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Reminder: Mother

Adam Mars-Jones: Helen Phillips

22 December 2019
The Need 
by Helen Phillips.
Chatto, 272 pp., £16.99, August 2019, 978 1 78474 284 3
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... HelenPhillips’s disconcerting new novel starts on a note of thrillerish urgency. Molly, at home alone with her small children, hears footsteps in the other room. She clasps them to her, though she needs to move ...

I fret and fret

Adam Phillips: Edward Thomas

5 November 2015
Edward Thomas: From Adelstrop to Arras 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Bloomsbury, 480 pp., £25, May 2015, 978 1 4081 8713 5
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... 98, his more or less happy childhood and youth spent in South London and Kent, the eldest child in a family of six boys. Then in 1899 he goes to Lincoln College, Oxford, meets and marries his wife Helen, has three children in quick succession, gets to know many of the significant literary figures of the day (Edward Garnett, Rupert Brooke, Joseph Conrad, Lascelles Abercrombie, Hilaire Belloc et al ...

John McEnroe plus Anyone

Edward Said: Tennis

1 July 1999
The Right Set: The Faber Book of Tennis 
edited by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 327 pp., £12.99, June 1999, 0 571 19540 7
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... who play the satellites and occasionally rise to prominence with scarcely a ripple or memory left after their time is over. Some account of the organic nature of tennis is missing from Caryl Phillips’s rather too random compilation, The Right Set: The Faber Book of Tennis, which I had looked forward to reading as an anthology that starts with Suzanne Lenglen and ends more or less with Venus ...

Had I been born a hero

Helen​ Deutsch: Female poets of the eighteenth century

21 September 2006
Eighteenth-Century Women Poets and Their Poetry: Inventing Agency, Inventing Genre 
by Paula Backscheider.
Johns Hopkins, 514 pp., £43.50, January 2006, 0 8018 8169 2
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... falsely opposed, as Backscheider shows, in a ‘chaste-versus-transgressive paradigm’ that would be used to classify women poets throughout the century: on one side, the virtuous Katherine Phillips, ‘our Orinda’, whom Jane Brereton (1716-40) praised as the writer who ‘spotless in her Fame,/As chaste in Wit, rescued our Sex from shame’ and whose poetry, in a phrase to which Backscheider ...

Memories of Frank Kermode

Stefan Collini, Karl Miller, Adam Phillips, Jacqueline Rose, James Wood, Michael Wood and Wynne Godley

23 September 2010
... ground (‘Some of those people on the faculty board were unspeakable’). He would also recur to some of the celebrated critical spats he had been involved in, unyielding about the iniquities of Helen Gardner, generous about Empson though still irritated (‘Later in his life he made a great to-do about “matters of fact” in literature, but he so often got things wrong’). He had the usual ...
4 January 1996
Freud and the Child Woman: The Memoirs of Fritz Wittels 
edited by Edward Timms.
Yale, 188 pp., £19.95, October 1995, 0 300 06485 3
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... of understanding the civilised world of adults. Nor does this world understand her.’ At the meeting Wittels backs up his case – ‘my flood of enthusiasm’, as he calls it – by quoting Helen of Troy, Lucretia Borgia, Manon Lescaut and Zola’s Nana: but not, of course, the uneducated Irma. Her account of herself is oddly irrelevant to Wittels (and to Kraus, who soon tired of her ...

Roaring Boy

Adam Phillips: Hart Crane

30 September 1999
The Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane 
by Paul Mariani.
Norton, 492 pp., $35, April 1999, 0 393 04726 1
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O My Land, My Friends: The Selected Letters of Hart Crane 
edited by Langdon Hammer and Brom Weber.
Four Walls Eight Windows, 562 pp., $35, July 1997, 0 941423 18 2
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... he was after in his idiosyncratic theology, to counter the smug pessimism of what he calls, as if for emphasis, Eliot’s The Waste Lands. In his first great poem, ‘For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen’, it is clear that he knows what he wants – ‘Brazen hypnotics glitter here’ – which necessarily involves Faustianly not quite knowing what he is doing: Greet naively – yet intrepidly New ...

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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... anybody you’ve ever met. It doesn’t happen so much in the cinema nowadays, though. Modern movie actors are much like ourselves, only better-looking, with faster cars; people like Tom Hanks or Helen Hunt derive the major part of their appeal from what we might call their apparent ordinariness, and only occasionally, as with Jim Carrey or Robin Williams, does an actor come along who seems to have ...

I have not lived up to it

Helen​ Vendler: Melancholy Hopkins

2 April 2014
The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins Vols I-II: Correspondence 
edited by R.K.R. Thorton and Catherine Phillips.
Oxford, 1184 pp., £175, March 2013, 978 0 19 965370 6
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...  dangerous; / does set danc- / ing blood’. Hopkins’s youthful practice of drawing (Ruskinian in its careful rendering of differentiating details) helped him to note a host of individual qualities and aspects even in a single creature. When his heart is ‘stirred’ by the non-‘dangerous’ beauty of the kestrel’s flight (in ‘The Windhover’) and he wishes to grasp it as a whole, he must ...


Mary Hawthorne: The Luck of Walker Evans

5 February 2004
Walker Evans 
by James Mellow.
Perseus, 654 pp., £15.99, February 2002, 1 903985 13 7
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... of his character, ‘but at the time we just rode it out.’ At the end of the year, he was encouraged to leave. Having pulled himself together somewhat by his senior year, he was admitted to Phillips Andover, and there, though his academic performance remained indifferent, he found salvation in books. The idea of being a ‘nobody’ was clearly unacceptable to Evans, and his difficult years ...

The Manners of a Hog

Christopher Tayler: Buchan’s Banter

9 February 2020
Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan 
by Ursula Buchan.
Bloomsbury, 479 pp., £25, April 2019, 978 1 4088 7081 5
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... They point to his handful of Jewish friends, to his Zionism – a cause he learned about from his friend Arthur Balfour, who set him on the path of writing thrillers by introducing him to those of E. Phillips Oppenheim, jokily described by Buchan as ‘the greatest Jewish writer since Isaiah’ – and to the sympathetically depicted Jewish characters who crop up here and there in his fiction. As the ...

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