawrence and Wishart, 470 pp., £14, February 1980, 9780853154839
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Gramsci’s Politics 
by Anne Showstack Sassoon.
Croom Helm, 261 pp., £12.95, April 1980, 9780709903260
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... and intellectual terrorism. The same is true of the Buci-Glucksmann and Sassoon volumes. Christine Buci-Glucksmann’s study, especially, can be seen as a mighty struggle for its own emancipation from the spiderous idiom and attitudes which invaded Marxism in the 1970s – yet the struggle is expressed, inevitably, in the very terms she wishes to ...

In Pyjamas

R.W. Johnson: Bill Deedes’s Decency, 17 November 2005

Dear Bill: A Memoir 
by W.F. Deedes.
Macmillan, 451 pp., £14.99, July 2005, 9781405052665
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... were actively seeking to entrap people like Ivanov, the Soviet military attaché who was sharing Christine Keeler’s favours with Profumo. Summers and Dorril show just how biased and disreputable Denning’s report was. Their book came out in 1987 and no amount of amiable self-deprecation can let Deedes get away with pretending that it doesn’t ...

Moi Aussi

Lili Owen Rowlands, 22 April 2021

... of autofictional writing on abuse and the age gap, of which Marguerite Duras’s The Lover and Christine Angot’s Incest are the most famous examples. In the narrative, Springora refers to Matzneff using the initial ‘G.’ – though it is unmistakably him – while she refers to herself sometimes as ‘V.’, which has the opposite effect of making her ...

Bad Dreams

Robert Crawford: Peter Porter, 6 October 2011

The Rest on the Flight: Selected Poems 
by Peter Porter.
Picador, 421 pp., £12.99, May 2010, 978 0 330 52218 2
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... it in Spirit in Exile. In the 1950s Jannice Henry, an 18-year-old doctor’s daughter from Surrey, fell in love with her father’s locum, Neil Micklem. Their affair lasted for years; Jannice hoped it would end in marriage. It did not. She married instead a 30-year-old advertising copywriter called Peter Porter. He was an Australian immigrant in London, and ...


Thomas Jones: Indefinite Lent, 2 April 2020

... days ago: 12,839 positive; 2249 new cases; 1258 recovered; 1016 dead. On Thursday, 12 March, Christine Lagarde ‘flunked her first major test as president of the European Central Bank’, as Fortune put it, when she said ‘we are not here to close spreads,’ implying the ECB wouldn’t buy Italian government debt. It had the opposite effect from the ...

Audrey and Her Sisters

Wayne Koestenbaum, 18 September 1997

Audrey Hepburn 
by Barry Paris.
Weidenfeld, 454 pp., £20, February 1997, 0 297 81728 0
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... chair got tangled in some wires, and director Jean Boyer was cross about the interruption. But he fell respectfully silent when he recognised Colette, and shooting was halted while he went over to pay his respects. During that interaction and the time it took to get her chair sorted out, Colette studied the activity with her usual curiosity ... A girl in the ...

Unreal Food Uneaten

Julian Bell: Sitting for Vanessa, 13 April 2000

The Art of Bloomsbury 
edited by Richard Shone.
Tate Gallery, 388 pp., £35, November 1999, 1 85437 296 3
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First Friends 
by Ronald Blythe.
Viking, 157 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 670 88613 0
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Bloomsbury in France 
by Mary Ann Caws and Sarah Bird Wright.
Oxford, 430 pp., £25, December 1999, 0 19 511752 2
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... you pull your coat, you know you’re going to get soaked. In England, ever since Wyndham Lewis fell out with Roger Fry in 1914, ‘Bloomsbury’ has been a word that raises more hackles than hopes. To suppose that 85 years later the derisive clichés it provokes might make way for a rethink is to underestimate the tenacity of cultural stereotypes and the ...

Last in the Funhouse

Patrick Parrinder, 17 April 1986

Gerald’s Party 
by Robert Coover.
Heinemann, 316 pp., £10.95, April 1986, 0 434 14290 5
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by Edmund White.
Picador, 342 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 330 29291 9
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Lake Wobegon Days 
by Garrison Keillor.
Faber, 337 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 571 13846 2
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In Country 
by Bobbie Ann Mason.
Chatto, 245 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 7011 3034 2
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... Wobegon tend to worry about the following things. Is it time to put the storm windows up? Will Christine and Keith make it through the snow for Thanksgiving? Why does my neighbour spend all his time in that poky little shed in back of his garage? Would TV ownership reduce my chances of being one of the Elect? If I go out and pee in the snow, will the stuff ...

Electric Koran

Richard Vinen, 7 June 2001

Services Spéciaux Algérie 1955-57: Mon témoignage sur la torture 
by Paul Aussaresses.
Perrin, 198 pp., frs 99, May 2001, 2 262 01761 1
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Appelés en Algérie: La Parole confisquée 
by Claire Mauss-Copeaux.
Hachette, 332 pp., frs 140, March 1999, 2 01 235475 0
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... taste said to have been exacerbated by the ravages of old age, drink and an unrequited passion for Christine Deviers-Joncour, the discarded mistress of Roland Dumas. He has now published a book. The details it gives about torture and killings by the French Army and its defiant, often light-hearted tone have caused outrage (particularly in circles normally ...

In the Potato Patch

Jenny Turner: Penelope Fitzgerald, 19 December 2013

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 508 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 7011 8495 7
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... it would have looked as though she was still securely on her golden path. In summer 1940 she fell in love with Desmond Fitzgerald, a ‘dashing … tall, dark and handsome’ trainee barrister and lieutenant in the Irish Guards. The couple married in 1942 and settled, after Desmond’s war service (for which he was awarded the Military Cross), in ...

Hegel’s Odyssey

Geoffrey Hawthorn, 3 October 1985

Hegel: The Letters 
translated by Clark Butler and Christine Seiler.
Indiana, 740 pp., $47.50, January 1985, 0 253 32715 6
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... to write. The publisher’s deadline was 13 October 1806, the day, as it turned out, that Jena fell. To meet it and so pay the bills that he’d run up against it, not the least of which was a large one for wine, Hegel sent section after section of his only copy out through the battle lines to the printer in Bamberg as Napoleon was preparing to bombard his ...

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