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At the Bodleian

Philip Knox: ‘Chaucer Here and Now’, 4 April 2024

... the Middle Ages to the present, developing a strand of recent scholarship of which its curator, Marion Turner, is a leading proponent. There are echoes here of Turner’s Chaucer: A European Life (2019), which examined the places with which Chaucer is associated, sometimes via his literary sources (a number of ...

‘Kek kek! kokkow! quek quek!’

Barbara Newman: Chaucer’s Voices, 21 November 2019

Chaucer: A European Life 
by Marion Turner.
Princeton, 599 pp., £30, April 2019, 978 0 691 16009 2
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... sycophantic courtier, ironist and, not least, duelling misogynist and feminist versions. In Marion Turner’s capacious biography – the first since Derek Pearsall’s in 1992 and the first ever by a woman – Chaucer is Bakhtinian and plural, a man of many voices. Much like his Canterbury pilgrims, he is always en route but never arriving. We ...

Flavourless Bacon

Irina Dumitrescu: The Wife of Bath, 10 August 2023

The Wife of Bath: A Biography 
by Marion Turner.
Princeton, 320 pp., £20, January, 978 0 691 20601 1
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The Wife of Willesden 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 109 pp., £7.99, November 2021, 978 0 241 47196 8
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The Good Wife of Bath 
by Karen Brooks.
William Morrow, 541 pp., £9.99, March 2022, 978 0 06 314283 1
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... which she delivers the first blow) do they come to an agreement about how to live together.Marion Turner’s ‘biography’ of the Wife of Bath sets out to explain Alysoun’s ‘long career as a bookrunner – a figure that escapes her own text’. Turner argues that much of Alysoun’s appeal comes from her ...

How the sanity of poets can be edited away

Arnold Rattenbury: The Sanity of Ivor Gurney, 14 October 1999

‘Severn and Somme’ and ‘War’s Embers’ 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 152 pp., £7.95, September 1997, 1 85754 348 3
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80 Poems or So 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by George Walter and R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 148 pp., £9.95, January 1997, 1 85754 344 0
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... Most loyal and protective of Gurney’s many friends, Marion Scott wrote after one of her regular visits to the asylum: ‘Ivor is so heart-breakingly sane in his insanity.’ Letters, reported conversation, music, poems all attest to the fact. He was trained and already admired as a composer before enlistment; in the trenches poetry had occupied him more and more and, when he returned afterwards to music, the poetry continued ...

A Girl and a Gun

Jenny Turner: Revenge Feminism, 10 October 2013

Apocalypse Baby 
by Virginie Despentes, translated by Siân Reynolds.
Serpent’s Tail, 338 pp., £8.99, June 2013, 978 1 84668 842 3
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... health’ anyway, with three more novels. Les Jolies Choses (2008) was made into a film with Marion Cotillard in it. Bye Bye Blondie (2004) was made into a film in 2012 with Béatrice Dalle and Emmanuelle Béart, and directed by Despentes herself. Since 2006 or so Despentes – as she wrote last year in a furious attack on Lionel Jospin and his ...

Valet of the Dolls

Andrew O’Hagan: Sinatra, 24 July 2003

Mr S.: The Last Word on Frank Sinatra 
by George Jacobs and William Stadiem.
Sidgwick, 261 pp., £16.99, June 2003, 0 283 07370 5
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... called it’s always the quiet one.’ The genre got off to a cracking start a long time ago with Marion Crawford’s book about the Little Princesses. That really set the standard: ‘Crawfie’, the former governess, got excommunicated, everybody (except the reader) felt betrayed, and the world of the British royals suddenly seemed quite comic. Dozens of ...

Who wouldn’t buy it?

Colin Burrow: Speculating about Shakespeare, 20 January 2005

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Cape, 430 pp., £20, October 2004, 9780224062763
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... A Study of Facts and Problems, which is a brilliant work of scholarship, but scarcely a page-turner. Then in the 1970s the greatest of all of Shakespearean biographers, Samuel Schoenbaum, produced two books which split the activity of writing lives of Shakespeare into two distinct practices. William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life (1975) recorded almost ...

Daddy, ain’t you heard?

Mark Ford: Langston Hughes’s Journeys, 16 November 2023

Let America Be America Again: Conversations with Langston Hughes 
edited by Christopher C. De Santis.
Oxford, 339 pp., £32, August 2022, 978 0 19 285504 6
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... Charles Henry Langston, was an abolitionist too; he insisted they name their son after Nat Turner, the leader of the 1831 Virginia slave revolt. His younger brother, John Langston, became one of the most prominent advocates for Black rights in the Reconstruction era, and was elected to Congress in 1890. By 1901, however, when Hughes was born, the ...

A New Kind of Being

Jenny Turner: Angela Carter, 3 November 2016

The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography 
by Edmund Gordon.
Chatto, 544 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 7011 8755 2
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... The Sadeian Woman may have roots in Surréalisme et sexualité by Xavière Gauthier (1971), which Marion Boyars commissioned Carter to translate into English then rejected – no English translation of the book has yet appeared, although the Swedish scholar Anna Watz has one in preparation, and has a chapter on the connection in her recently published Angela ...

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