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Jenny Diski: Back to School, 30 April 2009

... Even so, I teared up at Michelle Obama tearing up, as she said, speaking to a group of girls at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson comprehensive school in Islington: ‘All of you are jewels. When I look at a performance like this, it just reminds me that there are diamonds like this all over the world.’ She told them that they were the women who would ‘build ...

Burnished and braced

Alethea Hayter, 12 July 1990

A Second Self: The Letters of Harriet Granville 1810-1845 
edited by Virginia Surtees.
Michael Russell, 320 pp., £14.95, April 1990, 0 85955 165 2
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... a languid yellow old age, hot, perfumed and dawdling, and I prefer our Julia’s course, active, smart, burnished and braced.’ This selection of letters to an adored sister concentrates on the ‘active, smart, burnished and braced’ aspect of an ambivalent personality and pattern of life. It presents Harriet Cavendish ...

Snob Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Modern Snobbery, 3 November 2016

... every decision in her life on considerations of hygiene since, at the age of 11, she chose the smart new secondary modern over the down-at-heel grammar school. Her snobbery bounces off the mirror-image snobbery Spark assumes in her readers to make a perfect Newton’s cradle of mutual contempt. Class snobbery depends on collusion and in England it is the ...

Performing Seals

Christopher Hitchens: The PR Crowd, 10 August 2000

Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals 
by David Laskin.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., $26, January 2000, 0 684 81565 6
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... McCarthy pointed out waspishly that the great Parisienne was no more than an appendage to Sartre. Elizabeth Hardwick took a higher tone, at least as sarcastically described by Lowell, who wrote in 1953: Elizabeth has just finished a wonderful crucifying polemic on the Second Sexe. She proves with all the eloquence of ...

It belonged to us

Theo Tait: Tristan Garcia, 17 March 2011

Hate: A Romance 
by Tristan Garcia, translated by Marion Duvert and Lorin Stein.
Faber, 273 pp., £12.99, February 2011, 978 0 571 25183 4
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... de Flore, which rewards younger, avant-garde-ish writers. Hate is the story of four people: Elizabeth Levallois, the narrator, a cultural journalist at Libération; her long-term lover, a married media academic called Jean-Michel Leibowitz; her friend Dominique Rossi, a gay activist; and William Miller, an unbalanced young man who is Dominique’s lover ...

Haute Booboisie

Wendy Lesser: H.L. Mencken, 6 July 2006

Mencken: The American Iconoclast 
by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers.
Oxford, 662 pp., £19.99, January 2006, 0 19 507238 3
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... Sun, for which he wrote during the first forty years of the last century; or in the pages of Smart Set, which he edited with George Jean Nathan during the 1910s and early 1920s; or its successor, the American Mercury, which he founded with Alfred Knopf’s backing in 1923. In that mode, and on that scale, he became one of the most influential writers in ...


Nicholas Penny: Getting Rid of the Curators, 4 May 1989

... more sophisticated males for whom a caff is as quaint as a cloth cap, reassuring them that it is smart to be philistine if you make smug jokes about it. Elizabeth Esteve-Coll, the Director, declares that the slogan is ‘absolutely magnificent’ because it is ‘targeted at a particular age group (18-35) and it certainly ...

All I Did Was Marry Him

Elaine Showalter: Laura Bush’s Other Life, 6 November 2008

American Wife 
by Curtis Sittenfeld.
Doubleday, 558 pp., £11.99, October 2008, 978 0 385 61674 4
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... In Sittenfeld’s view, Gerhart, a reporter for the Washington Post, portrayed her subject as smart, curious, sincere, down-to-earth and compassionate. But Sittenfeld had been a fan of Laura Bush before she read Gerhart’s book, tracing her fascination to a Vogue profile in June 2001, which stressed the First Lady’s lack of pretension and disdain for ...

Living with a little halibut

John Bayley, 8 October 1992

by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 224 pp., £14.99, August 1992, 0 224 03315 8
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... with the heroine finding what she is looking for in ceasing to care about it, in getting some more smart clothes and deciding to design them in Paris for middle-aged women like herself. James would have been amused but also disturbed by this new form of literary démarche in which real living, as it were, takes over so completely from the sweet mystery of ...


Victor Mallet, 8 December 1988

Constructive Drinking: Perspectives on Drink from Anthropology 
edited by Mary Douglas.
Cambridge, 291 pp., £25, September 1987, 0 521 33504 3
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For Prayer and Profit: The Ritual, Economic and Social Importance of Beer in Gwembe District, Zambia, 1950-1982 
by Elizabeth Colson and Thayer Scudder.
Stanford, 147 pp., $32.50, August 1988, 0 8047 1444 4
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... the Brazilian border to buy industrial alcohol to drink. And in For Prayer and Profit, Elizabeth Colson and Thayer Scudder paint a comprehensive – and grim – picture of the alcohol-assisted decline of the rural Tonga communities in Zambia’s Gwembe District. In Zambia drink and economic decay have complemented each other over the years and ...


Elizabeth Drew: JFK, 20 November 2003

John F. Kennedy: An Unfinished Life 1917-63 
by Robert Dallek.
Allen Lane, 838 pp., £25, September 2003, 0 7139 9737 0
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... was not only very handsome but a superb athlete: Jack told a friend that he thought he was just as smart and just as athletic but he doubted that the family would ever think so. He always felt that in his father’s eyes he was only filling in for his older brother. When Jack began his political career the Kennedys were presented as a vigorous athletic family ...

New Faces on the Block

Jenny Diski, 27 November 1997

Venus Envy 
by Elizabeth Haiken.
Johns Hopkins, 288 pp., £20.50, January 1998, 0 8018 5763 5
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The Royal Women of Amarna: Images of Beauty From Ancient Egypt 
by Dorothea Arnold.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 192 pp., $45, February 1997, 0 8109 6504 6
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... presumably, have been no ‘after’ picture. Worryingly, in her history of cosmetic surgery, Elizabeth Haiken ends the paragraph on Rosa Travers with a parenthesis: ‘what happened afterwards was not reported.’ At the very least, it suggests that Rosa’s misfortune did not make a fortune for her after all. Or shall we cheer ourselves up by assuming ...

The South

Colm Tóibín, 4 August 1994

One Art: The Selected Letters of Elizabeth Bishop 
Chatto, 668 pp., £25, April 1994, 0 7011 6195 7Show More
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... Flamingo Park and went out some days to swim at Copacabana. It was that time between the death of Elizabeth Bishop and the appearance of the first biography and this volume of letters, when the ordinary reader on this side of the Atlantic knew very little about her. I did not know that for 15 years she stayed in an apartment overlooking the beach. ‘It is ...

Did my father do it?

C.H. Sisson, 20 October 1983

Elizabeth R.: A Biography 
by Elizabeth Longford.
Weidenfeld, 389 pp., £10.95, September 1983, 0 297 78285 1
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by Robert Lacey.
Hutchinson/BBC, 249 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 0 09 154290 1
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The Cult of the Prince Consort 
by Elizabeth Darby and Nicola Smith.
Yale, 120 pp., £10, October 1983, 0 300 03015 0
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... in more than one place to ‘St Bagehot’, which I fear reflects the uncritical adoration this smart performer received in academic quarters in the Packenhams’ youth. The essence of Bagehot’s view is that the Queen is merely an Appearance, while he and others who spin coins in the city are the Reality. The rest of the population are more or less ...

Suiting yourself

Peter Campbell, 27 July 1989

I Modi. The Sixteen Pleasures: An Erotic Album of Renaissance Italy 
by Lynne Lawner.
Northwestern, 132 pp., $35.95, February 1989, 0 8101 0803 8
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The Dress of the Venetians 1495-1525 
by Stella Mary Newton.
Scolar, 196 pp., £28.50, December 1988, 0 85967 735 4
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Fashion Drawings in ‘Vogue’: René Bouët-Willamez and Fashion Drawings in ‘Vogue’: Carl Erickson 
by William Parker.
Joseph, 128 pp., £14.95, March 1989, 0 86350 198 2
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Women and Fashion 
by Caroline Evans and Minna Thornton.
Quartet, 184 pp., £15, March 1989, 0 7043 2691 4
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... frequently comment on the social scene. In one drawing, for example, women arrive for lunch in a smart restaurant; in another, a coloured maid is instructed on what shoes to pack in her mistress’s cabin trunk. While such scenes may have been fantasies for most of Vogue’s readers, they were presented in documentary style – a late flower of the craft of ...

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