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Jenny Diski: Back to School, 30 April 2009

... It has been my habit, since I was very young, to keep easy sentiment, nostalgia, optimism even, in a secure box, and to forget where I left the key. This isn’t a confession, as it might seem to be in these emotionally overindulgent days. It’s simply a strategy; I’m a non-believer in the recuperative power of easily expressed instinctive feeling ...


Jenny Diski: The Je Ne Sais Quoi, 15 December 2005

... Apart from those possessed of blind faith who go along with the view that only God can know the truth about the truth, most people assume that what we don’t know could be known by somebody looking hard and skilfully enough at the problem. I’m not sure if in the 21st century there is quantitively more in the world that isn’t known, but certainly we know that there is more we don’t know ...

On the Sofa

Jenny Diski: ‘Happy Valley’, 2 July 2014

... I can​ take more than my fair share of crap TV cop drama. Formulaic is good: I haven’t seen True Detective yet, but I fear from what I’ve read that it might be less rigidly structured than I’d like. Two of the Law and Order police procedurals, plain old Law and Order and Law and Order: Criminal Intent, provide the perfect sort of thing. Intro: a kid’s dog comes out of the bushes in Central Park wagging its tail with a hand in its mouth, a couple having frantic stand-up sex next to a dumpster are brought short by one of them noticing a mangled body on the ground beside them ...

Short Cuts

Jenny Diski: Mary Whitehouse’s Letters, 20 December 2012

... I’m not good at forgiving. It’s always been one of the worst aspects of my character, and now that I am old, there’s no chance it’s going to get better. I won’t have a warm retrospective feeling about Margaret Thatcher. I don’t see Reagan or Nixon in a new perspective with the passage of time. And I still loathe my wicked stepmother. This last is what needs acknowledging, because as I read Mary Whitehouse’s letters, everything about her, except the trim tailoring, reminded me of my wicked stepmother ...


Jenny Diski, 18 August 2014

... There was a flurry of excitement when the second series of Orange Is the New Black arrived fully formed on Netflix. People set out their binge snacks to binge watch. I was feeling bitter at not having seen True Detective, as everyone had who was either American or hadn’t set their face against giving Rupert Murdoch another sou to get Sky Atlantic, on which most of the things I like to watch are now shown ...

Not Enjoying Herself

Jenny Diski: Princess Margaret, 16 August 2007

Princess Margaret: A Life Unravelled 
by Tim Heald.
Weidenfeld, 346 pp., £20, July 2007, 978 0 297 84820 2
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... And now for the other princess: the one who failed to stop all the clocks in Kensington Palace and Mustique, and grew old.1 In doing so she became sick, fat, grumpy, drunk and unloved. This, you might think, is the fate of many people who leave dying to their later years. But in a princess these flaws, if not the necessary concomitants of age then surely an entitlement of age, are particularly disappointing ...


Jenny Diski: In Praise of Older Men, 6 June 2013

... There’s a joke going round on Twitter that ‘they are arresting the Seventies.’ The ‘Seventies’ they are arresting is the decade rather than the mean age of those being rounded up by Operation Yewtree, though 73-year-old Jimmy Tarbuck is the latest entertainer from the period known to have been questioned about historical sex abuse allegations ...


Jenny Diski: Three Whole Weeks Alone, 28 May 1992

... the Zoo for 26 years. Again, I feel a fraud. I’m planning to write about a talking orang called Jenny. He’ll think me frivolous. Cautiously, I tell him I’m just a fiction writer. I need some facts, but I make things up, too. Do I know, he asks without prompting, that the Malays believe orangs can talk, really, but they don’t because they think ...

Queening It

Jenny Diski: Nina Simone, 25 June 2009

Nina Simone: The Biography 
by David Brun-Lambert.
Aurum, 346 pp., £20, February 2009, 978 1 84513 430 3
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... her: She spat out ‘My Way’ with a new ferocity over a racing hand-drum pulse, and ‘Pirate Jenny’, one of her most spine-tingling interpretations, with an edge that rolled back the years. She then progressed to the front of the stage, smile slowly spreading in elation. ‘Since you’re all standing,’ she said. ‘I’d like you to join me in ...


Jenny Diski: On Knitting, 21 November 2013

... I thought sat well with what I wrote – or anything about me. I feared in the minds of others a Jenny version of ‘Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia knits!’ But not long ago, Julia Gillard, then prime minister of Australia, was photographed in a chair surrounded by balls of wool, with a dog at her feet, knitting a toy kangaroo for the new royal baby. And then a ...

Who’ll be last?

Jenny Diski, 19 November 2015

... her death a surprise except to the few who knew. So Clive James (announced May 2011 – ?) and Diski (announced 11 September 2014 – ?) still battle it out for third place. In the other kind of race, last man standing, James and Diski would be meandering towards first and second place, Sacks and Mankell having already ...

You could scream

Jenny Diski, 20 October 1994

Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me 
by Marlon Brando and Robert Lindsey.
Century, 468 pp., £17.99, September 1994, 0 7126 6012 7
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Greta & Cecil 
by Diana Souhami.
Cape, 272 pp., £18.99, September 1994, 0 224 03719 6
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... The last thing that dreams should do is come true. It would end in futile tears if they did, much as it would for the autophagist who chomps away at himself from the legs up until he comes to his head and realises that he can never achieve the final consummation. Dreams are for dreaming about. The Hollywood dream-masters got it right when they had Judy Garland playing a star-struck teenager gazing at a pin-up of Clark Gable and singing ‘If you were the only boy in the world ...

Porter for Leader

Jenny Diski, 8 December 1994

London: A Social History 
by Roy Porter.
Hamish Hamilton, 429 pp., £20, October 1994, 0 241 12944 3
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A City Full of People: Men and Women of London, 1650-1750 
by Peter Earle.
Methuen, 321 pp., £25, April 1994, 9780413681706
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... Rose was my next-door-neighbour-but-one when I lived in the furthermost reaches of Camden – three steps and one foot off the pavement and I was alienated in Islington. Rose was in her eighties and her husband had just died. I popped round to have a cup of tea and found her sitting in her darkened front room as glum as an old wife and new widow might be expected to be ...


Jenny Diski, 28 April 1994

Roald Dahl: A Biography 
by Jeremy Treglown.
Faber, 307 pp., £17.50, March 1994, 0 571 16573 7
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... It goes against all the currents of current wisdom that a public man should be just what he seems to be. Is there anyone left in the world who doesn’t believe at some level or other in the disjunction between appearance and reality? I suppose somewhere deep in the forests where no white man has trod; in the highest, most inaccessible plateaux of some far-flung mountainous region, there might be a few primitive folk left who still think that what they see is what there is ...


Jenny Diski: Hairdressing, 2 March 2000

... At 17 I was (let me be bold, let me put it on record) gorgeous, and gorgeous in exactly the way a person was supposed to be in 1964. Thin as a leaf, a Biba size eight, hips that held hipsters perfectly in place, and legs that were perfectly designed for emerging from skirts that were little more than a pelmet. But – oh what a waste of temporary good fortune – none of that mattered ...

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