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His spectacles reflected only my window, its curtains and my rubber plant

Michael Hofmann: Hjalmar Söderberg, 28 November 2002

Doctor Glas 
by Hjalmar Söderberg, translated by Paul Britten Austin.
Harvill, 143 pp., £10, November 2002, 1 84343 009 6
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The Serious Game 
by Hjalmar Söderberg, translated by Eva Claeson.
Marion Boyars, 239 pp., £8.99, September 2001, 0 7145 3061 1
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... is a reissue of a 1963 version of the 1905 original, with the addition of an admiring preface by Margaret Atwood. A play, Gertrud, was filmed by Carl Dreyer; Doctor Glas has also been filmed; I don’t quite understand why these books and others of his – Martin Birck’s Youth, from 1901, and castigated, on its appearance, for being ...

Good Girls and Bad Girls

Anita Brookner, 2 June 1983

by Deborah Moggach.
Cape, 236 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 224 02948 7
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The Banquet 
by Carolyn Slaughter.
Allen Lane, 191 pp., £6.95, May 1983, 0 7139 1574 9
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Binstead’s Safari 
by Rachel Ingalls.
Faber, 221 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 9780571130160
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In Good Faith 
by Edith Reveley.
Hodder, 267 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 340 32012 5
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by Monica Furlong.
Weidenfeld, 172 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 297 78231 2
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The Moons of Jupiter 
by Alice Munro.
Allen Lane, 233 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 7139 1549 8
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On the Stroll 
by Alix Kates Shulman.
Virago, 301 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 0 86068 364 8
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The Color Purple 
by Alice Walker.
Women’s Press, 244 pp., £3.95, March 1983, 0 7043 3905 6
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Mistral’s Daughter 
by Judith Krantz.
Sidgwick, 531 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 0 283 98987 4
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... In this excellent collection of stories, Alice Munro is treading on the heels of her compatriot, Margaret Atwood. Events are less powerful in Munro’s stories; most have to do with loss – of lovers, home, parents, childhood – and the tone is detached, wry, speculative. The narrator is invariably a middle-aged woman of good sense, too level-headed ...


Karl Miller: Ten Years of the LRB, 26 October 1989

... His Holiness James Kelman? That would be a turn-up for the Booker. I would imagine that Sister Margaret Atwood, or Brother Banville, is more likely to win the prize. On the short list is Rose Tremain, who teaches at the University of East Anglia. Two of the judges are feminists, and one of them also teaches at the University of East Anglia. And there ...

Carry on Camping

Mary Hawthorne, 6 April 1995

by Jayne Anne Phillips.
Faber, 300 pp., £14.99, January 1995, 9780571144907
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... and of Parson, an escaped convict and crazed fundamentalist who is skulking in the woods. Like Margaret Atwood, in her story ‘Death by Landscape’, in which an adolescent camper inexplicably vanishes on a canoe trip, Phillips is quick to exploit the menacing sexual subtext that children in the forest have evoked since Perrault and Grimm. In ...

Fashionable Gore

Katherine Rundell: H. Rider Haggard, 3 April 2014

King Solomon’s Mines 
by H. Rider Haggard.
Vintage, 337 pp., £7.99, May 2013, 978 0 09 958282 3
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by H. Rider Haggard.
Vintage, 317 pp., £8.99, May 2013, 978 0 09 958283 0
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... the book is the sense that women, given power, will reign like despots or fail like children. As Margaret Atwood points out in her introduction, Haggard and his siblings had a doll called She Who Must Be Obeyed, who lived in a cupboard and whom the children both tortured and were haunted by. Read as an embodiment of Victorian neuroses and desires, She ...

Big Rip-Off

Colin Burrow: Riffing Off Shakespeare, 3 November 2016

Shylock Is My Name: ‘The Merchant of Venice’ Retold 
by Howard Jacobson.
Hogarth, 277 pp., £16.99, February 2016, 978 1 78109 028 2
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Vinegar Girl: ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ Retold 
by Anne Tyler.
Hogarth, 233 pp., £16.99, June 2016, 978 1 78109 018 3
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The Gap of Time: ‘The Winter’s Tale’ Retold 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Hogarth, 291 pp., £16.99, October 2015, 978 1 78109 029 9
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Hag-Seed: ‘The Tempest’ Retold 
by Margaret Atwood.
Hogarth, 293 pp., £16.99, October 2016, 978 1 78109 022 0
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... bathos that plays off modern inarticulacy against Shakespearean super-articulacy, as when Margaret Atwood’s equivalent of Ferdinand says to her Miranda, ‘Have you got, like, a boyfriend?’, rather than ‘All corners else o’ th’ earth/Let liberty make use of; space enough/Have I in such a prison.’ Riffing off depends on being ...

Pull off my head

Patricia Lockwood: What a Bear Wants, 12 August 2021

by Marian Engel.
Daunt, 176 pp., £9.99, April, 978 1 911547 94 5
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... scrub the floors no one will. Her letters find her in conversation with the giants of the time – Margaret Laurence’s letters are the most heartening and humane, and her mentor Hugh MacLennan’s the funniest. He’ll begin by telling Marian that the limbs of her sentences bleed and end by talking about the Nazis. ‘Without the study of fluvial ...

Two Americas and a Scotland

Nicholas Everett, 27 September 1990

Collected Poems, 1937-1971 
by John Berryman, edited by Charles Thornbury.
Faber, 348 pp., £17.50, February 1990, 0 571 14317 2
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The Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Faber, 427 pp., £17.50, February 1990, 0 571 14318 0
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Poems 1959-1979 
by Frederick Seidel.
Knopf, 112 pp., $19.95, November 1989, 0 394 58021 4
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These Days 
by Frederick Seidel.
Knopf, 50 pp., $18.95, October 1989, 0 394 58022 2
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A Scottish Assembly 
by Robert Crawford.
Chatto, 64 pp., £5.99, April 1990, 0 7011 3595 6
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... than at Wembley, to say the least, though some critics there might quibble with its epigraph from Margaret Atwood: ‘Some people think that the word Nationalism means “let’s all put on jackboots and kill everybody else” but our cultural nationalism has a very modest mandate – namely, that we exist. It seems to threaten some people.’ A Scottish ...

Into Thin Air

Marina Warner: Science at the Séances, 3 October 2002

The Invention of Telepathy 
by Roger Luckhurst.
Oxford, 334 pp., £35, June 2002, 0 19 924962 8
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... alter egos, multiple personalities, ideas of possession and altered states in work by writers from Margaret Atwood to Joyce Carol Oates to Stephen King. The alliance of entertainment media with magic, telepathy and possession grows ever stronger, in writing for children, in television programmes – even the Teletubbies are psychic channellers – and, of ...

The Great NBA Disaster

John Sutherland, 19 October 1995

... little plastic bags decorated with (trademarked) Levine cartoons of Stephen King, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison or John Updike (gender and ethnic propriety are carefully observed). What is most dispiriting about these Barnes and Noble stores is the expansive blandness of their produce, and the prominence given bestsellers and non-books ...
High Fidelity 
by Nick Hornby.
Gollancz, 256 pp., £14.99, April 1995, 0 575 05748 3
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... starts out with a break-up – and there have been a lot of them around lately, what with the last Margaret Atwood, and then the Michael Brace-well, and then the latest Joanna Trollope – I always riffle first through all the pages, to see what happens at the end. I did this with the new Nick Hornby, and I’m about to say what I discovered, so if you ...

Keep on nagging

Joanna Biggs: Azar Nafisi, 27 May 2010

Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories of a Prodigal Daughter 
by Azar Nafisi.
Windmill, 336 pp., £8.99, February 2010, 978 0 09 948712 8
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... Prejudice. The book was enormously successful on its appearance in March 2003, winning praise from Margaret Atwood (‘All readers should read it’) and Susan Sontag (‘I was enthralled and moved’). It stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 117 weeks and has been translated into 32 languages. Its popularity created a market for Iranian ...


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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... Nemesis, but Anthony Burgess? If you like A Clockwork Orange you’ll love Inside Mr Enderby? Or Margaret Atwood? If you like The Handmaid’s Tale you’ll love Alias Grace? With Banks, you knew what you were getting (and the excellent old Abacus black and white book jackets meant you could see it coming). Fourth, what you were getting was a style that ...


Will Self: On the Common, 25 February 2010

... gravid, from one upmarket café to the next: truly, this is the utopia to blot out all those doomy Margaret Atwood/P.D. Jamesian prognostications of mass infertility and social strife. In Nappy Valley everyone is rich and knocked up. This square mile between Clapham and Wandsworth Common has the highest birth rate in Europe; if you squint you can make out ...

If you don’t swing, don’t ring

Christopher Turner: Playboy Mansions, 21 April 2016

Pornotopia: An Essay on Playboy’s Architecture and Biopolitics 
by Beatriz Preciado.
Zone, 303 pp., £20.95, October 2014, 978 1 935408 48 2
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Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny 
by Holly Madison.
Dey Street, 334 pp., £16.99, July 2015, 978 0 06 237210 9
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... rather, mostly republished) work by John Steinbeck, Norman Mailer, Arthur Conan Doyle, Margaret Atwood, Vladimir Nabokov, Jack Kerouac, Saul Bellow, P.G. Wodehouse, Anne Sexton and John Updike. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was first serialised in the magazine. ‘I only read it for the articles,’ joked subscribers, of which there were ...

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