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Big Rip-Off

Colin Burrow: Riffing Off Shakespeare

3 November 2016
Shylock Is My Name: ‘The Merchant of Venice’ Retold 
by Howard Jacobson.
Hogarth, 277 pp., £16.99, February 2016, 978 1 78109 028 2
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Vinegar Girl: ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ Retold 
by Anne Tyler.
Hogarth, 233 pp., £16.99, June 2016, 978 1 78109 018 3
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The Gap of Time: ‘The Winter’s Tale’ Retold 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Hogarth, 291 pp., £16.99, October 2015, 978 1 78109 029 9
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Hag-Seed: ‘The Tempest’ Retold 
by Margaret Atwood.
Hogarth, 293 pp., £16.99, October 2016, 978 1 78109 022 0
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... grounds for weeping over some of this batch of novelistic adaptations of Shakespeare, all of which are of comedies or tragicomedies rather than tragedies. It’s hard to read without some pain either JeanetteWinterson’s rewriting of The Winter’s Tale or Howard Jacobson’s of The Merchant of Venice. Part of the problem is that this series seems to operate on the principle that the ideal person to ...

Flame-Broiled Whopper

Theo Tait: Salman Rushdie

6 October 2005
Shalimar the Clown 
by Salman Rushdie.
Cape, 398 pp., £17.99, September 2005, 0 224 06161 5
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... clichés: passionate lovers, wise old women, tyrannical patriarchs – a sort of politically correct fairytale. Again, this is especially true of its anglophone variants: see the tedious fables of JeanetteWinterson, or the eccentric but warm-hearted villagers of Louis de Bernières. These days, magic realism is deservedly out of fashion. But it’s worth remembering that it has been one of the great ...

Yearning for the ‘Utile’

Frank Kermode: Snobbery and John Carey

23 June 2005
What Good Are the Arts? 
by John Carey.
Faber, 286 pp., £12.99, June 2005, 0 571 22602 7
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... superior to mass or popular art. Persistence in such an opinion is hardly to be distinguished from claims to belong to an upper class. Among those here castigated for snobbery and irrationality are JeanetteWinterson, Clive Bell and Kenneth Clark. The last-named is treated with particular severity because he had such power to impose his false opinions on the world. For example, he had much influence on ...


Marina Warner: Medea

3 December 2015
... Iphigenia in Aulis, is ‘transadaptation’. More eloquently, Alice Oswald subtitled her book-length elegy, Memorial, which revisits the Iliad, an ‘excavation’. There are other words, too: JeanetteWinterson has borrowed ‘cover’ from the music industry for her retelling of The Winter’s Tale. In earlier times, the rhetorical practices ‘emulatio’ and ‘imitatio’ were highly valued ...

I dive under the covers

Sheila Heti: Mad Wives

6 June 2013
by Kate Zambreno.
Semiotext(e), 309 pp., £12.95, November 2012, 978 1 58435 114 6
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... t flirt with madness or wilt glamorously? What about the women writers who do have ‘the tremendous EGO’ required to do the work? Simone de Beauvoir, Gertrude Stein, Hannah Arendt, Alice Munro, JeanetteWinterson, Anne Carson. Why am I even making this list? By the end of the book, I felt for Flaubert. ‘The humid element’, the ‘tears, chatter, breast-feeding … menses’, was too much for me ...
9 March 1995
... Kosofsky Sedgwick. Lesbian fiction has from the very beginning – except when it was entirely separatist – been associated in the US with the feminist movement. Only a few lesbian novelists – JeanetteWinterson in Britain, Rita Mae Brown in the States – have become ‘crossover’ writers with a mass-market audience including, presumably, many straight readers. Perhaps a few more gay male ...
20 October 1994
Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play 
by Ben Watson.
Quartet, 597 pp., £25, May 1994, 0 7043 7066 2
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Her Weasels Wild Returning 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 12 pp., £2, May 1994
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... artist of the late 20th century’. Frank demurs (doesn’t even ask: ‘how late?’) Any performer worth his salt knows he’s the best, you just don’t come out and say it (unless you’re JeanetteWinterson). ‘That’s your perception,’ he mutters, modestly. Live with these contraries and the book sits up on its hind legs and barks. But keep a beady eye on the foot notes. Those below-the ...


Charles Nicholl: ‘The Shakespeare Circle’

18 May 2016
The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography 
edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 107 69909 0
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... unnamed, and without any formulaic adjective of affection such as ‘well-beloved’ – and because of the pointedly inferior quality of the legacy. Speaking recently on Radio 4’s Start the Week, JeanetteWinterson described it as ‘vicious, vituperative and bitter’. Scheil remains calmer. The pages of the will, she observes, are ‘in different stages of finality’, so it is hard to know whether ...

Literary Friction

Jenny Turner: Kathy Acker’s Ashes

18 October 2017
After Kathy Acker: A Literary Biography 
by Chris Kraus.
Allen Lane, 352 pp., £20, August 2017, 978 1 63590 006 4
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... was particularly acute in London, because of geographical and cultural distance partly, and also because of her success. Kaveney remembers Acker having friendships with some peers and contemporaries, JeanetteWinterson, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Geoff Ryman, Kaveney herself; but she was susceptible to ‘Ackerlites’ and could herself be a bit of a climber and a user. ‘Neil remarked … that I was more ...

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