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Michael Ignatieff, 8 May 1986

The Silent Twins 
by Marjorie Wallace.
Chatto, 230 pp., £10.95, February 1986, 0 7011 2712 0
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... beds, filled their diaries with a second-by-second account of life in that tiny bedroom, until, as Marjorie Wallace puts it in a nice phrase, ‘reality lay somewhere exhausted between their furious perceptions.’ In these frenzied imaginings, they tried to write themselves into existence as separate selves. They were like a schizoid Robinson ...

Still Defending the Scots

Katie Stevenson: Robert the Bruce, 11 September 2014

Robert the Bruce: King of the Scots 
by Michael Penman.
Yale, 443 pp., £25, June 2014, 978 0 300 14872 5
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... for the Telegraph of a Treasury aide who’d said to him that ‘Alex Salmond wants to be William Wallace.’ ‘No,’ Martin corrected him. ‘Alex Salmond wants to be Robert the Bruce.’ Wallace has been cast as ‘the people’s champion’, a role he played in the 1975 novel The ...

Spitting, Sneezing, Smearing

Marjorie Garber: Messy Business, 10 August 2000

Cooking with Mud: The Idea of Mess in 19th-Century Art and Fiction 
by David Trotter.
Oxford, 340 pp., £35, February 2000, 0 19 818503 0
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... 20th century’s predilection for making art out of trash, from the Surrealists to modern poetry (Wallace Stevens’s ‘The Man on the Dump’; T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, with its indicative title and its formalist assertion, ‘These fragments I have shored against my ruin’). Converted Post-Modern palaces of art, like the Musée d’Orsay in ...


John Bayley, 17 September 1987

Robert Lowell: Essays on the Poetry 
edited by Steven Gould Axelrod and Helen Deese.
Cambridge, 377 pp., £17.50, June 1987, 0 571 14979 0
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Collected Prose 
by Robert Lowell, edited and introduced by Robert Giroux.
Faber, 269 pp., £27.50, February 1987, 0 521 30872 0
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... equally say, and in the same spirit, that ‘money had been his life.’ The sharpest point that Marjorie Perloff makes is to quote from Ian Hamilton’s biography of Lowell, recalling his treatment of one of his mistresses, the Lithuanian dancer Vija Vetra, for whom he declared ‘undying love’, and whom he set up in a Manhattan flat, rented in the name ...

Snap among the Witherlings

Michael Hofmann: Wallace Stevens, 22 September 2016

The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens 
by Paul Mariani.
Simon and Schuster, 512 pp., £23, May 2016, 978 1 4516 2437 3
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... every day I like an egg and some tea but most of all I like to talk about me. The American poet Wallace Stevens liked his tea – he took to it in connoisseurship and prudence, ‘imported tea’ every afternoon, ‘with some little tea wafers’, partly in order to ease himself off martinis (Elsie, his ‘Pam’, disapproved of his drinking) – but ...

Don’t teach me

Gillian Darley: Ernö Goldfinger, 1 April 2004

Ernö Goldfinger: The Life of an Architect 
by Nigel Warburton.
Routledge, 197 pp., £30, November 2003, 0 415 25853 7
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... showroom on Wimpole Street for more appreciative clients (Rubinstein had refused to pay), Paul and Marjorie Abbatt, the pioneering educational toy manufacturers. The materials, abundant high-quality plywood and full-height glazing, as well as the subtlety of the scale and detail of the interiors, demonstrated Goldfinger’s increasingly sure touch. The store ...

The State with the Prettiest Name

Michael Hofmann: ‘Florida’, 24 May 2018

by Lauren Groff.
Heinemann, 275 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 78515 188 0
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... everything vegetable sprouts thorns and runs with poison and aspires to the condition of creeper (Wallace Stevens’s ‘vine angering for life’). Home from home to invasive species, from carp to kudzu, from rain trees and Australian cockroaches to hundreds of thousands of Irma and Maria refugees from Puerto Rico. A world of allergens, dissolved like fish ...

An Epiphany of Footnotes

Claude Rawson, 16 March 1989

Social Values and Poetic Acts: The Historical Judgment of Literary Work 
by Jerome McGann.
Harvard, 279 pp., £21.95, April 1988, 0 674 81495 9
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... developed in several of the chapters.’ The defence sounds like an academic version of Wallace Stevens’s poetic project of arriving at insights through circularities rather than continuities of exploration, repeated affrays from various angles which precede the homing-in. McGann himself looks to Blake, whose ‘habit of returning to the same ...

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