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Diary

Victor Sage: On Lorna Sage

7 June 2001
... When I was fifteen and a half I received a letter from my new friend Lorna Stockton which announced that she was reading T.S. Eliot, ‘in a tree’. I stared at these words in alarm: who was this T.S. Eliot? Trees, for me, were climbing frames full of cunningly shaped, preferably fatal, challenges to ascent and had no relation to books ...
22 September 1994
The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture 
by Terry Castle.
Columbia, 322 pp., £20, January 1994, 0 231 07652 5
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... In this camp and dashing and deliberately lightweight study of a certain strand of ‘sexual ontology’ Terry Castle pursues the lesbian-as-ghost from Defoe’s wistful nearly-real Mrs Veal onwards. She had, she explains, been planning and researching a much heavier straight book about hauntings – on ‘the waning of belief in apparitions in Western culture after the Enlightenment’ – but in the end decided to come out of the closet and produce this labour of love: ‘I felt scandalously energised ...

Well Downstream from Canary Wharf

Lorna Sage: Derek Beavan

5 March 1998
Acts of Mutiny 
by Derek Beavan.
Fourth Estate, 280 pp., £14.99, January 1998, 1 85702 641 1
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... the first time he came home after far travels: ‘in forty years I swear ... that childhood sea passage ... never once entered my head. Of course, it is coming to me now.’ The luxurious white ghost ship Armorica sails into his mind’s eye, and we flash back to the world of then, where suddenly and bewilderingly the narrator, too, has taken on a period ...

Mother’s back

Lorna Sage: Feminists with Tenure

18 May 2000
What is a Woman? And Other Essays 
by Toril Moi.
Oxford, 517 pp., £25, October 1999, 9780198122425
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... doing away with the old humanist self as ‘constructed’, in one of the book’s most-quoted passages, ‘on the model of the self-contained powerful phallus’. Now, she says: ‘I don’t think I can have believed this when I wrote it. I don’t understand why every integral whole must be phallic ... It doesn’t help that I say I have it from Irigaray ...

Both Sides

Lorna Sage

5 October 1995
The Ghost Road 
by Pat Barker.
Viking, 196 pp., £15, September 1995, 0 670 85489 1
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... a fictional character rubbing shoulders with real, historical people – to rub in a bitter message about the invisibility of most people’s lives and deaths. Rivers’s Solomon Islanders were perfectly real, but nothing more is known of them than what he chose to record (and never got around to publishing). His Melanesian opposite number, the witch ...

Landlocked

Lorna Sage: Henry Green

25 January 2001
Romancing: The Life and Work of Henry Green 
by Jeremy Treglown.
Faber, 340 pp., £25, September 2000, 0 571 16898 1
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... Henry Green put in an incongruous cameo appearance in Jeremy Treglown’s 1994 biography of Roald Dahl. When an interviewer from the Houston Post asked the bestselling author of the low-life and hilarious ‘adult’ short-story collection Someone like You who his favourite British writer was, he answered loftily: ‘Henry Green.’ Treglown thought the reason might have been that Dahl (who anyway loved a put-down) shared a friend with Green, the painter Matthew Smith, whose work he did know and like ...
12 December 1996
After Hannibal 
by Barry Unsworth.
Hamish Hamilton, 242 pp., £16, September 1996, 0 241 13342 4
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... Property-owning and picaresque were once upon a time in opposition, but the new middle-class diaspora has changed all that. People want to put down roots where they wander, buy themselves a piece of the view and a share of the sky, a place of their own. Marvellous time. Wish I was here. We don’t simply holiday and go home, we dream in brick and stucco and terracotta ...

Winter Facts

Lorna Sage

4 April 1996
Remake 
by Christine Brooke-Rose.
Carcanet, 172 pp., £9.95, February 1996, 1 85754 222 3
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... Park, decoding German signals: ‘The young WAAF officer ... reading and evaluating German messages all day for priority lists to the interpreters and cryptographers ... The otherness of the other learnt young, the real war, seen from the enemy point of view.’ It was, she says, her first university, and it made her aware of the power knowledge ...

The View from the Passenger Seat

Lorna Sage: Gilbert Adair

1 January 1998
The Key of the Tower 
by Gilbert Adair.
Secker, 190 pp., £12.99, October 1997, 0 436 20429 0
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... avoiding the question of pastiche, of who’s actually in charge of this text. You get the ‘message’ in any case, for Adair’s novels are fables about compulsion. Having your strings pulled, being driven, is their inevitable theme, passivity their motive force. The new one, The Key of the Tower, does the trick over again – doing it over again is the ...

The First Bacchante

Lorna Sage: ‘The Ground Beneath Her Feet’

29 April 1999
The Ground Beneath Her Feet 
by Salman Rushdie.
Cape, 575 pp., £18, April 1999, 0 224 04419 2
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... The philosopher Plotinus was such a good Idealist that he refused to have a portrait done – why peddle an image of an image? – and argued that the true meaning of the myth of Narcissus was that the poor boy didn’t love himself enough. If Narcissus had recognised whose the reflection in the water was, he’d have lived and grown and changed himself, instead of being the helpless subject of a pretty tale of metamorphosis ...

A Simpler, More Physical Kind of Empathy

Lorna Sage: Haruki Murakami

30 September 1999
South of the Border, West of the Sun 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel.
Harvill, 187 pp., £9.99, July 1999, 1 86046 594 3
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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin.
Harvill, 609 pp., £12, May 1998, 9781860464706
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... Talking to Jay McInerney in 1992, the year South of the Border, West of the Sun was published in Japanese, Haruki Murakami said that he wasn’t so much an international writer, as a non-national writer: ‘You might call it the Japanese nature that remains only after you have thrown out, one after another, all those parts that are altogether too “Japanese” ...

I, too, write a little

Lorna Sage: Katherine Mansfield

18 June 1998
The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks: Vol I 
edited by Margaret Scott.
Lincoln University Press, 310 pp., NZ $79.95, September 1997, 0 908896 48 4
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The Katherine Mansfield Notebooks: Vol II 
edited by Margaret Scott.
Lincoln University Press, 355 pp., NZ $79.95, September 1997, 0 908896 49 2
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... bear thinking about too closely, she wills to work. In one of the most revealing and memorable passages here, from late on, in 1921, she ponders the function of solitary scribbling: Queer this habit of mine of being garrulous. And I don’t mean that any eye but mine should read this. This is – really private. But I must say nothing affords me the same ...

Spells of Levitation

Lorna Sage: Deborah Eisenberg

3 September 1998
All around Atlantis 
by Deborah Eisenberg.
Granta, 232 pp., £8.99, March 1998, 1 86207 161 6
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... only days ago will never be picked up. The three Latin American stories are also about rites of passage. These focus on Americans adventuring into foreign countries too close to home for comfort – the central characters are innocents abroad, tourists, artists, voluntary exiles, who find themselves confronted by other Americans, the shady fixers, dealers and ...
3 April 1997
A Regular Guy 
by Mona Simpson.
Faber, 372 pp., £15.99, February 1997, 0 571 19079 0
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The Keepsake 
by Kirsty Gunn.
Granta, 224 pp., £14.99, March 1997, 9781862070134
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... ten years through communes and camps, while he makes his fortune and becomes famous. She leaves messages he doesn’t play back, and sends him annual snapshots of the daughter he pretends to think isn’t his. And then one day, her casual despair coalesces into a crazy plan, her one stroke of genius – to teach ten-year-old Jane to drive, and send her on her ...

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