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Believing in Unicorns

Walter Benn Michaels: Racecraft, 7 February 2013

Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life 
by Karen Fields and Barbara Fields.
Verso, 302 pp., £20, October 2012, 978 1 84467 994 2
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... The historian Barbara Fields and her sister, the sociologist Karen Fields, open Racecraft, their collection of linked essays, by denying that there are such things as races. Race today does not, they point out, refer to ‘a traditionally named group of people’ but to ‘a statistically defined population ...

A Miscalculation

Karen Solie, 2 March 2017

... dark. Though no one knew where I was, real danger lay elsewhere. No cows even. Just sleepless fields staring skyward and the firth prowling the forest of itself, what’s hidden as well as what hides it. To turn back would have made sense but I chose otherwise, a lamp post at what I assumed was the golf course a fixed point I couldn’t seem to advance ...

No-Shit Dinosaur

Jon Day: Karen Russell, 2 June 2011

Swamplandia! 
by Karen Russell.
Chatto, 316 pp., £12.99, March 2011, 978 0 7011 8602 9
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... hand, are more subtle, creating some distance between us and their tellers, if not their tales. Karen Russell’s exclamation marks reveal varying degrees of insincerity, but they are always employed with a Nabokovian lightness of touch. Swamplandia! – her second book and first novel – wears its exhortation nonchalantly. Lottery tickets are branded ...

I put a spell on you

John Burnside: Murder in Corby, 2 June 2011

... amusement. On the other side of the house, towards what I liked to think of as open country, the fields ran away to the strip woods, in one direction, and the grey, leechy waters of Loch Fitty, in the other, and I wandered out there whenever I could, imagining myself a child of the countryside, like the boys in picture books, or one of the chums from the ...

First Person

Tony Wood: Putin’s Russia, 5 February 2015

‘Sistema’, Power Networks and Informal Governance 
by Alena Ledeneva.
Cambridge, 327 pp., £19.99, February 2013, 978 0 521 12563 5
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The Man without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin 
by Masha Gessen.
Granta, 314 pp., £9.99, January 2013, 978 1 84708 423 1
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Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? 
by Karen Dawisha.
Simon and Schuster, 464 pp., £11.50, September 2014, 978 1 4767 9519 5
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... and deliberate ‘transformation of Russia back into the USSR’, while in Putin’s Kleptocracy, Karen Dawisha insisted, in more excitable vein, that we need to understand his rule as the triumph of a nefarious KGB ‘cabal’ which had spent the 1990s preparing for a creeping revanchist takeover. The figure of the president has always loomed large in ...

Balls and Strikes

Charles Reeve: Clement Greenberg, 5 April 2007

Art Czar: The Rise and Fall of Clement Greenberg 
by Alice Goldfarb Marquis.
Lund Humphries, 321 pp., £25, April 2006, 0 85331 940 5
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... Jules Olitski’s shifting colours; Anthony Caro’s decisively abstract steel sculptures. Karen Wilkin writes in the catalogue of his collection that Greenberg didn’t miss the art he sold, but surely he winced as works by David Smith, Jackson Pollock or Morris Louis went out the door.* His enthusiasm for these artists, particularly Noland and ...

Witchiness

Marina Warner: Baba Yaga, 27 August 2009

Baba Yaga Laid an Egg 
by Dubravka Ugrešić, translated by Ellen Elias Bursác, Celia Hawkesworth and Mark Thompson.
Canongate, 327 pp., £14.99, May 2009, 978 1 84767 066 3
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... matters, which this series of books aims to stir, are powerful in this new handmaid’s tale. Karen Armstrong opened the series with an introduction that stressed myth’s archaic origins and links to religion and ritual, to national or tribal identity. This is the ontological version of myth, which assumes that the stories connect to a metaphysical ...

Who is Stewart Home?

Iain Sinclair, 23 June 1994

... the smokey darkness. These endearing celebrations of place glisten in the firelight, when the rock fields they represent are lost in the inevitable sea-fret, the mist drifting down from the hills.But they have to go, these images. They have to be stacked away in the reserve collection, along with the Fontana, the emulsion-on-hardboard multi-head portraits on ...

The natives did a bunk

Malcolm Gaskill: The Little Ice Age, 19 July 2018

A Cold Welcome: The Little Ice Age and Europe’s Encounter with North America 
by Sam White.
Harvard, 361 pp., £23.95, October 2017, 978 0 674 97192 9
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... relatively stable. Thanks to Lamb, a different picture emerged, clarified by scholars in other fields, notably the great French historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, whose Times of Feast, Times of Famine was published in 1971. A decade later, Robert Rotberg and Theodore Rabb published a trailblazing volume of essays, Climate and History, their mission to ...

Shall we tell the children?

Paul Seabright, 3 July 1986

Melanie Klein: Her World and her Work 
by Phyllis Grosskurth.
Hodder, 516 pp., £19.95, June 1986, 0 340 25751 2
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Bloomsbury/Freud: The Letters of James and Alix Strachey 1924-1925 
edited by Perry Meisel and Walter Kendrick.
Chatto, 360 pp., £14.95, February 1986, 0 7011 3051 2
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... the repression of their desires.’ There was some support for Klein in Berlin, particularly from Karen Horney, who was later to become a major figure in psychoanalysis in the United States. And Karl Abraham was a powerful chairman who could ensure that her views were always given fair hearing. But after his death in 1925 London was obviously a more ...

The Tower

Andrew O’Hagan, 7 June 2018

... just got back from a week in Padua. And in the two-bedroom flat above the Jafaris, number 92, was Karen Aboud, who lived with her sons, who were 12 and 17. She works as a make-up artist in a hairdressing salon in Maida Vale, often doing weddings and photography. She took half days so she could pick the boys up from school, do the tea and help them with their ...

I’m an intelligence

Joanna Biggs: Sylvia Plath at 86, 20 December 2018

The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. I: 1940-56 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1388 pp., £35, September 2017, 978 0 571 32899 4
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The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. II: 1956-63 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1025 pp., £35, September 2018, 978 0 571 33920 4
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... Yorker,’ she wrote to her mother on 9 and 10 February. On the 11th, she wrote ‘Parliament Hill Fields’: ‘Your absence is inconspicuous;/Nobody can tell what I lack,’ the first stanza ends. The speaker’s winter walk home takes in a crocodile of small girls, a pink plastic barrette, a cloudbank, ‘I suppose it’s pointless to think of you at ...
... What their departure will mean for Britain – which faces labour shortages on its roads, in its fields, restaurants and hospitals – isn’t a Bulgarian concern. Of all the EU states, Bulgaria is one of the least attached to the UK in economic terms: Britain receives 2.4 per cent of Bulgaria’s exports, with 70 per cent going to the rest of the EU. But ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Notes on 1997, 1 January 1998

... shrunken creatures still answer to Hannah, Arthur, Peggy and Bill. But soon it will be Melanie and Karen, Dean and Sandra Louise. Somewhere I wrote some half-heard dialogue on the edge of a scene outside an old people’s home: as the middle-aged children of one deceased resident come away carrying his meagre possessions the matron is helping another old man ...

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