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Breeds of New Yorker

Christine Smallwood: ‘The Group’ Revisited, 11 February 2010

A Fortunate Age 
by Joanna Smith Rakoff.
Scribner, 399 pp., $26, April 2009, 978 1 4165 9077 4
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The Group 
by Mary McCarthy.
Virago, 448 pp., £7.99, December 2009, 978 1 84408 593 4
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... characters’ minds, sprinkling information like confetti: ‘Libby adored Of Human Bondage and Katherine Mansfield and Edna Millay and Elinor Wylie and quite a lot of Virginia Woolf, but she could never get anybody to talk with her about books any more, because Lakey said her taste was sentimental.’ Or: ‘But the red-letter day in Mr Andrews’s life ...

Aviators and Movie Stars

Patricia Lockwood: Carson McCullers, 19 October 2017

Stories, Plays and Other Writings 
by Carson McCullers.
Library of America, 672 pp., £33.99, January 2017, 978 1 59853 511 2
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... Hers​ is one of the faces that rises up when I am wandering the library of my mind. The gaze, sharp and swimming, with the right eye like a bead on a glass. The swinging haircut, a little disarranged with thinking, the fringe you can imagine her roughly pushing off her forehead, as her penned-in and pacing girl characters did ...

Dark Pieces on Dark Places

Malcolm Deas, 3 July 1980

The Return of Eva Peron with The Killings in Trinidad 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Deutsch, 227 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 233 97238 2
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... these Spanish-speaking republics. Naipaul does not ask what they have received from New Zealand. Katherine Mansfield is a contribution to his world, but not Quiroga, nor Onetti, to name two writers from the New Zealand-sized population of Uruguay. Then there is machismo. Anglo-Saxon writers are attracted by this theme, with its offer of swift insight into ...

Muted Ragu Tones

Michael Hofmann: David Szalay, 21 April 2016

All That Man Is 
by David Szalay.
Cape, 437 pp., £14.99, April 2016, 978 0 224 09976 9
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... or whether there’s any chance that he and the apparently bewitchingly unpredictable Katherine might be. Taken together, the books are luxuriant and Hobbesian. There is, refreshingly, no sneer of Pharisaical exemption or authorial superiority. Szalay is an offended satirist with a remarkable verbal imagination, not a comedian happy to get ...

Just William

Doris Grumbach, 25 June 1987

Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice 
by Sharon O’Brien.
Oxford, 544 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 19 504132 1
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... started after college in Pittsburgh. From its theatres, opera house and concert hall, she sent sharp, highly critical reviews to Nebraska papers. She formed a new attachment to Isabelle McClung, the daughter of a Pittsburgh judge in whose house she resided during the next five years while she taught English to high-school students. Cather’s fragile ...

Not a Damn Thing

Nick Laird: In Yeats’s wake, 18 August 2005

Collected Poems 
by Patrick Kavanagh, edited by Antoinette Quinn.
Allen Lane, 299 pp., £25, September 2004, 0 7139 9599 8
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... caused rioting in the streets in Dublin when it was first performed in 1907. In portraying the sharp edge of class systems, Shaw had done something similar, if more limited, three years earlier in John Bull’s Other Island. Kavanagh, predictably, thought Shaw a ‘bogus Irishman’. Kavanagh first arrived in 1931, symbolically and actually, on the Dublin ...

Round the (Next) Bend

Simon Adams: Sir Walter Ralegh, 6 July 2000

The Letters of Sir Walter Raleigh 
edited by Agnes Latham and Joyce Youings.
Exeter, 403 pp., £45, July 1999, 0 85989 527 0
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... Court connection, his ‘Aunt Ashley’ (as he termed her in 1600), his mother’s elder sister Katherine Ashley (née Champernowne), who was appointed Elizabeth’s governess by Henry VIII in 1544. Ashley was undoubtedly the person closest to Elizabeth for the next twenty years, but she died in 1565, when Ralegh was only 11, so her direct influence on his ...

Women of Quality

E.S. Turner, 9 October 1986

The Pebbled Shore 
by Elizabeth Longford.
Weidenfeld, 351 pp., £14.95, August 1986, 0 297 78863 9
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Leaves of the Tulip Tree 
by Juliette Huxley.
Murray, 248 pp., £7.95, June 1986, 9780719542886
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Enid Bagnold 
by Anne Sebba.
Weidenfeld, 317 pp., £15, September 1986, 0 297 78991 0
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... her admiring charge, was the daughter of a Harley Street ophthalmic surgeon, Nathaniel Harman, and Katherine Chamberlain, first cousin of Neville and niece of the great Joseph. In later life Elizabeth was told that her father, a serious citizen, never made love the night before a cataract operation. His courtship had been all but shattered by a religious ...


Frank Kermode, 4 April 1996

Bertrand Russell: The Spirit of Solitude 
by Ray Monk.
Cape, 720 pp., £25, April 1996, 0 224 03026 4
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... and the extravagant letters, that kept her interested for so many years. With others, such as Katherine Mansfield, the spell worked only for a few moments, but it worked. To T.S. Eliot he was Mr Apollinax, devouring the afternoon with his dry, passionate talk; but apparently the afternoon wasn’t all he devoured with it. And considering that his lovers ...

Are women nicer than men?

Michael Wood, 21 February 1985

The Dark Hole Days 
by Una Woods.
Blackstaff, 127 pp., £3.50, December 1984, 0 85640 316 4
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Superior Women 
by Alice Adams.
Heinemann, 374 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 0 434 00631 9
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The Collected Stories 
by Frank Tuohy.
Macmillan, 410 pp., £12.95, December 1984, 0 333 38534 9
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The Apple in the Dark 
by Clarice Lispector, translated by Gregory Rabassa.
Virago, 361 pp., £10.95, January 1985, 0 86068 605 1
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Family Ties 
by Clarice Lispector and Giovanni Pontiero.
Carcanet, 140 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 0 85636 569 6
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... and to Kafka,’ Virago’s blurb says; and Carcanet’s murmurs: ‘a Latin American cousin of Katherine Mansfield, Camus and Chekhov’. I’m not sure what we can do with this soup of authors. Giovanni Pontiero, in an afterword to Family Ties, insists on Lispector’s debt to Sartre as well as Camus, and this is certainly right as a matter of ...

A Common Playhouse

Charles Nicholl: The Globe Theatre, 8 January 2015

Shakespeare and the Countess: The Battle That Gave Birth to the Globe 
by Chris Laoutaris.
Fig Tree, 528 pp., £20, April 2015, 978 1 905490 96 7
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... with old religious or monastic connections (the Whitefriars, the Minories, St Martin le Grand, St Katherine by the Tower), was one of London’s quasi-autonomous ‘liberties’, and so not governed by the lord mayor. The second was that there had already been a theatre in the area, immediately adjacent to the building on which Burbage’s carpenters were now ...

Another Mother

Frank Kermode, 13 May 1993

Morgan: A Biography of E.M. Forster 
by Nicola Beauman.
Hodder, 404 pp., £20, May 1993, 0 340 52530 4
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... this biography. There is a slightly disagreeable implication that this biographer, in spite of the sharp things she says about ‘Lily’, is taking over her job. She is always seeking intimacy, and in her quest for it she shows herself over-fond of words like ‘empathy’ and ‘empathise’; by claiming these qualities she means to advertise her sympathetic ...

Glimpsed in the Glare

Michael Neill: Shakespeare in 1606, 17 December 2015

1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear 
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 423 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 0 571 23578 0
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... marked by extended separation from his family, a seemingly ungenerous will, glimpses of financial sharp practice and social-climbing ambition); but on these unpromising foundations surprisingly elaborate constructions are erected, whether shaped by the genial indulgence of what Simon Russell-Beale called Greenblatt’s ‘love letter’ to Shakespeare, or by ...


John Lanchester, 16 November 1995

Sons of Ezra: British Poets and Ezra Pound 
edited by Michael Alexander and James McGonigal.
Rodopi, 183 pp., $23.50, July 1995, 90 5183 840 9
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‘In Solitude, for Company’: W.H. Auden after 1940 
edited by Katherine Bucknell and Nicholas Jenkins.
Oxford, 338 pp., £40, November 1995, 0 19 818294 5
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by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Heinemann, 406 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 434 17507 2
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Wystan and Chester: A Personal Memoir of W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman 
by Thekla Clark.
Faber, 130 pp., £12.99, October 1995, 0 571 17591 0
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... Clark is a sympathetic and credible witness, she is no pussycat. She has some particularly sharp words for Dorothy Farnan, Kallman’s father’s girlfriend and then, after Kallman’s death, wife. (Chester used to refer to her as ‘Miss Mistress’.) ‘Some friends say that Dorothy ... was in love with Chester and only took his father as ...


C.K. Stead, 22 February 1996

Letters of Claire Clairmont, Charles Clairmont and Fanny Imlay Godwin 
edited by Marion Kingston Stocking.
Johns Hopkins, 704 pp., £45, May 1995, 0 8018 4633 1
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... went with them. Mary was indeed brilliant, intellectual, literary; she was also cool, sometimes sharp-tongued, and inclined to be depressive. Claire sang beautifully, was witty, energetic, high-spirited and given to tantrums. Some years later Shelley, his longings temporarily directed elsewhere, would characterise them as the ‘cold moon’ and the ...

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