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Pressure to Please

Lauren Oyler: Is Sex Interesting?, 7 February 2019

You Know You Want This 
by Kristen Roupenian.
Cape, 226 pp., £12.99, February 2019, 978 1 78733 110 5
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... piece on the magazine’s website that year, behind Ronan Farrow’s initial interviews with Harvey Weinstein’s accusers. It follows the text-message courtship between Margot, a 20-year-old student and arthouse cinema employee, and Robert, a dumpy 34-year-old to whom she sells Red Vines and who is ‘cute enough that ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... hung out with Angela Davis in the early 1970s, and surely Don DeLillo’s speculations on Lee Harvey Oswald in Libra merited attention. There is at least one known case. In 2013 William Vollmann wrote about getting hold of his own FBI file and discovering that during the 1990s, following an anonymous tip, he was suspected of being the ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Jeffrey Epstein’s Little Black Book, 15 August 2019

... him by his friend Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of the late newspaper magnate and pensions-thief Robert Maxwell), and there are industrialists, publicists and the editors of fashion magazines, most of whom, in my experience, would happily attend a party in the gusset of a Nazi commandant’s breeches. Candace Bushnell, author of Sex and the City, is there ...

We’ve done awfully well

Karl Miller: The Late 1950s, 18 July 2013

Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, June 2013, 978 0 7475 8893 1
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... seems to have wanted to blow up television, ‘the box in the corner’. In the flat of her friend Robert Kee, a great asset to the box in the corner, she glimpsed the Tonight programme, and later recorded: ‘I was bored and rather disgusted, and longed to be able to unhook my gaze from this little fussy square of confusion and noise on the other side of the ...

I have written as I rode

Adam Smyth: ‘Brief Lives’, 8 October 2015

‘Brief Lives’ with ‘An Apparatus for the Lives of Our English Mathematical Writers’ 
by John Aubrey, edited by Kate Bennett.
Oxford, 1968 pp., £250, March 2015, 978 0 19 968953 8
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John Aubrey: My Own Life 
by Ruth Scurr.
Chatto, 518 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 0 7011 7907 6
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... round … wears boots of Spanish leather, laced or tied along the side with black ribbons’. That Robert Hooke is ‘melancholy and giddy … and … has strange dreams of riding and eating cream’. That Mary Sidney, countess of Pembroke, with her lovers, peered through a ‘vidette’ or peephole to gaze on mating horses at Wilton House. That William ...

Moll’s Footwear

Terry Eagleton: Defoe, 3 November 2011

Crusoe: Daniel Defoe, Robert Knox and the Creation of a Myth 
by Katherine Frank.
Bodley Head, 338 pp., £20, June 2011, 978 0 224 07309 7
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Moll: The Life and Times of Moll Flanders 
by Siân Rees.
Chatto, 224 pp., £18.99, July 2011, 978 0 7011 8507 7
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... had clapped him in jail. Frank argues that Defoe’s novel is primarily based on the career of Robert Knox, a 19-year-old seaman whose ship was badly damaged off the coast of India in 1659. He and his crew put ashore in Dutch-occupied Ceylon, where they were welcomed by the Tamil people but feared as imperial interlopers by the king of Kandy, a region in ...
The Movement: English Poetry and Fiction of the 1950s 
by Blake Morrison.
Oxford, 326 pp., £8.50, May 1980, 9780192122100
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The Oxford Book of Contemporary Verse 1945-1980 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 299 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 19 214108 2
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... or collaboration?’ It is almost as if he were seeking information about Spenser, Gabriel Harvey and the Areopagus. Yet most of the poets he is writing about are ascertainably hale and not yet eligible for the Old Age Pension; even the few living elders they respected are still around, and capable of spry conversation – Empson, Fuller, Graves. Mr ...

You have to be educated to be educated

Adam Phillips, 3 April 1997

The Scientific Revolution 
by Steven Shapin.
Chicago, 218 pp., £15.95, December 1996, 0 226 75020 5
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... of enquiry would allow at least some people to find out things for themselves. It was, William Harvey wrote, ‘base’ to ‘receive instructions from others’ comments without examination of the objects themselves, especially as the book of Nature lies so open and is so easy of consultation’. ‘Easy’, though, is the word we use to describe things ...

Why did they lose?

Tom Shippey: Why did Harold lose?, 12 March 2009

The Battle of Hastings: The Fall of Anglo-Saxon England 
by Harriet Harvey Wood.
Atlantic, 257 pp., £17.99, November 2008, 978 1 84354 807 2
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... the missions to Germany and Scandinavia – these are no longer part of the national myth. Harriet Harvey Wood’s book in a sense restates and in a sense tries to counteract that national myth. Her view, expressed with some passion, is that the wrong side won on 14 October 1066: Anglo-Saxon England was more civilised than William’s Normandy. William had no ...

Scribblers and Assassins

Charles Nicholl: The Crimes of Thomas Drury, 31 October 2002

... Marlowe filled the air at this time. Hints had appeared in print, in the loquacious pamphlets of Robert Greene and Gabriel Harvey and Thomas Nashe, but more damagingly precise were the reports of Government informers – a flourishing trade in the police-state atmosphere of late Elizabethan London. There are two key ...

I wish she’d been a dog

Elaine Showalter, 7 February 1991

Jean Stafford: The Savage Heart 
by Charlotte Margolis Goodman.
Texas, 394 pp., $24.95, May 1990, 0 292 74022 0
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Jean Stafford: A Biography 
by David Roberts.
Chatto, 494 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7011 3010 5
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... Boulder, Colorado, agreed to go for a ride in his father’s Packard with her 21-year-old suitor Robert Lowell. They had met the year before at a Colorado Writers’ Conference, and Lowell had been courting her intensely through the mails. When she refused to marry him, however, Lowell went into a rage and crashed the car into an embankment. He was unhurt ...

The Wickedest Woman in Paris

Colm Tóibín, 6 September 2007

Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins 
by Rupert Everett.
Abacus, 406 pp., £7.99, July 2007, 978 0 349 12058 4
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... not given Lord Snowdon’s number but the number he was actually calling from, which belonged to Robert Fox and his wife, Celestia. Fox was arrested. ‘Robert’s been arrested,’ his wife said when she rang Rupert and Min. ‘We were just going to bed, and the doorbell rang. Twelve policemen burst into the house and ...

Nothing Natural

Jenny Turner: SurrogacyTM, 23 January 2020

Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism against Family 
by Sophie Lewis.
Verso, 216 pp., £14.99, May 2019, 978 1 78663 729 1
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Making Kin Not Population 
edited by Adele Clarke and Donna Haraway.
Prickly Paradigm, 120 pp., £10, July 2018, 978 0 9966355 6 1
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... so they claim, for the reproductive rights and bodily autonomy of all women against Trump and Harvey Weinstein and the abortion-banning state government of Alabama. But there are, in the US and across the world, many, many populations for whom ‘it’ could be said never to have stopped.I had never read The Handmaid’s Tale when I started watching the ...

Unusual Endowments

Patrick Collinson, 30 March 2000

Philip Sidney: A Double Life 
by Alan Stewart.
Chatto, 400 pp., £20, February 2000, 0 7011 6859 5
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... but even more a Dudley, grandson of the ill-fated Duke of Northumberland and nephew of his sons Robert, Elizabeth’s Earl of Leicester, and Ambrose, Earl of Warwick. Ambrose was childless and, for as many years as Queen Elizabeth neither married Robert nor released him to marry anyone else, he was the presumed heir of ...


Ann Geneva: Celestial Lunacy, 26 November 1987

... signalled his intentions to his far-flung sublunar creatures. No need for poets then to ask, with Robert Frost, whether design governed in so small a thing as a royal bastard’s rebellion or a reflagged Kuwaiti oil ship. In fact, neither Lilly nor Ashmole would have needed to wonder whether such seemingly minor events might escalate into large and then ...

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