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Michael Wood

6 January 1994
Tina Modotti: A Fragile Life 
by Mildred Constantine.
Bloomsbury, 199 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 0 7475 1622 7
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Tina Modotti: Photographer and Revolutionary 
by Margaret Hooks.
Pandora, 277 pp., £25, September 1993, 9780044408796
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... what’s wrong with the world. For a long time Modotti’s reputation was overshadowed by that of her mentor Edward Weston, and her total output of photographs was slender: four hundred images, MargaretHooks says. But her well-known Roses (1925) sold at Sotheby’s in 1991 for $165,000, then apparently a record price for a photograph. And now here are two illustrated books about her, and an ...
10 September 1992
Power of the Witch: A Witch’s Guide to her Craft 
by Laurie Cabot, with Tom Cowan.
Arkana/Penguin, 294 pp., June 1992, 0 14 019368 5
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by Leslie Wilson.
Picador, 168 pp., £15.99, August 1992, 0 330 32427 6
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... common sense: to him, Alice is basically good, the world topsy-turvy. His simple ‘light’ comes as a relief in the general murk, and his words, as well as those of Alice’s loathed daughter Big Margaret, begin to shape Alice into something simpler and less awesome towards the end of the book. Against the official midwife’s hooks, we have Alice’s gentle hands; her charm was made on a pig’s skin ...

City of Blood

Peter Pulzer

9 November 1989
The Jews of Vienna in the Age of Franz Joseph 
by Robert Wistrich.
Oxford, 696 pp., £45, June 1989, 0 19 710070 8
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Vienna and the Jews, 1867-1938: A Cultural History 
by Steven Beller.
Cambridge, 271 pp., £27.50, August 1989, 0 521 35180 4
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The German-Jewish Economic Elite 1820-1935: A Socio-Cultural Profile 
by W.E. Mosse.
Oxford, 369 pp., £35, October 1989, 0 19 822990 9
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Decadence and Innovation: Austro-Hungarian Life and Art at the Turn of the Century 
edited by Robert Pynsent.
Weidenfeld, 258 pp., £25, June 1989, 0 297 79559 7
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The Torch in My Ear 
by Elias Canetti, translated by Joachim Neugroschel.
Deutsch, 372 pp., £13.95, August 1989, 0 233 98434 8
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From Vienna to Managua: Journey of a Psychoanalyst 
by Marie Langer, translated by Margaret Hooks.
Free Association, 261 pp., £27.50, July 1989, 1 85343 057 9
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... Robert Wistrich’s book is about the Jews of Vienna in their golden age, Steven Beller’s about the city’s culture in its golden age. You could be forgiven for thinking that these amounted to the same thing. Not all Viennese Jews were cultural heroes, and not all Viennese cultural heroes were Jews. But the overlap is impressive and in need of explanation. W.E. Mosse’s is about the German economy ...

Mother-Haters and Other Rebels

Barbara Taylor: Heroine Chic

3 January 2002
Inventing Herself: Claiming a Feminist Intellectual Heritage 
by Elaine Showalter.
Picador, 384 pp., £16.99, June 2001, 0 330 34669 5
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... rather than of grassroots political activists, as we used to call those who preferred getting things done to talking about them. Figures familiar from other popular histories of feminism appear – Margaret Fuller, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Olive Schreiner, Simone de Beauvoir – but also women less often eulogised as feminist foremothers: Margaret Mead and her fellow anthropologists of the 1920s ...

Three Women

Andrew O’Hagan: Work in progress

10 December 1998
... about the statues. Leaves all rotten and lolling like tongues at the feet of great men in their iron clothes of dignity. There was silence in all the glasshouses, as the lamps began to swing on their hooks, the great crowd approaching, singing their song. The morning mist had swirled at the stanks, and then disappeared, clearing the streets, and the rumble of feet grew louder and louder. Up on the road ...
6 January 1994
The Marx Brothers: ‘A Day at the Races’, ‘Monkey Business’ and ‘Duck Soup’ 
introduced by Karl French.
Faber, 261 pp., £8.99, November 1993, 0 571 16647 4
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... in imaginary satisfaction. Groucho, the opposite of innocent, is a lover, but one who thinks it just as hilarious as anyone else might think it that he should be found lovable. It does both him and Margaret Dumont an injustice not to see that he wins her love and is a faithful husband to it; he courts her as fervently as, and much more persistently than, he does any other woman – he amuses her, shocks ...

Sweeno’s Beano

Nigel Wheale: MacSweeney, Kinsella and Harrison

1 October 1998
The Book of Demons 
by Barry MacSweeney.
Bloodaxe, 109 pp., £7.95, September 1997, 1 85224 414 3
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Poems 1980-94 
by John Kinsella.
Bloodaxe, 352 pp., £9.95, April 1999, 1 85224 453 4
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The Silo: A Pastoral Symphony 
by John Kinsella.
Arc, 108 pp., £7.95, January 1997, 1 900072 12 2
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The Kangaroo Farm 
by Martin Harrison.
Paper Bark, 79 pp., £8.95, May 1998, 0 9586482 4 7
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... is probably Douglas Oliver’s The Infant and the Pearl (1985), a dream-allegorical confrontation in which malign powers are named with outlandish blazons such as ‘Zandra’, ‘Saatchi’ and ‘Margaret’. In a moving climax, Oliver’s dreamer lying ‘in my grey dressing gown’ discovers the pearl within himself, ‘a pellucid awareness of all that had passed’, and his dream-guide, Rosine ...

Horror like Thunder

Germaine Greer: Lucy Hutchinson

21 June 2001
Order and Disorder 
by Lucy Hutchinson, edited by David Norbrook.
Blackwell, 272 pp., £55, January 2001, 0 631 22061 5
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... a Lady’ or some such; the preface could have carried initials or even a signature. Norbrook asks: ‘Why … did she not put her name proudly on the title page, like her contemporaries Aphra Behn, Margaret Cavendish and Katherine Philips?’ In fact, the only one of these three who invariably put her name on her title pages was Margaret Cavendish, who preferred to be known as the Duchess of Newcastle ...

Dream Leaps

Tessa Hadley: Alice Munro

25 January 2007
The View from Castle Rock 
by Alice Munro.
Chatto, 349 pp., £15.99, November 2006, 0 7011 7989 9
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... story (Will O’Phaup in his youth not only sees fairies but is the local lad who can run faster than visiting champions; Munro remembers versions of this tale told two centuries later in Ontario). Margaret Laidlaw Hogg gave over her songs for Scott’s collection, but regretted it afterwards, intuiting the absolute losses incurred when oracy is translated into a print culture. ‘“They were made for ...

What does she think she looks like?

Rosemary Hill: The Dress in Your Head

28 March 2018
... then it had been, for more than a century, virtually impossible for a woman to get dressed – or undressed – by herself. The rich had ladies’ maids, the poor had one another, but the laces and hooks and eyes, the fastening behind, required assistance. This was not true for men. In the persisting convention that women’s clothes have buttons on the left, for the convenience of the average right ...

Come hungry, leave edgy

Sukhdev Sandhu: Brick Lane

9 October 2003
Brick Lane 
by Monica Ali.
Doubleday, 413 pp., £12.99, June 2003, 9780385604840
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... to mark their routes through the maze of alleys and back streets around Brick Lane. They created codes for identifying the buses to the West End: the No. 8 was ‘two eggs’, the No. 22 ‘two hooks’. Solidarity was crucial: these Bengalis had all ducked the watchmen at Tilbury and made their way to Aldgate in breach of their contracts with the shipping companies. When one of them, as early as ...

Fear in Those Blue Eyes

David Runciman: Thatcher in Her Bubble

3 December 2015
Margaret​ Thatcher: The Authorised Biography Vol. II: Everything She Wants 
by Charles Moore.
Allen Lane, 821 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 7139 9288 5
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... The modern​ Conservative Party is never happier than when Labour has a unilateral disarmer as its leader. In 1986 Margaret Thatcher arrived at her party’s annual conference in Bournemouth with a spring in her step, despite having endured months of bruising political infighting in the aftermath of the Westland affair ...

Even If You Have to Starve

Ian Penman: Mod v. Trad

29 August 2013
Mod: A Very British Style 
by Richard Weight.
Bodley Head, 478 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 0 224 07391 2
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... shaping history with both eyes on a potential TV series.) I suspect the book he really wanted to write was a social history of Britain as seen through its subcultures, but these days books need hooks, and that’s where Mod comes in. Or rather, where Mod goes out, because rather than looking again at the rich and paradoxical details of each mod-ish stage, Weight is always pushing on to the next ...

Saving Masud Khan

Wynne Godley: Psychoanalysis

22 February 2001
... was paralysed from the waist down and instead of the pubic hair I had seen as a young child there was a large open wound. Through the upper part of the room there was a system of ropes, pulleys and hooks. Although the lower part of her body was inert, she could operate the ropes skilfully with her hands and arms in a way which enabled her to get her body to move, with extreme agility, about the ...


Alan Bennett: What I Didn’t Do in 2007

3 January 2008
... able to do any more work there. None that I remember have been inspiring or even particularly pleasing: Colm Tóibín’s today is all books, though said to look over rooftops, which could be nice; Margaret Drabble’s faced the street, but with curtains so long and John Lewis-like I’d be frightened they’d get into the prose; Edna O’Brien’s had some relics of Samuel Beckett, hardly likely to ...

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