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Palimpsest History

Jonathan Coe, 11 June 1992

Ulverton 
by Adam Thorpe.
Secker, 382 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 436 52074 5
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Kicking 
by Leslie Dick.
Secker, 244 pp., £13.99, May 1992, 0 436 20011 2
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Frankie Styne and the Silver Man 
by Kathy Page.
Methuen, 233 pp., £13.99, April 1992, 0 413 66590 9
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... and returning.’ This observation comes not from Ulverton but from the penultimate page of Leslie Dick’s second novel, Kicking. The thematic connection seems obvious enough, but the exhumations in Dick’s book are exclusively psychological – buried memories pulled up by the root in a willed act of recollection which is triggered by ...

Riding the Night Winds

Ron Ridenhour, 22 June 1995

Derailed in Uncle Ho’s Victory Garden: Return to Vietnam and Cambodia 
by Tim Page.
Touchstone, 248 pp., £14.99, April 1995, 0 671 71926 2
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In the Lake of the Woods 
by Tim O’Brien.
Flamingo, 306 pp., £5.99, April 1995, 0 00 654395 2
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In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam 
by Robert McNamara.
Random House, 432 pp., $27.50, April 1995, 0 8129 2523 8
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... in his own way, is introducing us to his own ghosts. Two, former British war photographer Tim Page and former American grunt Tim O’Brien, face the darkness squarely. The third, former US Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara, merely pretends to. In his own way, however, each writer tells the story of a quest or a flight, a search for redemption and ...

Literary Friction

Jenny Turner: Kathy Acker’s Ashes, 19 October 2017

After Kathy Acker: A Literary Biography 
by Chris Kraus.
Allen Lane, 352 pp., £20, August 2017, 978 1 63590 006 4
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... shared a place in time.’She begins her present book, which ‘may or may not be a biography of Kathy Acker’, by evoking the circles that gathered around her subject’s ashes in the weeks after her death from metastatic breast cancer in an alternative medicine clinic in Tijuana in November 1997. Seventeen people arrived at the house of the poet Bob ...

Only Incognito

Gaby Wood, 6 July 1995

Katharine Hepburn 
by Barbara Leaming.
Weidenfeld, 549 pp., £20, March 1995, 0 297 81319 6
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... Alfred Houghton. Two years later his widow, Carrie, died leaving instructions for their daughters Kathy, Edith and Marion to be educated at Bryn Mawr College. In Kathy’s freshman year, her uncle Charlie committed suicide. This death reinforced the stigma of the earlier suicide the daughters were forced to keep secret and ...

Aberdeen rocks

Jenny Turner: Stewart Home, 9 May 2002

69 Things to Do with a Dead Princess 
by Stewart Home.
Canongate, 182 pp., £9.99, March 2002, 9781841951829
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... the Necrocard, a joke organ-donor card for supporters of ‘sexual liberation’, is reproduced on page 23 of Matthew Collings’s Art Crazy Nation (2001). The volume of work is enormous, and always growing; the volume a central aspect of the challenge the work presents. It’s difficult to describe Home’s oeuvre with any real precision. It’s much easier ...

Gray’s Elegy

Jonathan Coe, 8 October 1992

Poor Things 
by Alasdair Gray.
Bloomsbury, 317 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 7475 1246 9
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... contrast with Something Leather. Part of the impetus for that novel came from a suggestion made by Kathy Acker, who asked Gray if he had ever written a story with a woman as the main character. He answered: ‘No, that was impossible because I could not imagine how a woman felt when alone.’ This was a brave and candid admission. It acknowledged an inability ...

Benetton Ethics

Nick Cohen: Treachery at the FO, 2 July 1998

First Annual Report on Human Rights 
by Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
56 pp., April 1998
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The Great Deception 
by Mark Curtis.
Pluto, 272 pp., £14.99, June 1998, 0 7453 1234 9
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... have given them a Benetton catalogue. Of a little over fifty pages, six are taken up with full-page pictures. On the front cover is a shot of a pretty girl. She might be a Kurd, but maybe not, the report does not say. Then there is a white girl, who could be from anywhere between Moscow and San Francisco; a black boy, probably from Africa, possibly ...

Agent Bait

Christopher Tayler: Nell Zink, 2 March 2017

Nicotine 
by Nell Zink.
Fourth Estate, 288 pp., £14.99, October 2016, 978 0 00 817917 5
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Private Novelist 
by Nell Zink.
Ecco, 336 pp., $15.99, October 2016, 978 0 06 245830 8
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... explains that he’s asexual (‘We don’t have to sleep together to sleep together’) – get page after page of dialogue, rendered with an impressive command of millennialisms. ‘Bae’, adult colouring books, the ‘because’ thing (‘There were no rats in this town … Because cats’), emojis, ‘vocal ...

Banksability

Ian Sansom: Iain Banks, 5 December 2013

The Quarry 
by Iain Banks.
Little, Brown, 326 pp., £18.99, June 2013, 978 1 4087 0394 6
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... crucially, SF writers attract not only readers but actual fans, if not of the full-blown psychotic Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes in Misery type, then at least of the autograph-hunting, book-collecting, sign-my-T-shirt kind. Indeed, as Banks explains in Raw Spirit, in one of several amusing asides about ‘British SF Fandom in the Late 20th Century, Its Customs ...

In the Box

Dale Peck, 6 February 1997

How Stella Got Her Groove Back 
by Terry McMillan.
Viking, 368 pp., £16, September 1996, 0 670 86990 2
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Push 
by Sapphire.
Secker, 142 pp., £7.99, September 1996, 0 436 20291 3
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The Autobiography of My Mother 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Vintage, 228 pp., £8.99, September 1996, 0 09 973841 4
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... half of this decade, writers as diverse in talent and sensibility as Rebecca Brown, Dennis Cooper, Kathy Acker, Gary Indiana and Sarah Schulman, writers whose main similarity seemed to be that they all started out at small presses before being ‘discovered’ by big houses. By now – by which I mean, in the most Nixonian sense of the phrase, at this point in ...

Southern Belle

Russell Davies, 21 January 1982

Elvis 
by Albert Goldman.
Allen Lane, 598 pp., £9.95, December 1981, 0 7139 1474 2
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... before the statue unveiling a gigantic team effot [sic] was put in ... Val Quinn and her friends Kathy and Liz did an excellent polishing job especially in the groin area of the statue. Final polishing was done by Diana and Ray who together with Fiona Jardine saved the statue from destruction when an accident occurred transporting the statue to the unveiling ...

Porndecahedron

Christopher Tayler: Nicholson Baker, 3 November 2011

House of Holes 
by Nicholson Baker.
Simon and Schuster, 262 pp., £14.99, August 2011, 978 0 85720 659 6
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... copy of the TLS. And on top of being a great observer and metaphor-maker – a poem on a magazine page ‘swimming in a little gel pack of white space’; a freshly laundered shirt emitting, when shaken, ‘the sound of a flag at the consulate of a small, rich country’ – Baker can be entertainingly fussy about vocabulary. ‘“Panties” is a word to be ...

Entryism

Jacqueline Rose: ‘Specimen Days’, 22 September 2005

Specimen Days 
by Michael Cunningham.
Fourth Estate, 308 pp., £14.99, August 2005, 0 00 715605 7
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... Only at the end of the book do you realise that any difficulties you may have had as a reader with Kathy, the teller of the tale – any withholding of empathy, slight, uncomfortable mistrust, even boredom – have turned you into an active participant in the struggle waged silently behind the scenes, as the world first denies then comes to recognise that it ...

Nothing in a Really Big Way

James Wood: Adam Mars-Jones, 24 April 2008

Pilcrow 
by Adam Mars-Jones.
Faber, 525 pp., £18.99, April 2008, 978 0 571 21703 8
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... This description of John’s mother showing her son the proper way to eat a Sunday lunch takes a page, and never languishes; indeed, it achieves a queasy verisimilitude. Our faces are practically in the mush: Mum gave a demonstration, and it was fascinating to watch her at work. First she mashed and moulded a tiny piece of potato onto the rounded side of ...

Under the Steinway

Jenny Diski: Marco Roth, 7 March 2013

The Scientists: A Family Romance 
by Marco Roth.
Union Books, 196 pp., £14.99, January 2013, 978 1 908526 19 9
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... Story by ‘Anthony Godby Johnson’, The Heart Is Deceitful above All Things by ‘J.T. LeRoy’, Kathy’s Story by Kathy O’Beirne), people felt aggrieved. They didn’t want imagined misery: no matter the quality of the imagination, they wanted experienced misery as recounted by the one who had experienced it. People ...

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