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Short is sharp

John Sutherland

3 February 1983
Firebird 2 
edited by T.J. Binding.
Penguin, 284 pp., £2.95, January 1983, 0 14 006337 4
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Bech is Back 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 195 pp., £6.95, January 1983, 0 233 97512 8
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The Pangs of Love 
by Jane Gardam.
Hamish Hamilton, 156 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 241 10942 6
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The Man Who Sold Prayers 
by Margaret Creal.
Dent, 198 pp., £7.95, January 1983, 9780460045926
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Happy as a Dead Cat 
by Jill Miller.
Women’s Press, 120 pp., £2.50, January 1983, 9780704338982
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... to frankly improving ends. In the 19th century, the tract fiction industry termed its hybrid products ‘rewards’ (they illustrated the providential rewards of right thinking and right doing). JillMiller’s Happy as a Dead Cat is firmly in the line of such works as The Washerwoman of Finchey Common. Although it masquerades as a novel, mean-minded calculation reveals that it has a mere 24,000 ...
21 November 1991
Almost a Gentleman. An Autobiography: Vol. II 1955-66 
by John Osborne.
Faber, 273 pp., £14.99, November 1991, 0 571 16261 4
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... text. We know the writer is on form by page 20, when we read of ‘Binkie Beaumont, most powerful of the unacceptable faeces of theatrical capitalism’. There is some repetition: the comedian Max Miller is once again ‘a god ... a saloon-bar Priapus’, and various people are ‘a sphinx’, or, in the case of his second wife Mary Ure, ‘not a sphinx’. The spite, though, comes up new and fresh ...
7 January 1993
The Life of Geoffrey Chaucer 
by Derek Pearsall.
Blackwell, 365 pp., £19.95, September 1992, 1 55786 205 2
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A Wyf ther was: Essays in Honour of Paule Mertens-Fonck 
edited by Juliette Dor.
University of Liège, 300 pp., June 1992, 2 87233 004 6
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Hochon’s Arrow: The Social Imagination of 14th-Century Texts 
by Paul Strohm.
Princeton, 205 pp., £27.50, November 1992, 0 691 06880 1
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... as proto-Protestant (Speght), as cloyingly nice (Howard), or as deeply sympathetic to women’s rights (see especially Howard, ‘He lived in a man’s world, but not in his mind or heart,’ or Jill Mann’s inaugural lecture in Cambridge two years ago: ‘he alone ... has an idea of what a real apology to a woman would look like’). Is it possible, given current awareness of the way in which ...

Clarissa and Louisa

Karl Miller

7 November 1985
Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady 
by Samuel Richardson, edited with an introduction by Angus Ross.
Viking, 1533 pp., £19.95, August 1985, 0 670 80829 6
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Memoire of Frances, Lady Douglas 
by Lady Louisa Stuart, edited by Jill​ Rubenstein.
Scottish Academic Press, 106 pp., £9.50, August 1985, 0 7073 0358 3
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... One of these books is very long and the other is very short. Each in its own way is a wonderful piece of work. They stand at opposite ends of the century that runs from the 1740s to the 1840s, but they may be thought to bear each other out, in ways which affect an understanding of the family life of that time, and of its incorporation in the literature of Romanticism – that part of it, in particular ...

Bad Dreams

Robert Crawford: Peter Porter

6 October 2011
The Rest on the Flight: Selected Poems 
by Peter Porter.
Picador, 421 pp., £12.99, May 2010, 978 0 330 52218 2
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... English’ in accent and tastes, and was admired for having a figure like a ballet dancer. They set up home together in a London flat below that of Porter’s former partner, the Australian novelist Jill Neville. After a fight which seems to have involved Porter throwing Neville into the Thames, the couple had split up. In her 1966 novel Fall-Girl, Neville depicted Porter as Seth, a knuckle-cracking ...

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