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Leaving a Doll’s House: A Memoir 
by Claire Bloom.
Virago, 288 pp., £16.99, October 1996, 1 86049 146 4
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... Claire Bloom has now written two books about her life. Lest this give rise to any suspicion of autobiographical surfeit, she notes in the Preface to the latest volume, that her earlier book, Lime-light and After, constituted merely ‘a modest account’ of her acting career, whereas the new work presents a more thoughtful self-portrait of Bloom, the female ...

Sisyphus at the Selectric

James Wolcott: Undoing Philip Roth, 20 May 2021

Philip Roth: The Biography 
by Blake Bailey.
Cape, 898 pp., £30, April, 978 0 224 09817 5
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Philip Roth: A Counterlife 
by Ira Nadel.
Oxford, 546 pp., £22.99, May, 978 0 19 984610 8
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Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth 
by Benjamin Taylor.
Penguin, 192 pp., £18, May 2020, 978 0 525 50524 2
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... offstage.Until, that is, the publicised (tabloidised) dissolution of his marriage to the actress Claire Bloom and the parting kick of her memoir Leaving a Doll’s House (1996), which set a million squinty eyes on him, judging, condemning – how dare this broody brute browbeat Lady Marchmain so? The guilty verdict, a public condemnation based only on ...

Falling Stars

Alan Coren, 5 November 1981

Richard Burton 
by Paul Ferris.
Weidenfeld, 212 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77966 4
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Peter Sellers 
by Alexander Walker.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77965 6
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... Mr Ferris actually gives us a list of people who wouldn’t talk about his hero: these include Claire Bloom, Alexander Cohen, Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, Sir John Gielgud, Hugh Griffiths, Joseph Losey, James Mason, Vincente Minnelli, Mike Nichols, Rachel Roberts, Daphne Rye, Jean Simmons, and three of his wives, Sybil Christopher, Elizabeth ...

‘OK, holy man, try this

Ian Hamilton: The Hypothetical Philip Roth, 22 June 2000

The Human Stain 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 361 pp., £16.99, May 2000, 0 224 06090 2
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... a quintuple heart bypass followed by a nervous breakdown – and then there was his split up with Claire Bloom (and Bloom’s subsequent exposure of the ‘facts’ about their marriage). At times, it must have felt like old times. Remember, post-Portnoy, that ‘affair’ with Barbra Streisand, whom Roth had never ...

Pictures of Malamud

Philip Roth, 8 May 1986

... visited London, where I’d begun spending a part of my time, they’d come to have dinner with Claire Bloom and me. Though Bern and I ended up most evenings talking together about books and writing, we hardly ever alluded to each other’s fiction and never seriously discussed it, observing a discreet, unwritten rule of propriety that exists among ...

His Big Typewriter

Eleanor Birne: Reading Hanif Kureishi reading his father, 6 January 2005

My Ear at His Heart: Reading My Father 
by Hanif Kureishi.
Faber, 198 pp., £12.99, September 2004, 0 571 22403 2
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... than films because of his verbal precision; Raymond Carver appears at Bill Buford’s for dinner; Claire Bloom has a passing and unjustified role). If there’s an excuse for the name-dropping, it’s Kureishi’s belief that a writer must have an intelligent and involved audience, something his father never had. ‘One thing you do need in order to ...

Prolonging her absence

Danny Karlin, 8 March 1990

The Wimbledon Poisoner 
by Nigel Williams.
Faber, 307 pp., £12.99, March 1990, 0 571 14242 7
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The Other Occupant 
by Peter Benson.
Macmillan, 168 pp., £12.95, February 1990, 0 333 52509 4
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by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 511 pp., £13.95, March 1990, 0 7011 3260 4
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... prose can’t do it. I suspect we shall enjoy this story much more when it turns up on BBC2 with Claire Bloom or Judi Dench. If this review were a lifeboat, Benson and Williams would be sweating: A.S. Byatt is about to get in it. There really wouldn’t be room for them. Possession is a big book, a spectacular novel of ideas and intrigue, spectacular ...


Rosemary Dinnage: Evacuees, 14 October 1999

... of brave tots with funny accents and white ankle-socks might melt American hearts? The actress Claire Bloom, who went to the States at the age of ten, describes in her autobiography how she was sent out to raise money for war relief by singing a nauseating little ditty: I’m a little English girl Knocking at your door. Driven from my home By the ...

In the Egosphere

Adam Mars-Jones: The Plot against Roth, 23 January 2014

Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books 
by Claudia Roth Pierpont.
Cape, 353 pp., £25, January 2014, 978 0 224 09903 5
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... since I’m so dim and they’re so smart, let them decide what it is or it isn’t.’ Roth and Claire Bloom weren’t actually married at this point but were a supremely well-known couple. According to her 1996 memoir, Leaving a Doll’s House, Roth had kept uncharacteristically quiet about the book on which he was working, though she knew its ...


Marilyn Butler, 18 November 1982

The Trouble of an Index: Byron’s Letters and Journals, Vol. XII 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 166 pp., £15, May 1982, 0 7195 3885 8
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Lord Byron: Selected Letters and Journals 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 404 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 0 7195 3974 9
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by Frederic Raphael.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £8.95, July 1982, 0 500 01278 4
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Byron’s Political and Cultural Influence in 19th-Century Europe: A Symposium 
edited by Paul Graham Trueblood.
Macmillan, 210 pp., £15, April 1981, 0 333 29389 4
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Byron and Joyce through Homer 
by Hermione de Almeida.
Macmillan, 233 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 333 30072 6
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Byron: A Poet Before His Public 
by Philip Martin.
Cambridge, 253 pp., £18.50, July 1982, 0 521 24186 3
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... scenes. When he takes the story on to Switzerland, where Byron reluctantly resumed his affair with Claire Clairmont, and first met Shelley, he still seems to get the people and the personal relations right. But at this half-way point the limitations of gossip are also beginning to show. Byron didn’t live all his life in bed, and was in fact entering on his ...

Frameworks of Comparison

Benedict Anderson, 21 January 2016

... of Power in Javanese Culture’, published in 1972 in Culture and Politics in Indonesia, edited by Claire Holt. The essay had an unlikely origin. One day, as I was sitting in my office with the door open, two senior professors walked by, chatting loudly on their way to lunch. The man doing most of the talking was Allan ...

A Terrible Bad Cold

John Sutherland, 27 September 1990

by Peter Ackroyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 1195 pp., £19.95, September 1990, 1 85619 000 5
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... was a child who died. Ackroyd has no new evidence and we await the publication in November of Claire Tomalin’s biography of Ternan. In the meantime Ackroyd interprets the known facts in a strikingly new way. He contradicts the Wright-derived view of a long-resisted quasi-rape of a disgusted Ellen by a slavering Dickens. He equally contradicts Kaplan’s ...

This place is pryson

Mary Wellesley: Living in Her Own Grave, 23 May 2019

Hermits and Anchorites in England, 1200-1550 
edited by E.A. Jones.
Manchester, 232 pp., £18.99, January 2019, 978 1 5261 2723 5
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... the routes of liturgical processions. In London there were many cells along the old city walls. As Claire Dowding has noted, they formed a ‘ring of prayer’ encircling the capital. Life as an anchoress began with a death. On entering their cell for the first time, the recludensus (novice recluse) would climb into a grave dug inside the cell. The enclosure ...

Keeping the show on the road

John Kerrigan, 6 November 1986

Tribute to Freud 
by H. D.
Carcanet, 194 pp., £5.95, August 1985, 0 85635 599 2
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In Dora’s Case: Freud, Hysteria, Feminism 
edited by Charles Bernheimer and Claire Kahane.
Virago, 291 pp., £11.95, October 1985, 0 86068 712 0
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The Essentials of Psychoanalysis 
by Sigmund Freud, edited by Anna Freud.
Hogarth/Institute of Psychoanalysis, 595 pp., £20, March 1986, 0 7012 0720 5
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Freud and the Humanities 
edited by Peregrine Horden.
Duckworth, 186 pp., £18, October 1985, 0 7156 1983 7
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Freud for Historians 
by Peter Gay.
Oxford, 252 pp., £16.50, January 1986, 0 19 503586 0
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The Psychoanalytic Movement 
by Ernest Gellner.
Paladin, 241 pp., £3.50, May 1985, 0 586 08436 3
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The Freudian Body: Psychoanalysis and Art 
by Leo Bersani.
Columbia, 126 pp., $17.50, April 1986, 0 231 06218 4
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... we know that Freud’s a ‘strong poet’ and that, swerve and dribble as we may with Harold Bloom, we can’t escape his influence. Anyway, the goal posts are contingent, and an irritable reaching after fact and reason, like Gellner’s, is doomed from the start. Thus Leo Bersani shuns ‘verification’ and finds in late Freud a discourse which conveys ...

The Palimpsest Sensation

Joanna Biggs: Annie Ernaux’s Gaze, 21 October 2021

by Annie Ernaux, translated by Tanya Leslie.
Fitzcarraldo, 74 pp., £8.99, September, 978 1 913097 68 4
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... On the train, a little girl tells her mother ‘I want to bite you’; in a copy of Marie-Claire, she reads her horoscope, which promises she’ll meet a man, and then spends the day wondering if ‘each man I spoke to’ was the one they meant; at a cashpoint, her card is declared ‘damaged’ and she feels herself to be damaged too; shopping in ...

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