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The Dark Horse Intimacy

Daniel Soar: Helen Simpson, 16 November 2000

Hey Yeah Right Get a Life 
by Helen Simpson.
Cape, 179 pp., £14.99, October 2000, 0 224 06082 1
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... it involves an element of nightmare. How much better, then, to have reality that is also escape. Helen Simpson is one of those writers who make a virtue of reality by improving on it. Her stories belong to middle-aged or young women, not all of them mothers, who can just remember what it was like to be younger. She is Posy Simmonds without the social ...

Her Proper Duties

Tessa Hadley: Helen Simpson, 5 January 2006

by Helen Simpson.
Cape, 144 pp., £14.99, December 2005, 0 224 07794 5
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... the parenting part is more or less over. Since her first collection was published 16 years ago, Helen Simpson’s stories have charted that succession of stages: sex and pregnancy in Four Bare Legs in a Bed (1990), babies in Dear George (1995), in Hey Yeah Right Get a Life (2000), ‘the squabbly nuclear family unit . . . awful hobbling five-and ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: New Writing, 8 March 2001

... names on the contents page: Barbara Trapido, Anthony Thwaite, Anne Stevenson, Alan Brownjohn, Helen Simpson, Andrew Motion, Michael Hofmann, Alan Sillitoe, Louis de Bernières and Geoff Dyer are ten of them, and ‘new’ isn’t the first word that springs to mind. But there are plenty of good reasons, too obvious to need repeating, for the ...

No Dancing, No Music

Alex Clark: New Puritans, 2 November 2000

All Hail the New Puritans 
edited by Nicholas Blincoe and Matt Thorne.
Fourth Estate, 204 pp., £10, September 2000, 1 84115 345 1
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... brilliances of the more accomplished contemporary short-story writers – Lorrie Moore, say, or Helen Simpson – for this wilful impoverishment might prove too much for many readers. In general, All Hail the New Puritans has an extraordinary lack of humour or lightness of touch. An exception is Blincoe’s own story, ‘Short Guide to Game ...

Paradise Lost

Nicholas Everett, 11 July 1991

by Derek Walcott.
Faber, 325 pp., £17.50, September 1990, 0 571 16070 0
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Collected Poems 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 456 pp., £18, September 1990, 0 7011 3713 4
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The Mail from Anywhere 
by Brad Leithauser.
Oxford, 55 pp., £5.95, September 1990, 0 19 282779 0
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An Elegy for the Galosherman: New and Selected Poems 
by Matt Simpson.
Bloodaxe, 128 pp., £6.95, October 1990, 1 85224 103 9
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... expatriate, wounded veteran of the Second World War and now St Lucian pig farmer, is obsessed with Helen, the proud and beautiful young woman who used to work as his wife Maud’s maid. He identifies her with her island and tries to discover its ‘true place’ in imperial history. Together, his obsession and research make him neglect Maud and at her ...


Peter Swaab, 20 April 1989

The Unremarkable Wordsworth 
by Geoffrey Hartman.
Methuen, 249 pp., £8.95, September 1987, 0 416 05142 1
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Wordsworth’s Historical Imagination: The Poetry of Displacement 
by David Simpson.
Methuen, 239 pp., £25, June 1987, 0 416 03872 7
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Romanticism in National Context 
edited by Roy Porter and Mikulas Teich.
Cambridge, 353 pp., £30, June 1988, 0 521 32605 2
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Romantic Affinities: Portraits from an Age 1780-1830 
by Rupert Christiansen.
Bodley Head, 262 pp., £16, January 1988, 0 370 31117 5
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... and it’s this faculty which malfunctions in Hartman’s more fanciful flights. David Simpson’s central subject is indicated by Hartman’s passing remark about Wordsworth’s ‘residual agrarian sensibility’. Wordsworth’s Historical Imagination is his second book on Wordsworth, following and complementing Wordsworth and the Figurings of ...

Get the placentas

Gavin Francis: ‘The Life Project’, 2 June 2016

The Life Project: The Extraordinary Story of Our Ordinary Lives 
by Helen Pearson.
Allen Lane, 399 pp., £20, February 2016, 978 1 84614 826 2
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... a member of her entourage to ‘talk to this gentleman’, then pushed on to give her speech. Helen Pearson makes no judgment as to whether splashing Margaret Thatcher with coffee helped Butler to get his funding. She does tell us that he spent his evenings writing begging letters to the worthies listed in Who’s Who, and that he managed to get money ...

A Hammer in His Hands

Frank Kermode: Lowell’s Letters, 22 September 2005

The Letters of Robert Lowell 
edited by Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 852 pp., £30, July 2005, 0 571 20204 7
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... Berryman he also admired, but with a keener edge of rivalry. (Berryman’s widow, Eileen Simpson, best catches the manner of their encounters and rivalries, in her memoir, Poets in Their Youth.) Delmore Schwartz, Roethke, Jarrell and Berryman were all self-consciously poètes maudits, and they all died before Lowell. So did his pupils Anne Sexton and ...

How to Survive Your Own Stupidity

Andrew O’Hagan: Homage to Laurel and Hardy, 22 August 2002

Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy 
by Simon Louvish.
Faber, 518 pp., £8.99, September 2002, 0 571 21590 4
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... in for the kind of stuff that used to have people rolling in the aisles of the music halls. Homer Simpson is a kind of Grimaldi, an air-guitar-playing, nacho-chomping version of Dan Leno: he does songs, he falls on his arse, he has trouble with machines, with self-worth, and he goes in for disguises, catchphrases, patter and multiple personalities. The old ...

Strawberries in December

Paul Laity: She Radicals, 30 March 2017

Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers and Radicals in Britain and the United States 
by Sheila Rowbotham.
Verso, 512 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 1 78478 588 8
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... to move in political circles and among advocates of free love. One of her close friends was A.H. Simpson, a Marxist turned peaceful anarchist, who wrote about the pleasures of masturbation and orgasm. Another friend was Elizabeth Holmes, a contributor to Liberty, who had a child from a free union and had been Benjamin Tucker’s lover. Friends remembered ...

I’ll be back

Marjorie Garber: Sequels, 19 August 1999

Part Two: Reflections on the Sequel 
edited by Paul Budra and Betty Schellenberg.
Toronto, 217 pp., £40, February 1999, 0 8020 0915 8
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... midst of things, and not ‘begin the Trojan War by telling of the twin eggs’ – the birth of Helen from the coupling of Leda and Zeus. A modern-day prequel would, precisely, go back to that dramatic moment – as Yeats did in his retelling and remaking of the myth: ‘A shudder in the loins engenders there/The broken wall, the burning roof and tower/And ...

The Uncommon Reader

Alan Bennett: A Story, 8 March 2007

... to crew the Nahlin on that fateful Mediterranean cruise, the lady in the yachting cap a Mrs Simpson – a photograph that tended to come and go, and which was never on view when, as often used to happen, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother dropped in for tea. There was not much about the royal family to which Sir Claude had not been privy. After his ...

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