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Towards Disappearance

James Francken: Oradour-sur-Glane, 1 July 1999

Matyred Village: Commemorating the 1944 Massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane 
by Sarah Farmer.
California, 323 pp., £19.95, March 1999, 0 520 21186 3
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... alone echoes in the France of the Liberation with an emotional charge equal to that of Verdun.’ Sarah Farmer’s account of Oradour’s destruction is muted: Four days after the Allied landings in Normandy, SS troops encircled the town of Oradour in the rolling farm country of the Limousin and rounded up its inhabitants. In the marketplace they ...

Jabs

Richard Horton, 8 October 1992

Edward Jenner 1749-1823 
by Richard Fisher.
Deutsch, 361 pp., £20, July 1991, 0 233 98681 2
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... After all, you are a respected figure. Your experiment goes something like this. A young girl, Sarah Nelmes, is a patient of yours and is known to be infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). You draw a syringe full of blood from her arm and go back to James Phipps to make two superficial cuts in his skin, which are about half-an-inch long. You ...

The Family That Slays Together

Deborah Friedell: Lorrie Moore, 19 November 2009

A Gate at the Stairs 
by Lorrie Moore.
Faber, 322 pp., £16.99, October 2009, 978 0 571 19530 5
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... But Tassie is a native, and the Wisconsin town she describes is closer to the places canonised in Sarah Palin’s campaign speeches, with its real Americans growing the nation’s crops – Tassie’s father is a potato farmer – and fighting its wars: her brother and many of his classmates enlist after ‘the events of ...

Cut, Kill, Dig, Drill

Jonathan Raban: Sarah Palin’s Cunning, 9 October 2008

... Sarah Palin has put a new face and voice to the long-standing, powerful, but inchoate movement in US political life that one might see as a mutant variety of Poujadism, inflected with a modern American accent. There are echoes of the Poujadist agenda of 1950s France in its contempt for metropolitan elites, fuelling the resentment of the provinces towards the capital and the countryside towards the city, in its xenophobic strain of nationalism, sturdy, paysan resistance to taxation, hostility to big business, and conviction that politicians are out to exploit the common man ...

You see stars

Michael Wood, 19 June 1997

The House of Sleep 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 384 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 0 670 86458 7
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... themselves when the pickings looked good. They are a journalist, a politician, a gallery-owner, a farmer, a banker and an arms-dealer: between them they manage to profit from, if not actually orchestrate, the decline of the BBC, the dismantling of the National Health Service, the conversion of art into mere trend, massive cruelty to animals, insider ...

Just William

Doris Grumbach, 25 June 1987

Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice 
by Sharon O’Brien.
Oxford, 544 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 19 504132 1
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... Born in 1873 among the lush hills and greenery of Winchester, Virginia, to a feckless gentleman farmer and his beautiful Southern belle wife, she was removed from the landscape she loved at the age of nine, when the family moved to the harsh, flat, frozen prairie town of Red Cloud, Nebraska. This, the first rude trauma of Cather’s life, was possibly what ...

‘It was everything’

Eliot Weinberger: The Republican Convention, 11 August 2016

... Party stayed away: all of the previous presidential and vice-presidential nominees (even Sarah Palin), with the exception of the nonagenarian Bob Dole; the Bush family and anyone who held an important post in the administrations of either Bush; 11 of the 16 candidates who ran against Trump in the primaries; the two most prominent Republicans in the ...

Pioneering

Janet Todd, 21 December 1989

Willa Cather: A Life Saved Up 
by Hermione Lee.
Virago, 409 pp., £12.99, October 1989, 0 86068 661 2
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... mocked the bucolic Cather and her intervention in the absurd history of the idealised inarticulate farmer: Cather ‘turns him Swede’, he wrote. Edmund Wilson accused her of failing at characterisation and storytelling: she may be a ‘good craftsman’ but she has ‘an anemia of the imagination’ and is given ‘to terrible lapses into feminine ...

Misbehavin’

Susannah Clapp, 23 July 1987

A Life with Alan: The Diary of A.J.P. Taylor’s Wife, Eva, from 1978 to 1985 
by Eva Haraszti Taylor.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £14.95, June 1987, 0 241 12118 3
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The Painted Banquet: My Life and Loves 
by Jocelyn Rickards.
Weidenfeld, 172 pp., £14.95, May 1987, 0 297 79119 2
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The Beaverbrook Girl 
by Janet Aitken Kidd.
Collins, 240 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 00 217602 5
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... in Alfred the Great, padded leotards with Kotex for The Bliss of Mrs Blossom, and decorated Sarah Miles with flounces and taffetas for Ryan’s Daughter. Most of her lovers have approved this book; few of their partners will. When Janet Aitken Kidd turned 18, Churchill threw cream buns at her coming-out party. When she was 28 she discovered Hore-Belisha ...

Blush, grandeur, blush

Norma Clarke: One of the first bluestockings, 16 December 2004

Hannah More: The First Victorian 
by Anne Stott.
Oxford, 384 pp., £20, September 2004, 0 19 927488 6
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... Green in Somerset, following the well-known examples of Robert Raikes in Gloucestershire and Sarah Trimmer in Brentford. Patty kept a journal of the years 1789-99, published as Mendip Annals in 1859 and clearly intended for general edification. According to Patty, God (‘Providence’) started it all by sending the anti-slavery campaigner William ...

Shave for them

Christian Lorentzen: ‘The Submission’, 22 September 2011

The Submission 
by Amy Waldman.
Heinemann, 299 pp., £12.99, September 2011, 978 0 434 01932 8
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... Gingrich said it ‘would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum’. On Twitter, Sarah Palin wrote: ‘Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.’ Polls showed that most Americans opposed it and that most residents of Manhattan, who know that ...

Who needs a welfare state?

Deborah Friedell: The Little House Books, 22 November 2012

The Little House Books 
by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Library of America, 1490 pp., £56.50, August 2012, 978 1 59853 162 6
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The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ 
by Wendy McClure.
Riverhead, 336 pp., £10, April 2012, 978 1 59448 568 8
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... would make a try at killing FDR now.’ Four years ago, when the New York Times interviewed Sarah Palin’s relatives, the Little House books were the only ones that anyone could remember her having liked. Caroline Fraser, who edited the books for the Library of America, points to an essay in National Affairs by Meghan Clyne, a former Bush ...

Opprobrious Epithets

Katrina Navickas: The Peterloo Massacre, 20 December 2018

Peterloo: The Story of the Manchester Massacre 
by Jacqueline Riding.
Head of Zeus, 386 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 1 78669 583 3
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... were supported by men of higher social status, such as Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt, a gentleman farmer originally from Wiltshire. Hunt was politically ambitious and a populist in the old sense of the word. He came to national attention when he delivered rousing speeches at the mass demonstrations on Spa Fields in Islington in the winter of 1816-17. The ...

Pipe down back there!

Terry Castle: The Willa Cather Wars, 14 December 2000

Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism 
by Joan Acocella.
Nebraska, 127 pp., £13.50, August 2000, 0 8032 1046 9
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... the window, she has time only to save one object before fleeing: either a compact disc reissue of Sarah Bernhardt declaiming from Phèdre or an old sepia-tinted postcard of Eleonora Duse in D’Annunzio’s La Città morta. Quick! Which to choose? The Bernhardt has always been a source of deep hilarity: given the primitive acoustic equipment (the original ...

Topography v. Landscape

John Barrell: Paul Sandby, 13 May 2010

Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain 
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... a spreading ash tree, a milkmaid drives a few cows along a country road, to or from milking; a farmer trots away from us; and in the near distance a stagecoach is passing a dozen or so stacks of hop-poles. The first time I saw this picture it seemed to me a perfect evocation of the peace and plenty of georgic Kent, and a perfect example of what made Sandby ...

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