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Monstrous Offspring

Freya Johnston: The Rabbit-Breeder’s Hoax, 8 October 2020

The Imposteress Rabbit Breeder: Mary Toft and 18th-Century England 
by Karen Harvey.
Oxford, 211 pp., £16.99, January, 978 0 19 873488 8
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... But what exactly had she miscarried? It may have been a malformed placenta or foetus, or, as Karen Harvey suggests, a teratoma – a tumour containing bones, tissues, hair, teeth and flesh that can develop anywhere in the body.Whatever came out of Mary Toft after that long day in the fields, it seems to have prompted her mother-in-law, Ann, a ...

Lady Talky

Alison Light: Lydia Lopokova, 18 December 2008

Bloomsbury Ballerina: Lydia Lopokova, Imperial Dancer and Mrs John Maynard Keynes 
by Judith Mackrell.
Weidenfeld, 476 pp., £25, April 2008, 978 0 297 84908 7
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... She wants to be special and she wants to be looked at. In Hans Christian Andersen’s famous tale, Karen, a peasant girl, goes barefoot in summer and in winter wears wooden clogs that rub her feet raw, but the mirror tells her she’s lovely and she thinks that wearing the red shoes will make her feel like a princess. Like selfish Heidi and tomboy Katy, ...

Oh my oh my oh my

John Lanchester, 12 September 1991

Mao II 
by Don DeLillo.
Cape, 239 pp., £13.99, September 1991, 9780224031523
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Introducing Don DeLillo 
edited by Frank Lentricchia.
Duke, 221 pp., £28, September 1991, 0 8223 1135 6
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... novel James Joyce might have written if he had moved to Iowa City and lived to be 100’.) Lee Harvey Oswald, who could easily have been made into a – yawn – ‘cypher’, is persuasively sketched as a man desperately wishing to merge himself into history, into ‘the struggle, where there is no borderline between one’s own happiness, and the world ...

The Wickedest Woman in Paris

Colm Tóibín, 6 September 2007

Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins 
by Rupert Everett.
Abacus, 406 pp., £7.99, July 2007, 978 0 349 12058 4
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... in 1959. So nice indeed was his home that when he heard rough boys shouting, ‘Show us your quim, Karen,’ and asked his mother what a quim was, she replied: ‘Your little toe, I think.’ He took to theatricals in school and soon had disreputable and bohemian friends. It has to be said that Rupert’s ghost-writer does a very good job of describing London ...

Very like St Paul

Ian Sansom: Johnny Cash, 9 March 2006

The Man Called Cash: The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend 
by Steve Turner.
Bloomsbury, 363 pp., £8.99, February 2006, 0 7475 8079 0
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Walk the Line 
directed by James Mangold.
November 2005
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... In an entirely other kind of brilliant, frantic, wide-ranging book, the theologian and ex-nun Karen Armstrong’s spiritual autobiography The Spiral Staircase (2004), we are reminded that ‘the myths of the hero … are not meant to give us historical information about Prometheus or Achilles, or for that matter about Jesus or the Buddha’ – or, we ...

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