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Being all right, and being wrong

Barbara Everett, 12 July 1990

Miscellaneous Verdicts: Writings on Writers 1946-1989 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 501 pp., £20, May 1990, 9780434599288
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Haydn and the Valve Trumpet 
by Craig Raine.
Faber, 498 pp., £20, June 1990, 0 571 15084 5
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... Men of different generations and presumably social worlds, Anthony Powell and Craig Raine aren’t much alike as writers. But the novelist’s Miscellaneous Verdicts and the poet’s Haydn and the Valve Trumpet are both very good, solid selections of occasional writing. The five hundred pages to which they both run are mainly literary journalism, with some illuminating essays on the social-historical from Powell, and vivid side-glances at painters and painting from Raine ...

Angela and the Beast

Patricia Craig, 5 December 1985

Black Venus 
by Angela Carter.
Chatto, 121 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 7011 3964 1
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Come unto these yellow sands 
by Angela Carter.
Bloodaxe, 158 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 906427 66 5
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Mainland 
by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer.
Hamish Hamilton, 285 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 241 11643 0
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The Accidental Tourist 
by Anne Tyler.
Chatto, 355 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 7011 2986 7
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Arrows of Longing 
by Virginia Moriconi.
Duckworth, 252 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 9780715620694
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... to fix in its final form an idea of Irish eccentricity and chaotic living; as Stella Gibbons is to Mary Webb, so perhaps this author would wish to be considered in relation to a host of ‘Big House’ novelists, chroniclers of monumental disrepair. Gates falling off their hinges and leaking roofs. Plaster from the moulded ceilings on the rotting Aubusson ...

Open that window, Miss Menzies

Patricia Craig, 7 August 1986

A Taste for Death 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 454 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13799 7
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A Dark-Adapted Eye 
by Barbara Vine.
Viking, 300 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 670 80976 4
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Dead Men’s Morris 
by Gladys Mitchell.
Joseph, 247 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 7181 2553 3
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Laurels are poison 
by Gladys Mitchell.
Hogarth, 237 pp., £2.95, June 1986, 0 7012 1010 9
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Dido and Pa 
by Joan Aiken.
Cape, 251 pp., £7.95, June 1986, 0 224 02364 0
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... way into the future: in the meantime Faith and her Sindon friend Anne Cambus rifle the life of Mary, Queen of Scots for scenes to play-act in a derelict cottage, while the Battle of Britain rages overhead, and Eden, at her dressing-table, applies cosmetic preparations to her flawless face. All this is set out with the surest feeling for the character of ...

The Story of Joe

Craig Raine, 4 December 1986

The Orton Diaries 
edited by John Lahr.
Methuen, 307 pp., £12.50, November 1986, 0 413 49660 0
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... music from a speaker in the corner. The coffin lid propped up against a wall. It said, ‘Elsie Mary Orton, aged 62 years’. Betty said: ‘They’ve got her age wrong, see. Your Mum was 63. You should tell them about that. Put in a complaint.’ I said: ‘Why? It doesn’t matter now.’ ‘Well,’ said Betty, ‘you want it done right, don’t ...

Diary

Mary Beard: On rape, 24 August 2000

... of this discursive complexity. One particularly notorious recent example is Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer’s A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion.* This book, as its title suggests, pushes the line that rape is a relatively straightforward biological affair, and probably the natural product of evolutionary adaptation within the ...

Updike’s Innocence

Craig Raine, 25 January 1990

Just Looking: Essays on Art 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 210 pp., £19.95, November 1989, 0 233 98501 8
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... wondering what Updike made of the more extreme technical violations in, say, Degas’s portrait Mary Cassat with Small Dog (1890), or his 1861 portrait of Princesse Pauline de Metternich, which was done from a still extant photograph. The photograph shows a woman not unlike the late Marghanita Laski, with full lips gathered over a generous helping of ...

Among Flayed Hills

David Craig, 8 May 1997

The Killing of the Countryside 
by Graham Harvey.
Cape, 218 pp., £17.99, March 1997, 0 224 04444 3
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... Nest Farm near Broadway in Worcestershire, on the northern rim of the Cotswolds. It is farmed by Mary Young and her adult daughter and son. On their premises they sell beef they have grown themselves. Their sixty cows graze among cowslips and cherry trees, living in families even when an elder calf has been weaned, then displaced at the udder by the ...

Valorising Valentine Brown

Patricia Craig, 5 September 1985

Ascendancy and Tradition in Anglo-Irish Literary History from 1789 to 1939 
by W.J. McCormack.
Oxford, 423 pp., £27.50, June 1985, 0 19 812806 1
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Across a Roaring Hill 
edited by Gerald Dawe and Edna Longley.
Blackstaff, 258 pp., £10.95, July 1985, 0 85640 334 2
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Celtic Revivals: Essays in Modern Irish Literature 1880-1980 
by Seamus Deane.
Faber, 199 pp., £15, July 1985, 0 571 13500 5
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Escape from the Anthill 
by Hubert Butler.
Lilliput, 342 pp., £12, May 1985, 0 946640 00 9
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... him and his new house was organised, with the parish choir, the Gaelic League and the Children of Mary out in force. Such exhibitions of Catholic fervour aren’t uncommon. We’re reminded of an episode in Peadar O’Donnell’s novel of 1934, On the Edge of the Stream, when a similar crowd assembles to repudiate in public the message of a socialist ...

To the Great God Pan

Laura Jacobs: Goddess Isadora, 24 October 2013

My Life: The Restored Edition 
by Isadora Duncan.
Norton, 322 pp., £12.99, June 2013, 978 0 87140 318 6
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... in a unique family situation. She was born in 1877 in California, the fourth and last child of Mary Dora Gray and Joseph Charles Duncan, who divorced when she was a baby. Her father was a poet, editor, banker and ladies’ man who made and lost four fortunes and died in a shipwreck. ‘All my childhood,’ she writes, ‘seemed to be under the black shadow ...

The Whole Bustle

Siobhan Kilfeather, 9 January 1992

The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing 
edited by Seamus Deane.
Field Day Publications/Faber, 4044 pp., £150, November 1991, 0 946755 20 5
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... is no acknowledgment of the debates over women’s rights, sexuality and reproduction in which Mary Robinson, for example, established her reputation. Indeed, one could read through this whole anthology without ever confronting the idea that sexuality has been a vexatious political issue in Irish history. Even Terence Brown’s introduction to the useful ...

Making strange

John Sutherland, 19 March 1981

Other people 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 223 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 224 01766 7
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The Magic Glass 
by Anne Smith.
Joseph, 174 pp., £6.50, March 1981, 9780718119867
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The Book of Ebenezer Le Page 
by Gerald Edwards.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £7.50, March 1981, 0 241 10477 7
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Sharpe’s Eagle 
by Bernard Cornwell.
Collins, 266 pp., £6.50, February 1981, 0 00 221997 2
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XPD 
by Len Deighton.
Hutchinson, 397 pp., £6.95, March 1981, 0 09 144570 1
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... term ‘metaphysical’). But Amis is less concerned with reconstituting the mysterious past of Mary Lamb (as she arbitrarily calls herself) than with exploiting her as a centre of deranged consciousness. For Mary the common world is defamiliarised. Thus, for instance, she tackles the telephone: ...

On Nicholas Moore

Peter Howarth: Nicholas Moore, 24 September 2015

... came out, expensively illustrated by Lucian Freud. He got married to a woman called Priscilla Craig, whom he adored, they had a daughter, and his prosperous-looking figure in its well-cut suit stood out amid the squalor of Tambimuttu’s Poetry London offices. But in 1948 it all began to collapse. Priscilla left him, taking their daughter with her, and ...

Looking for a Way Up

Rosemary Hill: Roy Strong’s Vanities, 25 April 2013

Self-Portrait as a Young Man 
by Roy Strong.
Bodleian, 286 pp., £25, March 2013, 978 1 85124 282 5
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... a career in teaching. After Edmonton County Grammar School he went on to read history at Queen Mary College, London. This was success beyond anything his parents could have aspired to, a benefit of the 1944 Education Act of which Strong is duly appreciative, but the reality was a tedious commute between uncongenial Winchmore Hill and the ‘architecturally ...

Kipling and Modernism

Craig Raine, 6 August 1992

... the task of seeing the object as in itself it really is: the most famous example occurs in ‘The Mary Gloster’: Down by the head an’ sinkin’, her fires are drawn and cold, And the water’s splashin’ hollow on the skin of the empty hold – Churning an’ choking and chuckling, quiet and scummy and dark – In ‘ “The Trade” ’, Kipling ...

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