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The Reality Effect

Jon Day: 'Did I think this, or was it Lucy Ellmann?', 5 December 2019

Ducks, Newburyport 
by Lucy Ellmann.
Galley Beggar, 1030 pp., £13.99, September 2019, 978 1 913111 98 4
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... Joyce came close to inventing a language that seemed to contain the mind’s endless restlessness.Lucy Ellmann’s new novel, Ducks, Newburyport, does not, despite the claims of some reviewers, consist of a single sentence (I counted 880). But it does contain one very long one: a comma-strewn stream that follows the thoughts of an Ohioan housewife ...

Wallflower

Anthony Quinn, 29 August 1991

Varying Degrees of Hopelessness 
by Lucy Ellmann.
Hamish Hamilton, 184 pp., £13.99, July 1991, 0 241 13153 7
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Slide 
by James Buchan.
Heinemann, 135 pp., £12.99, June 1991, 0 434 07499 3
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Alma Cogan 
by Gordon Burn.
Secker, 210 pp., £13.99, August 1991, 0 436 20009 0
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... The heroine of Lucy Ellmann’s new novel is one of an increasingly rare breed in modern fiction – a virgin. Isabel is a thirty-something art history student, prim, gauche, improbably starry-eyed, impossibly self-obsessed, a junior version of the Anita Brookner wallflower (i.e. not yet prepared to consign herself to the sad margins of singlehood ...

Flights from the Asylum

John Sutherland, 1 September 1988

Mother London 
by Michael Moorcock.
Secker, 496 pp., £9.95, June 1988, 0 436 28461 8
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The Comforts of Madness 
by Paul Sayer.
Constable, 128 pp., £9.95, July 1988, 0 09 468480 4
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Sweet Desserts 
by Lucy Ellmann.
Virago, 154 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 9780860688471
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Happiness 
by Theodore Zeldin.
Collins Harvill, 320 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 00 271302 0
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... what George Eliot called equivalent centres of self: as real to themselves as we are to ourselves. Lucy Ellmann has written a slim but stylish first novel. The matter of Sweet Desserts is easily summarised, though summary destroys the odd angling of the narrative. This is a daughter’s novel, but told ostensibly from a sister’s point of view. At ...

How much?

Ian Hamilton: Literary pay and literary prizes, 18 June 1998

Guide to Literary Prizes, 1998 
edited by Huw Molseed.
Book Trust, 38 pp., £3.99, May 1998, 0 85353 475 6
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The Cost of Letters: A Survey of Literary Living Standards 
edited by Andrew Holgate and Honor Wilson-Fletcher.
W Magazine, 208 pp., £2, May 1998, 0 9527405 9 1
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... would settle for much less. Beryl Bainbridge would not mind working in ‘Marks and Sparks’’ Lucy Ellmann is prepared to consider ‘waitressing and prostitution’’ Penelope Lively is hoping to be offered a job as writer-in-residence on an oil-rig and Hilary Mantel thinks she could handle a stint of ‘collecting supermarket trolleys from ...

Seeing through Fuller

Nicholas Penny, 30 March 1989

Theoria: Art and the Absence of Grace 
by Peter Fuller.
Chatto, 260 pp., £15, November 1988, 0 7011 2942 5
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Seeing through Berger 
by Peter Fuller.
Claridge, 176 pp., £8.95, November 1988, 1 870626 75 3
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Cambridge Guide to the Arts in Britain. Vol. IX: Since the Second World War 
edited by Boris Ford.
Cambridge, 369 pp., £19.50, November 1988, 0 521 32765 2
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Ruskin’s Myths 
by Dinah Birch.
Oxford, 212 pp., £22.50, August 1988, 9780198128724
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The Sun is God: Painting, Literature and Mythology in the 19th Century 
edited by J.B. Bullen.
Oxford, 230 pp., £27.50, March 1989, 0 19 812884 3
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Artisans and Architects: The Ruskinian Tradition in Architectural Thought 
by Mark Swenarton.
Macmillan, 239 pp., £35, February 1989, 0 333 46460 5
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... to applaud in them evidence of a strenously physical relationship with paint. Thus Mali Morris, Lucy Ellmann tells us, works ‘with acrylic on unstretched canvas on the floor ... pulling gobs of paint a little way or densely caking colour on, with rough or gentle strokes. The paint sometimes seems to have flitted across, barely swooping low enough to ...

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