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Problem Parent

Michael Wood, 17 August 1989

Memories of Amnesia 
by Laurence Shainberg.
Collins Harvill, 190 pp., £10.95, April 1989, 0 00 272024 8
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We find ourselves in Moontown 
by Jay Gummerman.
Cape, 174 pp., £11.95, June 1989, 0 224 02662 3
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The Russia House 
by John le Carré.
Hodder, 344 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 0 340 50573 7
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My Secret History 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 468 pp., £13.95, June 1989, 0 241 12369 0
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... Look within,’ Virginia Woolf said, but she wasn’t thinking of brain surgery. Memories of Amnesia is a black joke about inner landscapes, or more precisely, about a mind turned inside out. Subjectivity, that spreading territory of so much modern writing, becomes a sort of intellectual circus, an arena where hectic and unanswerable arguments cross like missiles in the night ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: Agnès Varda, 5 November 2009

... either, it turns out, because he seems to have left the set. An old dream of cinema, from Virginia Woolf to Stanley Cavell. Life gesticulates or vegetates; the camera keeps ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Blue Jasmine’, 24 October 2013

Blue Jasmine 
directed by Woody Allen.
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... ever help anyone on the screen, ‘we see life as it is when we have no part in it,’ as Virginia Woolf said. But many movies pretend very successfully to refuse this nature, and Allen is going out of his way to exploit it. Francine Prose thinks there is a deep misogyny in this film, and has written eloquently about it. She may be right, if misogyny is the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: Yasujiro Ozu, 25 February 2010

Yasujiro Ozu Season 
BFI Southbank 2010, until 28 February 2010Show More
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... enter and can’t replicate. In this sense he takes us back to the effect of film that Virginia Woolf flagged when she said that in moving pictures ‘we see life as it is when we have no part in it,’ and the one Stanley Cavell evokes when he speaks of films as presenting a world that is complete without us, a world we seek both to deny and to welcome. We ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Gone Girl’, 23 October 2014

Gone Girl 
directed by David Fincher.
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... of any chance of resolution? Flynn has listed Rosemary’s Baby and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? among her influences, but closer to hand we have David Fincher’s own earlier films, especially The Game and Seven, even The Social Network. He is drawn to, and expert at depicting, modes of manipulation and uncertainty, zones where knowledge is either ...

Azure Puddles

John Bayley, 21 May 1987

Compton Mackenzie: A Life 
by Andro Linklater.
Chatto, 384 pp., £14.95, May 1987, 0 7011 2583 7
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... of the social influence of ‘good bad books’, he probably saw that Mackenzie’s heroes – the Michael Fanes and John Ogilvies – lacked a true personality linking them to their author, and at the same time lacked the constructed persona with which writers like John Buchan managed to endow themselves and their characters. The sense of disembodied ...


Ardis Butterfield: Who was Chaucer?, 27 August 2015

... about the first from a New York Times review of Hermione Lee’s 1997 biography of Virginia Woolf. In the midst of Daphne Merkin’s somewhat dutiful praise there erupts a moment of real excitement: Art and Affection: A Life of Virginia Woolf, by Panthea Reid, while not nearly as strong as Ms Lee’s, makes ...

Besieged by Female Writers

John Pemble: Trollope’s Late Style, 3 November 2016

Anthony Trollope’s Late Style: Victorian Liberalism and Literary Form 
by Frederik Van Dam.
Edinburgh, 180 pp., £70, January 2016, 978 0 7486 9955 1
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... quantity, and more for observation than vision. But in 1927, 45 years after Trollope’s death, Michael Sadleir published a reassessment. He argued that Trollope was a writer with the rare gift of being able to produce memorable books without writing memorable sentences, and probe depths without seeming to move beyond the surface. Interest revived; the ...

All This Love Business

Jean McNicol: Vanessa and Julian Bell, 24 January 2013

Julian Bell: From Bloomsbury to the Spanish Civil War 
by Peter Stansky and William Abrahams.
Stanford, 314 pp., £38.95, 0 8047 7413 7
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... feathers from China. Everyone waited to see if he’d give in to his mother’s wishes. Virginia Woolf, Julian’s aunt, wrote that he was ‘dog obstinate’, ‘his mouth and face much tenser, as if he had been thinking in solitude’. One evening, according to his younger brother, Quentin,there was a meal at Charleston eaten by Vanessa, we three children ...

Guilty Men

Michael Neve, 5 March 1981

The Fate of Mary Rose 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Cape, 208 pp., £5.95, February 1981, 0 224 01791 8
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Darling, you shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble 
by Caroline Blackwood and Anna Haycraft.
Cape, 224 pp., £6.50, November 1980, 0 224 01834 5
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... They do not care, least of all for their own. As in Edward Albee’s Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the child, imagined or real, is everybody’s child, and is the weapon used by everybody’s parents. Rowan Anderson is insane in his carelessness, his deadness. But it is a mark of Blackwood’s intelligence that in Cressida she shows other insanities ...


John Lanchester: Online Goodies, 25 April 2002

... At the Grammy awards the other week, an unusual note was struck by Michael Greene, a record industry bigwig. The only real point of interest at most award ceremonies is the frocks (and sometimes, admittedly, the hair), so it was a break with tradition when Greene and his tuxedo launched into the subject of Internet piracy ...

Mythic Elements

Stephen Bann, 30 December 1982

Queen of Stones 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 160 pp., £6.95, November 1982, 0 224 02601 1
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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 
by William Kotzwinkle, based on a screenplay by Melissa Mathison.
Arthur Barker, 246 pp., £6.95, November 1982, 0 213 16848 0
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Tales of Afghanistan 
by Amina Shah.
Octagon Press, 128 pp., £6.50, November 1982, 0 900860 94 4
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The Masque of St Eadmundsburg 
by Humphrey Morrison.
Blond and Briggs, 228 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 85634 127 4
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A Villa in France 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 575 03103 4
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Collected Stories: Vol. III 
by Sean O’Faolain.
Constable, 422 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 09 463920 5
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Work Suspended and Other Stories 
by Evelyn Waugh.
Penguin, 318 pp., £2.75, November 1982, 0 14 006518 0
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... achievement of Emma Tennant’s Queen of Stones, you must first imagine that Virginia Woolf has rewritten Lord of the Flies. Interior monologues and painfully acute perceptions of a seaside landscape combine to colour in what is essentially a tale of a group of girls wrecked on a desert island. The fact that the desert island is just off the coast ...

Professor or Pinhead

Stephanie Burt: Anne Carson, 14 July 2011

by Anne Carson.
New Directions, 192 pp., £19.99, April 2010, 978 0 8112 1870 2
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... A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos won the T.S. Eliot Prize. A memorial to Carson’s late brother, Michael, Nox has found as much attention, and as much praise, as any book by any poet in the past couple of years. The praise is disturbing, sometimes wrongheaded, and reflects a category mistake; it also makes a good excuse to look back at the spiky ...

Bogey’s Clean Sweep

Michael Holroyd, 22 May 1980

The Life of Katherine Mansfield 
by Antony Alpers.
Cape, 466 pp., £9.50, May 1980, 0 224 01625 3
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... to a dead wife. But the plucking out of harsh views on friends and fellow writers (as with Leonard Woolf’s and James Strachey’s edition of Virginia Woolf’s correspondence with Lytton Strachey) was inevitable. The truth is that Murry added nothing to Katherine’s writing that was not already there, that he made her ...

What is concrete?

Michael Wood: Erich Auerbach, 5 March 2015

Time, History and Literature: Selected Essays of Erich Auerbach 
by Erich Auerbach, edited by James Porter, translated by Jane Newman.
Princeton, 284 pp., £27.95, December 2013, 978 0 691 13711 7
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... on obvious names. In the last chapter of Mimesis, Auerbach links his method to that of Virginia Woolf and other 20th-century writers of fiction: There is greater confidence in syntheses gained through full exploitation of an everyday occurrence than in a chronologically well-ordered total treatment which accompanies the subject from beginning to end … It ...

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