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If everybody had a Wadley

Terry Castle: ‘Joe’ Carstairs, the ‘fastest woman on water’, 5 March 1998

The Queen of Whale Cay: The Eccentric Story of ‘Joe’ Carstairs, Fastest Woman on Water 
by Kate Summerscale.
Fourth Estate, 248 pp., £12.99, August 1997, 1 85702 360 9
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... When an American newspaper disparaged her pet, Lord Tod Wadley, as ‘an absurd manikin’, her patience ran out.Escape came dramatically. In 1933 Carstairs spotted an advertisement for Whale Cay, a tiny island in the British West Indies thirty miles north-west of Nassau and ninety miles east of Miami. After visiting and chatting with its two residents ...

Who was David Peterley?

Michael Holroyd, 15 November 1984

... soon as I had concluded that he was nobody at all I found Peterley Harvest a serious strain on my patience. Did the author foresee such a reaction … how could he imagine that the hoax would work? How could he dare to introduce his figment to men and women of authenticated flesh and blood? Toynbee was particularly sensitive to the danger of literary ...

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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... his writing would not have petered out when it did. For all that, it’s a sad read and Motion’s patience with his subject is often hard to match. Larkin being Larkin, though, there are lots of laughs and jokes never far away. Before he became a celebrity (and wriggle though he did that was what he became) and one heard gossip about Larkin it was generally ...

Father! Father! Burning Bright

Alan Bennett, 9 December 1999

... you both despise me.’ ‘Listen.’ She brought him away from the door and closed it. Mrs Barnes next door, who had once described their marriage as uninhibited, was putting out a few opportune clothes. ‘Your father is 74. He is dying. Considering the time you’ve been hanging about here he is possibly already dead yet you resent the fact that he ...

Putting Religion in Its Place

Colm Tóibín: Marilynne Robinson, 23 October 2014

Lila 
by Marilynne Robinson.
Virago, 261 pp., £16.99, October 2014, 978 1 84408 880 5
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... best short stories, he was attending Mass regularly. In The Sun Also Rises the protagonist, Jake Barnes, makes clear on a train through France, when the Catholics have taken all the seats for lunch, that he is a Catholic too. On arrival in Pamplona, he sees the cathedral and goes inside and, in one of Hemingway’s finest passages, with the prose fresh and ...

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