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Contaminated

Janette Turner Hospital, 18 July 1996

Colour is the Suffering of Light: A Memoir 
by Melissa Green.
Phoenix, 341 pp., £9.95, April 1996, 1 897580 43 6
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... Oh, it’s not so bad,’ Melissa Green’s mother says to her nonchalantly on the subject of having babies. ‘The doctors will be there and they’ll put you to sleep. I almost miscarried with you. The doctor wanted me to stay in bed, but I didn’t and you were born just the same.’ Melissa, on the verge of puberty, baffled by and anxious about certain bodily changes, is neither greatly enlightened nor particularly reassured by this information, but her mother, in the time-honoured patchwork mode of ellipses, imprecision and embarrassment, barrels on regardless with the lecture on birds and bees ...

Uttar Pradesh

August Kleinzahler, 9 March 1995

... hundred feet. Oh, shit, there goes the Parcheesi board and what’s left of a very bold Shiraz. Melissa purses her lips in the compact mirror, turns a quarter left, then right a tad, scowls at her mascara and snaps it shut with a sigh. You are the pre-eminent colourist of your era. Some would suggest a fraud with your grand chevelure of white hair and ...

The First Time

Adam Mars-Jones: Sally Rooney, 27 September 2018

Normal People 
by Sally Rooney.
Faber, 266 pp., £14.99, August 2018, 978 0 571 33464 3
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Conversations with Friends 
by Sally Rooney.
Faber, 321 pp., £8.99, March 2018, 978 0 571 33313 4
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... on her way to the football match has an almost painting-by-numbers sparseness: ‘black cattle, green meadows, white houses with brown roof tiles’. Evocations of atmosphere can be much richer and more complex, to the point of expressionism, but are no more indulgent in terms of the space allotted them: ‘Back outside the café now, the sunlight is so ...

Such Little Trousers

Lavinia Greenlaw: Pamela Hansford Johnson, 21 March 2019

This Bed Thy Centre 
by Pamela Hansford Johnson.
Hodder, 288 pp., £8.99, October 2018, 978 1 4736 7985 6
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An Impossible Marriage 
by Pamela Hansford Johnson.
Hodder, 352 pp., £8.99, October 2018, 978 1 4736 7980 1
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The Last Resort 
by Pamela Hansford Johnson.
Hodder, 352 pp., £8.99, October 2018, 978 1 4736 7994 8
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The Holiday Friend 
by Pamela Hansford Johnson.
Hodder, 272 pp., £8.99, October 2018, 978 1 4736 7987 0
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... are bent out of shape by their hidden selves. There is something of another contemporary, Henry Green, in Johnson’s invigorating harshness. As Elsie passes on her way to school, Parsons ‘gave her a sidelong glance, sniffing up the hairs in his nose. Sidey little runt, he thought.’ Elsie, abruptly adolescent, is in love with her art teacher, Miss ...

One, Two, Three, Eyes on Me!

George Duoblys, 5 October 2017

... to write the formula on the board?’ the teacher asked one Year 7 class. A dozen hands shot up.‘Melissa,’ the teacher said, holding out a pen to a girl sitting at the back table.‘Sir!’ shouted Abdul, the boy next to her. ‘How am I getting violated like that? You always pick girls!’Chatter sparked up instantly at the other ...

A Tulip and Two Bulbs

Jenny Turner: Jeanette Winterson, 7 September 2000

The PowerBook 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Cape, 243 pp., £14.99, September 2000, 0 224 06103 8
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... a novel anyway. It’s more like a set of short stories being marketed as a novel, in the way that Melissa Bank’s The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing was last year. Except that it isn’t even a set of short stories. It’s more like a bundle of bits and pieces, nicely laid out, signed, numbered and bound in home-splodged cardboard and sold as an ...

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