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... Sir Keith Joseph has chosen a good moment to kill off the Schools Council. It seems that it is a good moment to kill off all sorts of things. While thousands of young men are exposed unnecessarily to violence, and to its infliction – supposedly on our behalf, more probably to satisfy the vanity of a few unjust men and women, who want to go on running this country for a bit – a whole generation of young people faces a future of unemployment ...

At Home

Jane Miller, 4 June 2020

... It’s​ april, and beyond our back wall a line of ambulances is queuing up to deliver sick passengers to the hospital. We are self-isolated, safe in our fortress, as we wait on our order from the local bakery. This will be delivered too. An innocent contrast perhaps, though hardly benign. We are a month into coronavirus time. I began it by rereading Camus and then The Betrothed by Manzoni, which I had never read ...

My Friend Sam

Jane Miller, 16 August 1990

The rock cried out 
by Ellen Douglas.
Virago, 303 pp., £5.99, June 1990, 1 85381 140 8
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Can’t quit you, baby 
by Ellen Douglas.
Virago, 256 pp., £12.95, June 1990, 1 85381 149 1
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... The landscape of Ellen Douglas’s Mississippi is designed to keep us out, to resist recognition; and the lines of its knobs and bluffs and ridges may be deciphered only by those who have been born and bred amongst them. For the rest of us they are edged but also obscured by lovingly named plants, by smilax, trillium, scuppernog vines and plum thickets ...

Thinking Women

Jane Miller, 6 November 1986

... what could be described as my first appearance in print. The actual copy I have belonged to Betty Miller, and it is in her article, which is called ‘Amazons and Afterwards’, that I appear, anonymously and representatively, as Afterwards. The journal’s editorial includes me too, as one of the pony-tailed generation of young women, clones of Francoise ...

Bullies

Jane Miller, 8 November 1979

Miss Herbert (The Suburban Wife) 
by Christina Stead.
Virago, 308 pp., £5.95
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... Eleanor, in Christina Stead’s most recent novel, is a writer and a rewriter, whose somewhat parasitical achievement it is to have turned a story written by her father into a modest best-seller; a wry sort of apology, perhaps, for the wonderful novels, which have not been best-sellers. Christina Stead herself has written about oppressively exuberant fathers, but a judgment as well on those who live within borrowed scenarios ...

Pool of Consciousness

Jane Miller, 21 February 1980

Pilgrimage 
by Dorothy Richardson.
Virago, £3.50, November 1980, 0 86068 100 9
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... Dorothy Richardson can seem to have conspired with those critics of her vast novel, over 2,000 pages long, who have complained that it is boringly avant-garde, inchoate, and vitiated by what Virginia Woolf called ‘the damned egotistical self’. It was not just perversity which provoked her to court such charges. She set out to write a novel about ‘the startling things that are not important’, and to do so through the experiences of a woman who is evasive, assertive and contrary ...

Understanding slavery

Jane Miller, 12 November 1987

Beloved 
by Toni Morrison.
Chatto, 275 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 7011 3060 1
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... Toni Morrison’s novels have been constructed, and are magically unsettled, by the unique character of historical memory for black Americans. That is to say, she has wanted to account for black experience that has been ignored or quite inadequately narrated by white historians and novelists, and even more significantly, in order to do that she has needed to confront precisely those aspects of the experience which have blocked memory, made remembering intolerable and memories inexpressible, literally unspeakable ...

Love and the Party

Jane Miller, 2 July 1981

A Great Love 
by Alexandra Kollontai, translated by Cathy Porter.
Virago, 156 pp., £2.50, March 1981, 0 86068 188 2
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Love of Worker Bees 
by Alexandra Kollontai, translated by Cathy Porter.
Virago, 232 pp., £2.95, October 1977, 0 86068 006 1
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... Oh, come on now! It won’t be such a tragedy if you’re a little late! They’ll manage very nicely without you, you know.’ Moving closer to her he’d started to nibble her ear and then, with mounting passion, to kiss her neck. But she hadn’t responded. His words had stung her and she thought of all the other occasions when he’d referred so disparagingly to her work for the Party – their Party; she wondered if he’d ever understand that it was only out of a sense of total commitment to her political work that she derived the strength to endure their separation for good ...

What is lacking

Jane Miller, 20 October 1983

Ways with Words: Language, Life and Work in Communities and Classrooms 
by Shirley Brice Heath.
Cambridge, 448 pp., £25, July 1983, 0 521 25334 9
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... Working-class children do less well at school than middle-class children, and exceptions must not be allowed to interfere with that truth. Notions of linguistic or cultural ‘deprivation’ imply lacks or absences in relation to other people and to what schools are and offer, and, by squeamishly skirting the connections between social class and children’s experiences, chances and expectations, schools have turned to forms of ‘topping-up’ and remediation, which derive from rudimentary and distorting views of the realities of culture and language in people’s lives ...

Diary

Jane Miller: On the National Curriculum, 15 October 1987

... Late in July, well into the schools’ summer holidays, two copies of a consultation document entitled ‘The National Curriculum 5-16’ were delivered at the offices of the education department in a London borough large enough to sport three MPs. Slack and irresponsible as ever, the borough’s three thousand or so teachers were, in some cases, actually away ...

Blaming teachers

Jane Miller, 17 August 1989

... On the first day of the school holidays – and the hottest day for 13 years – 650 London teachers of English from secondary and primary schools met to discuss the implications of the second volume of the Cox Report.* The volume elaborates a set of proposals for the teaching of language and literature to all children between five and 16 who attend state schools and who will be embarking on the first stages of the new National Curriculum from this September ...

New Romance

Jane Miller, 14 May 1992

Jazz 
by Toni Morrison.
Chatto, 229 pp., £14.99, April 1992, 0 7011 3449 6
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... Within the first half-page of Toni Morrison’s novel, an 18-year-old girl has been shot dead by her middle-aged lover, and his wife has been manhandled from the funeral after attempting to cut the dead girl’s face with a knife. Both events are witnessed and kept secret by a community which has reason to distrust the police and to look kindly upon a hitherto gentle, childless couple, whose sudden, violent sorrows they recognise and are able to forgive ...

Gissing may damage your health

Jane Miller, 7 March 1991

The Collected Letters of George Gissing. Vol. I: 1863-1880 
edited by Paul Mattheisen, Arthur Young and Pierre Coustillas.
Ohio, 334 pp., £47.50, September 1990, 0 8214 0955 7
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... My great-aunt Clara and George Gissing were friends during the last ten years of his life. He wrote to her about once a week, always as Miss Collet, and quite often bared his soul to her. She was an expert on women’s work and a civil servant. During his lifetime she gave him money to educate his sons, and after he died she not only arranged with Downing Street for a Civil List pension for them ...

Feminist Perplexities

Dinah Birch, 11 October 1990

Seductions: Studies in Reading and Culture 
by Jane Miller.
Virago, 194 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 0 86068 943 3
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... a high price for admission. In her discriminating survey of the issues confronting feminism today, Jane Miller argues that it has been too high. The form of her book is a demonstration of this conviction, for it is an account of an intellectual dilemma which takes shape as an autobiography. She remembers her own experience as an undergraduate at ...

What We Are Last

Rosemary Hill: Old Age, 21 October 2010

Crazy Age: Thoughts on Being Old 
by Jane Miller.
Virago, 247 pp., £14.99, September 2010, 978 1 84408 649 8
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... old devilry. The bad temper, the dislike of the young, the inflexibility, the walking sticks, what Jane Miller, in her beguiling series of meditations on being old in life and in literature, calls the ‘theatrical props’ of later life, enabled Amis to achieve old age before it could be thrust upon him, dying as he did at 73. ...

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