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I Am Brian Moore

Colin Burrow, 24 September 2020

The Dear Departed 
by Brian Moore.
Turnpike Books, 112 pp., £10, April, 978 1 9162547 0 1
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... enduring books. The first successful novel published under his own name, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1955), tapped into familiar Irish topoi: alcoholism, self-deception, loss of faith and the spare sad life of a spinster who seems like a debilitated hangover from Joyce’s Dubliners. But Moore obviously didn’t feel compelled to present his women ...

Unruly Sweet Peas

Alison Light: Working-Class Gardens, 18 December 2014

The Gardens of the British Working Class 
by Margaret Willes.
Yale, 413 pp., £25, March 2014, 978 0 300 18784 7
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... thirty years, this has changed. ‘Garden history has been overly aristocratic,’ declared Jane Brown, whose Pursuit of Paradise (1999) proposed a social history of gardening that could be both ‘popular and nostalgic’. She took her inspiration from G.M. Trevelyan’s English Social History, referring to the delights of his medley of topics: ‘the state ...

Screaming in the Castle: The Case of Beatrice Cenci

Charles Nicholl: The story of Beatrice Cenci, 2 July 1998

... aspect: the supposed portrait of Beatrice by Guido Reni, which shows a beautiful young girl with brown hair and wide, lustrous eyes. According to tradition – scrupulously nurtured by all the 19th-century writers on the subject – the portrait was taken from the life during Beatrice’s imprisonment, in late 1598 or 1599. An alternative tradition, taking ...


James Davidson: Face to Face with Merce Cunningham, 2 November 2000

... choreography. I watched carefully when Old Fire Station people put on a show, including a solo by Judith Mackrell, in which she didn’t move, as far as I can remember, from the spot. I went to see London Contemporary Dance Theatre and Ballet Rambert at the Oxford Apollo and one of Michael Clark’s earliest forays at the Museum of Modern Art, barebottomed in ...

Travelling Southwards

Andrew O’Hagan: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, 19 July 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey 
by E.L. James.
Arrow, 514 pp., £7.99, April 2012, 978 0 09 957993 9
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... could be a soldier or a doctor or, heaven help us, a priest. But in the age of Jilly Cooper and Judith Krantz he had better be a polo player. Work is for pigs, and anyone without enough money to coat themselves in leisure had no place in a Krantz novel. There was something nouveau about the new bonkbusters that perfectly suited the times. A point made by ...

Don’t marry a Christian

Amanda Vickery: Wives or slaves?, 8 September 2011

Women in 18th-Century Europe 
by Margaret Hunt.
Longman, 484 pp., £21.99, October 2009, 978 0 582 30865 7
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... history – not least Olwen Hufton’s The Prospect before Her (1995), Bonnie Anderson and Judith Zinsser’s A History of Their Own (2000) and Merry Wiesner’s Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe (2008) – but Hunt stakes out a hugely expanded terrain, mapping gender relations in what has come to be known as ‘big Europe’, from Ireland to the ...

A Girl Called Retina

Tom Crewe: You’ll like it when you get there, 13 August 2020

British Summer Time Begins: The School Summer Holidays, 1930-80 
by Ysenda Maxtone Graham.
Little, Brown, 352 pp., £18.99, July, 978 1 4087 1055 5
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... to live at any kind of obscure urban address, such as 24 Whitfield Road, Haslemere.’ The writer Judith Kerr, who had fled the Nazis with her family and ended up boarding at Hayes Court, was asked by two girls: ‘Did your nanny have a Cockney accent? Because we’ve all been discussing it and we’ve decided your vowels aren’t pure.’ Amanda ...

Brave as hell

John Kerrigan, 21 June 1984

Enderby’s Dark Lady, or No End to Enderby 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 160 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 09 156050 0
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Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Modern Edition 
edited by A.L. Rowse.
Macmillan, 311 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 333 36386 8
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... Bardic Romance: ‘New Place, when he got there, was bright as a rubbed angel, Anne his wife and Judith his daughter yet unmarried having nought much to do save buff and sweep and pick up hairs from the floor. The mulberry tree was doing well.’ Yet, if Enderby begins as Folkestone Williams, he is closer in the final story to the sci-fi Burgess of The End ...

Nothing Natural

Jenny Turner: SurrogacyTM, 23 January 2020

Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism against Family 
by Sophie Lewis.
Verso, 216 pp., £14.99, May 2019, 978 1 78663 729 1
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Making Kin Not Population 
edited by Adele Clarke and Donna Haraway.
Prickly Paradigm, 120 pp., £10, July 2018, 978 0 9966355 6 1
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... The TV show got round such awkwardness by dint of hardly mentioning race at all, casting black and brown-skinned actors colour-blindly as the heroine’s husband and daughter, and (as in Hollywood convention) as the heroine’s brave – in some ways maybe too brave – best friend. But the situation of the fertile handmaid in Atwood’s novel – forcibly ...

I’ll be back

Marjorie Garber: Sequels, 19 August 1999

Part Two: Reflections on the Sequel 
edited by Paul Budra and Betty Schellenberg.
Toronto, 217 pp., £40, February 1999, 0 8020 0915 8
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... from Margaret Dashwood, or Interference (a sequel to Sense and Sensibility by Edith Charlotte Brown, 1929) to Consequence, or Whatever Became of Charlotte Lucas (Elizabeth Newark, 1997) and Desire & Duty: A Sequel to Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (Ted Bader and Marilyn Bader, 1997) have appeared in print. The further adventures of Isabella ...

All Together Now

Richard Jenkyns, 11 December 1997

Abide with Me: The World of Victorian Hymns 
by Ian Bradley.
SCM, 299 pp., £30, June 1997, 9780334026921
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The English Hymn: A Critical and Historical Study 
by J.R. Watson.
Oxford, 552 pp., £65, July 1997, 0 19 826762 2
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... breeds without the Law’. From the context it is clear that Kipling was thinking not of black or brown subject peoples but of Germany (and perhaps secondarily of America). To have spotted the danger in German nationalism in 1897 might be thought prescient. Watson’s literary and Bradley’s more sociological approach to the Victorian age are ...

Sweeno’s Beano

Nigel Wheale: MacSweeney, Kinsella and Harrison, 1 October 1998

The Book of Demons 
by Barry MacSweeney.
Bloodaxe, 109 pp., £7.95, September 1997, 1 85224 414 3
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Poems 1980-94 
by John Kinsella.
Bloodaxe, 352 pp., £9.95, April 1999, 1 85224 453 4
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The Silo: A Pastoral Symphony 
by John Kinsella.
Arc, 108 pp., £7.95, January 1997, 1 900072 12 2
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The Kangaroo Farm 
by Martin Harrison.
Paper Bark, 79 pp., £8.95, May 1998, 0 9586482 4 7
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... in from Ireland, and their pleasures taken among forests of borage, heifer clarts and becks where brown trout swim through watermint. But MacSweeney isn’t writing a bucolic memoir. Pearl has a cleft palate and, partly as a consequence, is illiterate. Stranded at the beginning of the alphabet, she can only vocalise ‘a-a-a-a-a-a’. The seam of her damaged ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland, 11 July 1991

The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... get a raw deal. There is no entry on Katharine Whitehorn, Polly Toynbee, Nancy Spain, Helen Gurley Brown. Agony aunts get an even rawer deal: Marje Proops, Anne Landers and Dear Abby are firmly out. Pauline Réage is not given the benefit of the gender doubt. There is a noticeable favouritism towards the French experimental novel but indifference to outmoded ...

Does anyone have the right to sex?

Amia Srinivasan, 22 March 2018

... is already taken to be a paradigm of female beauty, but quite another thing for a black or brown woman, or a trans woman. The turn towards intersectionality has also made feminists uncomfortable with thinking in terms of false consciousness: that’s to say, with the idea that women often act against their own interests, even when they take themselves ...

The Pills in the Fridge

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘Christodora’, 30 March 2017

by Tim Murphy.
Picador, 432 pp., £16.99, February 2017, 978 1 5098 1857 0
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... leather leash by Hector, shaven headed, with a leather vest fitted snugly over a shaven, muscled brown chest. The leather vest melted into tight black jeans and construction boots. His eyes were obscured by massive black wraparound sunglasses. A lit cigarette dangled between his full lips.’ At this point the only indication that Hector will play a ...

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