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Womanism

Dinah Birch

21 December 1989
The Temple of my Familiar 
by Alice Walker.
Women’s Press, 405 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 7043 5041 6
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The Fog Line 
by Carol Birch.
Bloomsbury, 248 pp., £13.95, September 1989, 0 7475 0453 9
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Home Life Four 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 169 pp., £9.95, November 1989, 0 7156 2297 8
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TheFly in the Ointment 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 132 pp., £10.95, October 1989, 9780715622964
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Words of Love 
by Philip Norman.
Hamish Hamilton, 218 pp., £11.95, October 1989, 0 241 12586 3
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... assume odd disguises, and the worst among us can still hope for grace. There is nothing new in what Alice Thomas Ellis has to tell us. But then, innovation has never really been among her interests. PhilipNorman isn’t much given to making it new, either. Words of Love is a collection of short fiction haunted by memory. The title story nostalgically records a shabby childhood made bearable by music ...
16 October 1980
Three Honest Men: Edmund Wilson, F.R. Leavis, Lionel Trilling 
edited by Philip​ French.
Carcanet, 120 pp., £6.95, July 1980, 0 85635 299 3
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F.R. Leavis 
by William Walsh.
Chatto, 189 pp., £8.95, September 1980, 0 7011 2503 9
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... Can you name the author who set you thinking? For Philip French, at a Bristol grammar school in the 1950s, the enlighteners were Edmund Wilson, F.R. Leavis and Lionel Trilling. For me, at a Wimbledon grammar school in the 1950s, Bertrand Russell filled the ...

Whakapapa

D.A.N. Jones

21 November 1985
The Prague Orgy 
by Philip​ Roth.
Cape, 89 pp., £5.95, October 1985, 0 224 02815 4
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Loyalties 
by Raymond Williams.
Chatto, 378 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 7011 2843 7
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Cousin Rosamund 
by Rebecca West.
Macmillan, 295 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 333 39797 5
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The Battle of Pollocks Crossing 
by J.L. Carr.
Viking, 176 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 670 80559 9
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The Bone People 
by Keri Hulme.
Hodder, 450 pp., £9.95, July 1985, 0 340 37024 6
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... Security is the problem that exercises both Philip Roth and Raymond Williams. The sort of ‘security’ I mean is the sort that spreads a feeling of insecurity – a fear of surveillance, bugging, secret cameras, interrogation, the false smile of Mr ...

The Reviewer’s Song

Andrew O’Hagan: Mailer’s Last Punch

7 November 2013
Norman​ Mailer: A Double Life 
by J. Michael Lennon.
Simon and Schuster, 947 pp., £30, November 2013, 978 1 84737 672 5
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... scholarship, or a shotgun marriage between the handsome remnants of personal history and the pretty stuff on the public record. Let’s take the spirit of J. Michael Lennon’s ‘double life’ of Norman Mailer and offer that doubleness back as subjective criticism. Mailer, after all, gave us the non-fiction novel, Lennon gives us the pseudo-objective biography, so why can’t I offer the ...

Bugger me blue

Ian Hamilton

22 October 1992
The Selected Letters of Philip​ Larkin 
edited by Anthony Thwaite.
Faber, 759 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 571 15197 3
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... There is a story that when William F. Buckley Jr sent a copy of his essays to Norman Mailer, he pencilled a welcoming ‘Hi, Norman!’ in the Index, next to Mailer’s name. A similar tactic might happily have been ventured by the publishers of Philip Larkin’s Letters: the book’s back pages are going to be well-thumbed ...

How to Be a Knight

Diarmaid MacCulloch: William Marshal

20 May 2015
The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power behind Five English Thrones 
by Thomas Asbridge.
Simon and Schuster, 444 pp., £20, January 2015, 978 0 7432 6862 2
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... data charting the sequences of variations in tree-rings, we can know when and even roughly where a tree was felled. Carpentry can often be far older than anyone imagined. At Chepstow Castle, a mighty Norman fortress designed to intimidate south Wales and western England, the great wooden door of the gatehouse – which is still in place – was until recently thought to be 15th century. Dendrochronology ...

Dying Falls

John Lanchester

23 July 1987
Temporary Shelter 
by Mary Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 231 pp., £11.95, July 1987, 0 7475 0006 1
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Bluebeard’s Egg 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 287 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 224 02245 8
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The Native 
by David Plante.
Chatto, 122 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 7011 3247 7
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The March of the Long Shadows 
by Norman​ Lewis.
Secker, 232 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 436 24620 1
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... sense that Atwood has available a whole extra set of gears. David Plante’s new novel – which continues the story of the Francoeur family of Providence, Rhode Island – begins in medias res with Philip Francoeur bursting into the bathroom where his daughter appears to be trying to drown herself. He pulls her out of the bath and throws her onto the floor:   ‘You want to kill yourself, really ...
16 March 1989
Off the Rails: Memoirs of a Train Addict 
by Lisa St Aubin de Teran.
Bloomsbury, 193 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 0 7475 0011 8
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The Marble Mountain, and Other Stories 
by Lisa St Aubin de Teran.
Cape, 126 pp., £10.95, January 1989, 9780224025973
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The Bathroom 
by Jean-Philippe Toussaint, translated by Barbara Bray.
Boyars, 125 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 7145 2880 3
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Motherland 
by Timothy O’Grady.
Chatto, 230 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 7011 3341 4
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A Lesser Dependency 
by Peter Benson.
Macmillan, 146 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 333 49093 2
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... Irish work, which broadens and concentrates its protagonist’s mind by having him travel about in Ireland and back in time, to quote the hero’s mentor speculating on why the 12th-century Norman Bertrand de Paor, the novel’s prime authority figure, so admired Pythagoras. I believe it was because Pythagoras was both a logician and a mystic. He discovered the rule of right-angled triangles ...

Mother! Oh God! Mother!

Jenny Diski: ‘Psycho’

7 January 2010
‘Psycho’ in the Shower: The History of Cinema’s Most Famous Scene 
by Philip​ Skerry.
Continuum, 316 pp., £12.99, June 2009, 978 0 8264 2769 4
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... You get 9908 hits if you put in The Golden Bowl, but most of them are different editions of the same book. So if you’re an academic wanting to write a book about Psycho, you really need an angle. Philip Skerry has come up with 60 angles: the 49 shots that make up the ‘shower scene’ proper, from Marion’s feet stepping into the bathtub to the moment when Norman is heard shouting ‘Mother! Oh ...

I had to refrain

Andrew Saint: Pre-Raphaelite Houses

1 December 2005
Philip​ Webb: Pioneer of Arts and Crafts Architecture 
by Sheila Kirk.
Wiley-Academy, 336 pp., £29.99, February 2005, 0 470 86808 2
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... case the best that can be done is to give up on style and ‘architecture’ altogether and go for good, honest building. The ending of The Seven Lamps of Architecture vibrates through the work of Philip Webb, as of those Arts and Crafts architects who were his disciples. Austerity and self-abnegation are its hallmarks. You cannot relish Webb’s buildings without a feeling for puritanism. His was a ...
17 July 1980
Arguments within English Marxism 
by Perry Anderson.
New Left Books, 218 pp., £3.95, May 1980, 0 86091 727 4
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Capitalism, State Formation and Marxist Theory 
edited by Philip​ Corrigan.
Quartet, 232 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 7043 2241 2
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Writing by Candlelight 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin, 286 pp., £2.70, May 1980, 0 85036 257 1
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... Cliometricians, Namierites, or even Whigs. Most believe that blooms come best in mixed bunches. They may allow themselves some guarded asides on the psychology of chiliasm, but would reject Norman Cohn’s full-frontal psychopathology of anti-semitism. They probably accept, as true for that decade, Sir Lewis Namier’s vision of the politics of the 1760s as dominated by clique and pique rather ...
5 March 1987
The Counterlife 
by Philip​ Roth.
Cape, 336 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 224 02871 5
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... Philip Roth’s new novel is marvellously rich, boisterously serious, dense, fizzing and formally audacious. More than with most novels, to review it is to betray it. This isn’t inappropriate, since one ...

Halls and Hovels

Colin Richmond

19 December 1991
The Architecture of Medieval Britain 
by Colin Platt, with photographs by Anthony Kersting.
Yale, 325 pp., £29.95, November 1990, 0 300 04953 6
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... interesting, or remarkable, or intriguing, or marvellous, have survived; not all surviving buildings are interesting or, for that matter, beautiful. Most castles, for instance, are ugly; almost all Norman buildings, especially Norman cathedrals, are large and little else. The aesthetics of Heritage History come into play here. Caernarvon Castle is an imperial monstrosity; the nave of Durham Cathedral ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: It's a size thing

19 September 1985
... In the current issue of a magazine called The Face there is an article on Norman Mailer’s recent visit to this country. He was here, it seems, to promote Tough guys don’t dance, his latest novel: he did some ‘major’ TV interviews, a bit of radio, and – towards the end ...

Reputation

Peter Burke

21 May 1987
The Count-Duke of Olivares: The Statesman in an Age of Decline 
by J.H. Elliott.
Yale, 733 pp., £19.95, August 1986, 0 300 03390 7
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Philip​ IV and the Decoration of the Alcazar of Madrid 
by Steven Orso.
Princeton, 227 pp., £36.70, July 1986, 0 691 04036 2
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... on the relationship between the Old World and the New look in retrospect like minor distractions from his major task. As for Elliott’s studies of the court and palaces of the Count-Duke’s master, Philip IV, and of the revolt of the Catalans against their joint regime, they complement rather than compete with the book now under review. There are two obvious reasons for this neglect of a major Spanish ...

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