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What makes a waif?

Joanne O’Leary, 13 September 2018

The Long-Winded Lady: Tales from the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 215 pp., £10.99, January 2017, 978 1 906539 59 7
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Maeve BrennanHomesick at the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Angela Bourke.
Counterpoint, 360 pp., $16.95, February 2016, 978 1 61902 715 2
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The Springs of Affection: Stories 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 368 pp., £8.99, May 2016, 978 1 906539 54 2
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... Maeve Brennan​ could stop traffic. According to her colleague Roger Angell, she laid waste to a ‘dozen-odd’ writers and artists after the New Yorker hired her as a staff writer in 1949. She makes a cameo as the magazine’s ‘resident Circe’ in a biography of the cartoonist Charles Addams; legend tells that she was Truman Capote’s inspiration for Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s ...

This beats me

Stephen Sedley: The Drafter’s Contract, 2 April 1998

Statutory Interpretation 
by Francis Bennion.
Butterworth, 1092 pp., £187, December 1997, 0 406 02126 0
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Law and Interpretation 
edited by Andrei Marmor.
Oxford, 463 pp., £18.99, October 1997, 0 19 826487 9
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Equality before the Law: Deaf People’s Access to Justice 
by Mary Brennan and Richard Brown.
Deaf Studies Research Unit, University of Durham, 189 pp., £17.50, October 1997, 0 9531779 0 4
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... So, then,’ says a founding father, quill poised, to the founding fathers around him in Gary Larson’s cartoon, ‘Would that be “Us the people” or “We the people”?’ If deciding what to write is tough, interpreting what gets written is tougher. Turgid texts need unravelling; obscure provisions need deciphering; occasional nonsense needs correcting; perfectly clear texts may be impossible to apply to novel situations ...

A Traveller in Residence

Mary Hawthorne, 13 November 1997

... people, and in a way you could say she had become one. The receptionist told me her name: Maeve Brennan. I had never heard of her, though for nearly thirty years she had been a staff writer – one of the gifted ones, with a steady cult following among the magazine’s younger writers. And I did not know that, a few years earlier, after suffering a severe ...


Adam Shatz, 6 May 2021

Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said 
by Timothy Brennan.
Bloomsbury, 437 pp., £20, March, 978 1 5266 1465 0
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... book were about Joseph Conrad’s explorations of ambiguity and double identities. As Timothy Brennan writes in Places of Mind, Said was ‘a photo negative of his Jewish counterparts’.Said spent his first years at Columbia as a kind of an Arab Marrano, or crypto Palestinian, among Jewish and Wasp colleagues who were either indifferent or hostile to the ...

I want to howl

John Lahr: Eugene O’Neill, 5 February 2015

Eugene O’Neill: A Life in Four Acts 
by Robert Dowling.
Yale, 569 pp., £20, October 2014, 978 0 300 17033 7
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... at the age of 65, his widow and third wife, Carlotta Monterey, was visited by his cousin Agnes Brennan, the only relative O’Neill regularly saw, who told her about O’Neill’s childhood. ‘Unwanted, no love or tenderness, no care, no discipline, no protection!’ Monterey wrote in her diary. ‘If I had only known this fully – not in bits and ...

Rather Break than Bend

Clare Jackson: The Winter Queen, 26 May 2022

Elizabeth Stuart: Queen of Hearts 
by Nadine Akkerman.
Oxford, 581 pp., £20, December 2021, 978 0 19 966830 4
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... country even seemed somewhat strange’. Hunting was a family passion. According to his biographer Brennan Pursell, persistence was one of Frederick’s main qualities (‘pursuing a single rabbit for three to six hours on a hunt was not beyond him’), while Elizabeth’s father liked to measure the passage of time by the amount of quarry killed. Concluding a ...

Alas! Deceived

Alan Bennett: Philip Larkin, 25 March 1993

Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life 
by Andrew Motion.
Faber, 570 pp., £20, April 1993, 0 571 15174 4
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... have been intimidated by him but he was popular with his staff and particularly with the women. Mary Judd, the librarian at the issue desk at Hull, thought that ‘most women liked him more than most men because he could talk to a woman and make her feel unique and valuable.’ In last year’s Selected Letters there is a photo of him with the staff of the ...

We must burn them

Hazel V. Carby: Against the Origin Story, 26 May 2022

The 1619 Project: A New American Origin Story 
edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones.
W.H. Allen, 624 pp., £25, November 2021, 978 0 7535 5953 6
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Exterminate All the Brutes 
directed by Raoul Peck.
HBO, April 2021
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... global account of imperialist and colonial exploitation proposed by Cooper and Du Bois. In 1904, Mary Church Terrell, one of the founders of the National Association of Coloured Women, published an essay which concluded that ‘lynching is the aftermath of slavery.’ A year later, William A. Sinclair, who was born into enslavement, published The Aftermath ...

All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides, 24 October 2019

Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... into the avid imaginations of legions of onlookers who didn’t know Walter Benjamin from Walter Brennan. Fascinated by Greta Garbo (‘I wanted to be Garbo,’ she wrote in her diary), Sontag managed to fashion a Garboesque mystique while carrying out the garrulous duties of a public intellectual for decades: speeches, interviews, conferences, symposia, all ...

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