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Wall? I saw no Wall

T.H. Barrett, 30 November 1995

Did Marco Polo Go to China? 
by Frances Wood.
Secker, 182 pp., £14.99, November 1995, 0 436 20166 6
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... And with good reason: more than twenty-five years may have passed, but I distinctly remember how Frances Wood and I were warned that anyone contemplating working on the Mongol period in Chinese history would be issued with a bottle of aspirin, in view of the immense difficulties involved in studying an empire which employed in its administration not ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Miles Ahead’, 19 May 2016

Miles Ahead 
directed by Don Cheadle.
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... Day My Prince Will Come home with him from the dealer’s because the face on the cover is that of Frances Taylor, his ex-wife – ‘the best wife I ever had’, he says for himself and the movie says for him in its images. Frances is wonderfully played by Emayatzy Corinealdi. She talks about dancing as if it was a form of ...

History and Hats

D.A.N. Jones, 23 January 1986

The Lover 
by Marguerite Duras, translated by Barbara Bray.
Collins, 123 pp., £7.95, November 1985, 0 00 222946 3
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Stones of the Wall 
by Dai Houying, translated by Frances Wood.
Joseph, 310 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 7181 2588 6
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White Noise 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 326 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 330 29109 2
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... Marguerite Duras describes a crowd in French Indo-China (in 1930): ‘The clatter of wooden clogs is ear-splitting, the voices strident, Chinese is a language that’s shouted the way I always imagine desert languages are, it’s a language that’s incredibly foreign.’ This impression is familiar to me, from National Service days in Hong Kong and the British New Territories ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Enola Holmes’, 22 October 2020

... employing havoc as a method of education. Conversely, the marquess’s grandmother, played by Frances de la Tour, looks old enough to be Methuselah’s sister, and embodies so perfectly the dream dowager, twinkly and intelligent, that she must be (and is) up to something else. Burn Gorman brings a special gothic nastiness to his part as the evil pursuer ...

Fear among the Teacups

Dinah Birch: Ellen Wood, 8 February 2001

East Lynne 
by Ellen Wood, edited by Andrew Maunder.
Broadview, 779 pp., £7.95, October 2000, 1 55111 234 5
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... Andrew Maunder’s introduction to his new edition of Ellen Wood’s chronicle of scandalous goings-on among the Victorian middle classes claims that East Lynne may be ‘one of the most famous unread works in the English language’. Very possibly. Yet it was spectacularly successful in its day, and its popularity has turned out to be more durable than that of most publishing sensations ...

Francine-Machine

Jonathan Rée: Automata, 9 May 2002

Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen 
by Barbara Maria Stafford and Frances Terpak.
Getty, 416 pp., £30, February 2002, 0 89236 590 0
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The Secret Life of Puppets 
by Victoria Nelson.
Harvard, 350 pp., £20.50, February 2002, 0 674 00630 5
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Living Dolls: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life 
by Gaby Wood.
Faber, 278 pp., £12.99, March 2002, 0 571 17879 0
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... website and the exhaustive catalogue, with lavish illustrations and meticulous curatorial notes by Frances Terpak. Terpak has left it to her culturalist colleagues to philosophise about epiphany, synaesthesia, cyberspace, the destabilised world order etc, while she describes the objects in the show. Her discussion of automata opens with a 17th-century ...

‘A Naughty House’

Charles Nicholl: Shakespeare’s Landlord, 24 June 2010

... resident in the parish of St Giles without Cripplegate, and a woman from Whitechapel called Frances Williams. The charge was fornication. Though not in itself unusual, the charge had an extra twist, repeated with minor variations in most of the entries relating to it: ‘they were all 4 seene in bed together at one tyme.’ The documentation is ...

The Italy of Human Beings

Frances Wilson: Felicia Hemans, 16 November 2000

Felicia Hemans: ‘Records of Woman’ with Other Poems 
edited by Paula Feldman.
Kentucky, 248 pp., £15.50, September 1999, 0 8131 0964 7
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... that in presenting an idealised world ‘with no parting, sadness or war . . . free of rotting wood, privation, disease and class conflict’, it gives us a ‘fairytale’ which, when contrasted with the ‘intense human sufferings’ described in Records of Woman, can only be seen as ironic. Hemans’s importance lies not in her contribution to the ...

Happy Valleys

Dan Jacobson, 18 November 1982

White Mischief 
by James Fox.
Cape, 293 pp., £8.95, November 1982, 0 224 01731 4
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Earth to Earth 
by John Cornwell.
Allen Lane, 174 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 7139 1045 3
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... of drawing-room dimensions, made of polished metal below, canvas above, and bent, brown, jointed wood between. For us that sufficed. But the truly dedicated snob always has available to him an endless number of shifts and stratagems. In their innocence, the townsfolk of Kimberley could never have conceived the involuted cunning of a snobbery which would ...

Sun and Strawberries

Mary Beard: Gwen Raverat, 19 September 2002

Gwen Raverat: Friends, Family and Affections 
by Frances Spalding.
Harvill, 438 pp., £30, June 2001, 1 86046 746 6
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... by matchlight in the basement of the Museum of Classical Archaeology, messing about on the Cam. Frances Spalding sees the problem. She is perceptive on Period Piece’s sometimes artful, sometimes awkwardly contrived faux-naivety, and on its self-serving censorship and selectivity. She points out, for example, that the death of Raverat’s nanny from cancer ...

Why the birthday party didn’t happen

Michael Wood, 10 March 1994

Short Cuts 
directed by Robert Altman.
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Short Cuts: The Screenplay 
by Robert Altman and Frank Barhydt.
Capra/Airlift, 144 pp., £12.99, October 1993, 0 88496 378 0
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Short Cuts 
by Raymond Carver, introduced by Robert Altman.
Harvill, 157 pp., £6.99, March 1994, 0 00 272704 8
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... who are superb are all those – Anne Archer, Madeleine Stowe, Julianne Moore, Matthew Modine, Frances McNormand – who get a chance to underact, to play through despair and calamity as if they were just everyday weather. There is a moment in the film which is pure Altman, as good as anything he has ever done. The man who is learning horror make-up ...

The Whole Bustle

Siobhan Kilfeather, 9 January 1992

The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing 
edited by Seamus Deane.
Field Day Publications/Faber, 4044 pp., £150, November 1991, 0 946755 20 5
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... missed some of the Northern women writers such as Charlotte Elizabeth, Amanda McKittrick Ros, Frances Browne and Anne Crone, whose varieties of Unionism and feminism would have been intriguingly disruptive of the meta-narrative. Northern writing is otherwise well-represented. Tom Paulin edits a section on ‘Northern Protestant Oratory and Writing ...

Eye-Catchers

Peter Campbell, 4 December 1986

Survey of London: Vol. XLII. Southern Kensington: Kensington to Earls Court 
Athlone, 502 pp., £55, May 1986, 0 485 48242 8Show More
Follies: A National Trust Guide 
by Gwyn Headley and Wim Meulenkamp.
Cape, 564 pp., £15, June 1986, 0 224 02105 2
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The Botanists 
by David Elliston Allen.
St Paul’s Bibliographies, 232 pp., £15, May 1986, 0 906795 36 2
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British Art since 1900 
by Frances Spalding.
Thames and Hudson, 252 pp., £10.50, April 1986, 0 500 23457 4
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Paintings from Books: Art and Literature in Britain, 1760-1900 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 527 pp., £55, March 1986, 0 8142 0380 9
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History of the British Pig 
by John Wiseman.
Duckworth, 118 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 9780715619872
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... Doric temple of 1758 at Hagley Park) and Temple Bar (in its present situation in a Hertfordshire wood) are all follies by Headley’s and Meulencamp’s definition. The first, like many of their eye-catchers and shams, is not quite what it seems; the second was a plaything, although also a try-out for the big architecture of the next generation; the third is ...

God, what a victory!

Jeremy Harding, 10 February 1994

Martyr’s Day: Chronicle of Small War 
by Michael Kelly.
Macmillan, 354 pp., £16.99, October 1993, 0 333 60496 2
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Battling for News: The Rise of the Woman Reporter 
by Anne Sebba.
Hodder, 301 pp., £19.99, January 1994, 0 340 55599 8
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Women’s Letters in Wartime 
edited by Eva Figes.
Pandora, 304 pp., £20, October 1993, 0 04 440755 6
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The War at Sixteen: Autobiography, Vol. II 
by Julien Green, translated by Euan Cameron.
Marion Boyars, 207 pp., £19.95, November 1993, 0 7145 2969 9
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... ye would. Where Honor Lisle was busy with annuities and inheritance on her return to England, Frances Nelson sets her sights a little lower. Two months after Aboukir Bay, she writes to Nelson, c/o Vanguard, about her housekeeping costs at Round Wood: Every bill will be paid, the expense of drawing off the wine, bottles ...

The Life of the Mind

Michael Wood, 20 June 1996

Fargo 
directed by Joel Coen.
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Fargo 
by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.
Faber, 118 pp., £7.99, May 1996, 0 571 17963 0
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... woman who heroically survives the onslaught of the miasmic detective in Blood Simple is played by Frances McDormand, who is also a leading character in Fargo – Marge Gunderson, the pregnant Brainerd police chief called in when the kidnapping turns to murder. She has a wonderfully understated acting style, dominated by a level stare, which in ...

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