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Finishing Touches

Susannah Clapp, 20 December 1984

Charlotte Mew and her Friends 
by Penelope Fitzgerald.
Collins, 240 pp., £12.95, July 1984, 0 00 217008 6
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The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield. Vol. I: 1903-17 
edited by Vincent O’Sullivan and Margaret Scott.
Oxford, 376 pp., £15, September 1984, 0 19 812613 1
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... were not foreign to her life, and Charlotte Mew has come to be cherished as ‘neglected’. Penelope Fitzgerald makes it clear that she doesn’t think this means Mew has to be considered a genius, and that the disregard she has suffered was not due to lack of support in her lifetime. She has written a good book about her: one which is firm, sometimes ...

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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... this is worthy of investigation. On the surface, Humphrey Morrison has just tried to write a lively historical novel about intrigue and rivalry at a Swabian university in the Early Modern period. Acknowledgment is generously offered to one of the author’s history teachers, Professor Walter Ullman of Cambridge, ‘who inspired in me a fascination for ...

Bigger Peaches

Rosemary Hill: Haydon, 22 February 2001

The Immortal Dinner: A Famous Evening of Genius and Laughter in Literary London, 1817 
by Penelope Hughes-Hallett.
Viking, 336 pp., £15.99, September 2000, 0 670 87999 1
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... circle. It was in the negotiable territory between them that careers like theirs could flourish. Penelope Hughes-Hallett is not much concerned to offer new information about the evening or the protagonists, though she has some about Joseph Ritchie, a young explorer, who was there too. Rather she pursues, with warmth and energy, the various currents of ideas ...

Uncuddly

Christopher Tayler: Muriel Spark’s Essays, 24 September 2014

The Golden Fleece: Essays 
by Muriel Spark, edited by Penelope Jardine.
Carcanet, 226 pp., £16.99, March 2014, 978 1 84777 251 0
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... Fleece, a selection of essays, reviews and reminiscences put together on her instructions by Penelope Jardine, her assistant, friend, housemate and literary executor. The publishing history alone tells a story of unblushing professionalism: the earliest piece was written in 1948 for Argentor, the house journal of the National ...

Sisters

John Sutherland, 4 June 1981

Tit for Tat 
by Verity Bargate.
Cape, 167 pp., £5.95, April 1981, 0 224 01908 2
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Watching Me, Watching You 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 208 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 340 25600 1
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Maggie Muggins 
by Keith Waterhouse.
Joseph, 220 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 7181 2014 0
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Mr Lonely 
by Eric Morecambe.
Eyre Methuen, 189 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 413 48170 0
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... in this respect with the pre-Portnoy, and much more reserved, My friend says it’s bulletproof by Penelope Mortimer. But Tit for Tat has none of Roth’s or Jong’s jollity – the secrets are dirtier and much more frightening. Bargate’s narrative tone is traumatised and post-operative. What literary flourishes she offers are flattened by the awful ...

Writing a book about it

Christopher Reid, 17 October 1985

Collected Poems 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 390 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 7011 3953 6
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... puzzle of their unevenness. Of course, one appreciates what is good: the precise observations, the lively metaphors, the occasional droll jokes, and those passages, some of them amounting to entire poems, where a genuine experience of the world is faithfully transmitted. But this is a small part of a large output, and against it stands much that is dismayingly ...

Mistress of Disappearances

Frank Kermode: Eluding Muriel Spark, 10 September 2009

Muriel Spark: The Biography 
by Martin Stannard.
Weidenfeld, 627 pp., £25, July 2009, 978 0 297 81592 1
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... in Africa, and a son from whom she was often separated. London in wartime and after meant a lively struggle to exist, and to make a career as a writer. A breakdown and conversion to Roman Catholicism changed everything, and gave rise to a remarkable first novel, The Comforters, which won generous praise from Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene.Certain of her ...

Raiding Joyce

Denis Donoghue, 18 April 1985

James Joyce 
by Patrick Parrinder.
Cambridge, 262 pp., £20, November 1984, 9780521240147
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James Joyce and Sexuality 
by Richard Brown.
Cambridge, 216 pp., £19.50, March 1985, 0 521 24811 6
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Joyce’s Dislocutions: Essays on Reading as Translation 
by Fritz Senn, edited by John Paul Riquelme.
Johns Hopkins, 225 pp., £22.20, December 1984, 0 8018 3135 0
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Post-Structuralist Joyce: Essays from the French 
edited by Derek Attridge and Daniel Ferrer.
Cambridge, 162 pp., £20, January 1985, 9780521266369
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... in particular, feature ‘a poetics of the body’. In a letter of 1921, Joyce told Frank Budgen: Penelope is the clou of the book ... It begins and ends with the female word yes. It turns like the huge earth ball slowly surely and evenly round and round spinning, its four cardinal points being the female breasts, arse, womb and cunt expressed by the words ...

At Miss Whitehead’s

Edward Said, 7 July 1994

The Sixties: The Last Journal, 1960-1972 
by Edmund Wilson, edited by Lewis Dabney.
Farrar, Straus, 968 pp., $35, July 1993, 0 374 26554 2
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... is brimming over with accounts of visits with and from lots of important and interesting people: Penelope Gilliatt, Lillian Hellman, Isaiah Berlin, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Harry Levin, W.H. Auden, Malraux, James Baldwin, Stravinsky, Robert Lowell etc. None of these people, however, furnishes Wilson with anything like a satisfying number of thoughtful ...

Memories are made of this

Patricia Beer, 16 December 1993

Aren’t We Due a Royalty Statement? 
by Giles Gordon.
Chatto, 352 pp., £16.99, August 1993, 0 7011 6022 5
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Yesterday Came Suddenly 
by Francis King.
Constable, 336 pp., £16.95, September 1993, 9780094722200
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Excursions in the Real World 
by William Trevor.
Hutchinson, 201 pp., £16.99, September 1993, 0 09 177086 6
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... overworks – and not much else. His presentation of the homosexuals, on the other hand, is lively and explicit. He refers to a respected member of the teaching staff as ‘an inveterate cottager’, and recounts how he arranged for Anthony Blunt, who was giving a lecture tour for the Council in Greece, to meet and assess young men (‘That one’s ...

Criminal Elastic

Susannah Clapp, 5 February 1987

Margaret Oliphant: A Critical Biography 
by Merryn Williams.
Macmillan, 217 pp., £27.50, October 1986, 0 333 37647 1
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Chronicles of Carlingford: The Perpetual Curate 
by Mrs Oliphant.
Virago, 540 pp., £4.50, February 1987, 0 86068 786 4
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Chronicles of Carlingford: Salem Chapel 
by Mrs Oliphant.
Virago, 461 pp., £3.95, August 1986, 0 86068 723 6
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Chronicles of Carlingford: The Rector 
by Mrs Oliphant.
Virago, 192 pp., £3.50, August 1986, 0 86068 728 7
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... success made Francis Oliphant ‘an idle and aimless man’. Most strikingly, her two sons, lively and talented in their teens, dwindled into charmless wastrels. A.C. Benson, who was at school with them, charted the decline of Cyril Oliphant from a ‘vivid and sparkling Eton-boy’ to an ‘elderly and deprecating loafer’; his younger brother was ...

Charlot v. Hulot

David Trotter: Tativille, 2 July 2020

Play Time: Jacques Tati and Comedic Modernism 
by Malcolm Turvey.
Columbia, 304 pp., £25, December 2019, 978 0 231 19303 0
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The Definitive Jacques Tati 
edited by Alison Castle.
Taschen, 1136 pp., £185, June, 978 3 8365 7711 3
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... In the decades after the Second World War, another supremely accomplished mime artist with a lively sense of the possibilities of film emerged as a plausible successor to the Tramp. Jacques Tati, born in 1907 and raised in one of Paris’s grandest suburbs, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, had by then broken sufficiently with family tradition to establish himself ...

Women beware men

Margaret Anne Doody, 23 July 1992

Backlash: The Undeclared War against Women 
by Susan Faludi.
Chatto, 592 pp., £9.99, March 1992, 0 7011 4643 5
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The War against Women 
by Marilyn French.
Hamish Hamilton, 229 pp., £9.99, March 1992, 0 241 13271 1
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... the Manor Born offered a replay of old Tory values in an era of new Whiggism calling itself Tory. Penelope Keith’s character rejoiced in both assurance and widowhood. Yet she was merely a charming eccentric at bottom, one of those comic ladies, like Margaret Rutherford playing Miss Marple; Keith’s character, like that of Addison’s Sir Roger de ...

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