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Diary

Leah Price: The Death of Stenography

4 December 2008
... Stenography is dying out; so are stenographers. When I mention that I’m working on the history of shorthand, people tell me that their mother knew shorthand, or their grandmother, or their husband’s first wife. Google ‘stenography’ and you’ll find obituaries from small-town newspapers. Only bloggers now use the word, the new media’s name for what the old media do: shorthand, so to speak, for the charge that the newspapers and TV networks merely parrot press releases ...
18 October 2001
Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books 
by H.J. Jackson.
Yale, 324 pp., £19.95, April 2001, 0 300 08816 7
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... The primal scene of Marginalia takes place at a book-signing by the children’s writer Maurice Sendak. Pushed to the front of the queue by his star-struck parents, a boy begs Sendak not to ‘crap up my book’. Jackson’s central question – are marginalia crap? – has no simple answer, for her study uncovers our passionate ambivalence about unauthorised writing ...

When to Read Was to Write

Leah Price: Marginalia in Renaissance England

9 October 2008
Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England 
by William Sherman.
Pennsylvania, 259 pp., £29.50, April 2008, 978 0 8122 4043 6
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... The ideal reader is all mind. Swept up in a virtual universe, she no longer notices hunger, heat or cold. Real readers are different. They need eyes to see the page and hands to turn it. Some lick their thumbs; others, like Sheridan’s Lady Slattern, ‘cherish their nails for the convenience of making marginal notes’. Some leave distracting, even disgusting residues ...

Skipping

Claudia Johnson: The history of the novel

8 March 2001
The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel: From Richardson to George Eliot 
by Leah Price.
Cambridge, 224 pp., £35, September 2000, 0 521 78208 2
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... to the rise of the middle class or to emergent forms of subjectivity – the discours du jour – Leah Price looks at novels in relation to the history of the book, and to the proliferation of anthologies in particular. It is a refreshing change: most histories and theories of ‘the’ novel have not been very curious about what and how distinct ...

One Chapter More

Leah Price: Ectoplasm

6 July 2000
Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle 
by Daniel Stashower.
Penguin, 472 pp., £18.99, February 2000, 0 7139 9373 1
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... Since Arthur Conan Doyle’s own lifetime, every mystery novelist applying to join the Detection Club in London has been required to forswear ‘Feminine Intuition, Mumbo-Jumbo and Jiggery-Pokery’ along with ‘Ghosts, Hypnotism, Trap-Doors and Chinamen’. Conan Doyle himself never did. In 1917, with a lacklustre medical career and three decades of best-selling Sherlock Holmes stories behind him, he announced that he had received messages from the dead ...

Elegant Extracts

Leah Price: Anthologies

3 February 2000
The Oxford Book of English Verse 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 690 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 19 214182 1
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The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume One 
edited by M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt.
Norton, 2974 pp., £22.50, December 1999, 0 393 97487 1
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The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume Two 
edited by M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt.
Norton, 2963 pp., £22.50, February 2000, 9780393974911
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The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume One 
edited by David Damrosch.
Longman, 2963 pp., $53, July 1999, 0 321 01173 2
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The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume Two 
edited by David Damrosch.
Longman, 2982 pp., $53, July 1999, 0 321 01174 0
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Night & Horses & The Desert: An Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature 
edited by Robert Irwin.
Allen Lane, 480 pp., £25, September 1999, 0 7139 9153 4
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News that Stays News: The 20th Century in Poems 
edited by Simon Rae.
Faber, 189 pp., £9.99, October 1999, 0 571 20060 5
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Time’s Tidings: Greeting the 21st Century 
by Carol Ann Duffy.
Anvil, 157 pp., £7.95, November 1999, 0 85646 313 2
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Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the 20th Century in Poetry 
edited by Peter Forbes.
Penguin, 640 pp., £12.99, February 1999, 9780140588996
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... Anthologies attract good haters. In the 1790s, the reformer Hannah More blamed their editors for the decay of morals: to let people assume that you had read the entire work from which an anthology piece was excerpted, she warned girls, was no better than lying outright. In the 1840s, less predictably, Engels took time out from The Condition of the Working Class in England to sneer at the anthologies littering the sofa tables of the Manchester bourgeosie ...

The Tangible Page

Leah Price: Books as Things

31 October 2002
The Book History Reader 
edited by David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery.
Routledge, 390 pp., £17.99, November 2001, 0 415 22658 9
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Making Meaning: ‘Printers of the Mind’ and Other Essays 
by D.F. McKenzie, edited by Peter D. McDonald and Michael F. Suarez.
Massachusetts, 296 pp., £20.95, June 2002, 1 55849 336 0
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... What exactly is book history? Literature students consulting their reference libraries would be hard put to find an answer: ‘history of the book’ appears nowhere in M.H. Abrams’s Glossary of Literary Terms or Margaret Drabble’s Oxford Companion to English Literature, and the names most ubiquitous in The Book History Reader, Roger Chartier and D ...

My word, Miss Perkins

Jenny Diski: In the Typing Pool

4 August 2005
Literary Secretaries/Secretarial Culture 
edited by Leah Price and Pamela Thurschwell.
Ashgate, 168 pp., £40, January 2005, 0 7546 3804 9
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... they may do,’ the bibliographer Roger Stoddard has noted, ‘authors do not write books.’ Leah Price and Pamela Thurschwell take up the distinction and declare that their volume will focus ‘on the representation, self-representation and non-representation, in literature, film and other cultural forms, of those who do write – manuscripts and ...
18 April 1985
Illywhacker 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 600 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 571 13207 3
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... normally a fat book reader, you mustn’t be outfaced by the fatness of Illywhacker, nor by the price, which is hardly a fat book price, especially when the fat book is as comely as this one. Indeed, all the signs are that this is a book the publishers believe in. They’ve put their production values where their blurb ...

Why am I so fucked up?

Christian Lorentzen: 37 Shades of Zadie

8 November 2012
NW 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 295 pp., £18.99, August 2012, 978 0 241 14414 5
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... it shouldn’t be this hot.’ The book begins with a woman called Shar scamming a woman called Leah Hanwell out of £30, then in a sort of Joycean pastiche, follows Leah for the rest of the summer. The next section is a series of comic set-pieces tracking a man called Felix on the late summer day when he ends up being ...

Quill, Wax, Knife

Adam Smyth: Collier’s Letter Racks

18 July 2013
Mr Collier’s Letter Racks: A Tale of Art & Illusion at the Threshold of the Modern Information Age 
by Dror Wahrman.
Oxford, 275 pp., £22.95, November 2012, 978 0 19 973886 1
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...  ...

Bloody Brilliant Banter

Theo Tait: ‘A Natural’

3 May 2017
A Natural 
by Ross Raisin.
Cape, 343 pp., £14.99, March 2017, 978 1 910702 66 6
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... down on the grass himself while several others stripped him and pinned his spatchcocked legs for Price to apply the polish to his genitals.’ This victim passes the test. He emerges ‘naked, grinning and pale. In the middle of his white body was the shocking sight of his black, oiled penis, his thighs blotchy with scarlet finger marks.’ But others do ...

Raving

Hari Kunzru

22 May 1997
Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House 
by Matthew Collin and John Godfrey.
Serpent’s Tail, 314 pp., £18.99, April 1997, 1 85242 377 3
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Disco Biscuits 
edited by Jane Champion.
Sceptre, 300 pp., £6.99, February 1997, 0 340 68265 5
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... of pleasure-taking, vacuous, escapist and pernicious. Combine this with the shyly smiling face of Leah Betts, who took ‘just one tablet’ on her 18th birthday and promptly died, and you have a powerful story. Here is a drug that transforms your daughter from a well brought-up girl into a banshee nymphet, and in the process could very possibly kill her: a ...

Whomph!

Joanna Biggs: Zadie Smith

1 December 2016
Swing Time 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 453 pp., £18.99, November 2016, 978 0 241 14415 2
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... on my year abroad in Paris, and reminded me of the importance of going beyond oneself even at the price of failure; On Beauty appeared the year I came to London and began working for the LRB, and I bought it in hardback and discussed it at a book group and even stole a placard of its very pretty cover from a Booker Prize party I snuck into; NW I read in a ...

The sea is the same sea

Adam Shatz: Bibi goes to Washington

30 August 2018
Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu 
by Anshel Pfeffer.
Hurst, 423 pp., £20, May 2018, 978 1 84904 988 7
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... consider the siege of Gaza, which has rendered the territory almost uninhabitable, an acceptable price to pay for ‘security’, even if the misery caused by the siege is precisely what heightens their insecurity. This view is not shared by Palestinian citizens of Israel, around 20 per cent of the population, but they are an internal pariah. Netanyahu’s ...

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