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Dangerous Girls

Dale Peck, 3 July 1997

American Pastoral 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 423 pp., £15.99, June 1997, 0 224 05000 1
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... Most readers, it seems, are willing and able to construct complete narratives from even the tiniest snippets of information, whether in the form of lazily written genre fiction or in the artful dodging of post-realist writers: a dynamic is created between the limited information the writer can supply – literally, just the words on the page – and the knowledge about how life is lived which the reader brings to those words ...

Old Codger

Dale Peck, 11 December 1997

by Kurt Vonnegut.
Cape, 219 pp., £15.99, October 1997, 0 224 03640 8
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... Kurt Vonnegut’s latest book, and, according to its author, his last, is almost impossible to appreciate without extensive knowledge of his previous work. As far as I can tell, this is deliberate and it can be considered a flaw or a virtue depending on one’s view of writing in general and Kurt Vonnegut in particular. But one thing is clear: if you’re not familiar with the characters who have populated Vonnegut’s writing since, say, 1965 – including Vonnegut himself and his fictional alter ego Kilgore Trout – Timequake will seem to be nothing more than a few salvaged fragments from an abandoned project glued together with autobiographical sketches and aphorisms ...

Well, duh

Dale Peck, 18 July 1996

Infinite Jest 
by David Foster Wallace.
Little, Brown, 1079 pp., £17.99, July 1996, 0 316 92004 5
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... The US literary world can be divided into two camps: those who think Thomas Pynchon is a very clever guy, and those who also think he’s a great writer. As it happens, I’m of the former camp. While I admit that Pynchon’s writing is packed with all sorts of ideas, ultimately the novels strike me as more crudités than smorgasbord: the appetisers keep coming (and coming, and coming), but the main course never arrives ...

In the Box

Dale Peck, 6 February 1997

How Stella Got Her Groove Back 
by Terry McMillan.
Viking, 368 pp., £16, September 1996, 0 670 86990 2
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by Sapphire.
Secker, 142 pp., £7.99, September 1996, 0 436 20291 3
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The Autobiography of My Mother 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Vintage, 228 pp., £8.99, September 1996, 0 09 973841 4
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... Every once in a while a reviewer is fortunate enough to find in his hands three or four or five books whose shared aesthetic and thematic concerns mark a distinct shift from those which have preceded them, and which afford the reviewer the singular privilege of announcing a new school of writing. It’s an idea, an image really, which has attracted me ever since I read Edmund Wilson’s early reviews of Stein, Hemingway, Woolf and Joyce; here was a man who, in the course of meeting his weekly deadline, just happened to chart the birth of Modernism ...

Tacky Dress

Dale Peck, 22 February 1996

Like People in History: A Gay American Epic 
by Felice Picano.
Viking, 512 pp., $23.95, July 1995, 0 670 86047 6
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How Long Has This Been Going On? 
by Ethan Mordden.
Villard, 590 pp., $25, April 1995, 0 679 41529 7
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The Facts of Life 
by Patrick Gale.
Flamingo, 511 pp., £15.99, June 1995, 0 602 24522 2
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Flesh and Blood 
by Michael Cunningham.
Hamish Hamilton, 480 pp., £14.99, June 1995, 9780241135150
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... At some point early in the Aids epidemic – this would have been around 1983, a time when no gay man in the United States knew when or even if he would fall ill with the complex of maladies that had begun killing gay men in 1981, a time when, as well, it seemed most gay men regarded the rallies and protests and clandestine gatherings of the Fifties and Sixties as logically capped by the disco-circuit hedonism of the Seventies, and a time when many of those men still seemed to view any attack on that hedonism as the ultimate affront to their political and personal freedom – Larry Kramer remarked that just staying alive had become a political act for gay men ...

Nothing but the Present

Lorna Scott Fox, 23 May 1996

The Law of Enclosures 
by Dale Peck.
Chatto, 287 pp., £15.99, February 1996, 0 7011 6160 4
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... The first thing the literary world noticed about Dale Peck was his youth. Now 28, he produced the harrowing Martin and John (attractively published in Britain as Fucking Martin) at 25. Why do we expect so little of the (not all that) young? Peck’s sophistication needs no excuse or applause on those grounds ...

What the Public Most Wants to See

Christopher Tayler: Rick Moody, 23 February 2006

The Diviners 
by Rick Moody.
Faber, 567 pp., £12.99, January 2006, 0 571 22946 8
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... a bad case of nervous burn-out. Famously at the time, The Black Veil got a very bad review from Dale Peck in the New Republic that mixed some reasonable complaints with funny but self-aggrandising hyperbole. One much-quoted stricture was levelled against Moody’s habitually big, incantatory openings, which makes the beginning of The Diviners seem ...


Alan Bennett: Fresh Revelations, 20 October 1994

... to the dead of the 1914-18 War (ranks not given) and think of boys going on carts down the dale once the harvest was in. Dennis Potter’s impending death is announced this morning and I wonder where his ashes will lie. Potter’s health, or lack of it, has always been a factor in his fame so that, like Kafka, he visibly conformed to what the public ...

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