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The Smell of Blood

Blake Morrison: Sarah Moss, 13 August 2020

Summerwater 
by Sarah Moss.
Picador, 202 pp., £14.99, August, 978 1 5290 3543 8
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... The poem ends with a reference to the death of Edward Thomas. Lewis himself was killed in 1944.Sarah Moss’s new novel is set in a lochside cabin park in the Trossachs. The poem behind its title is William Watson’s ‘The Ballad of Semmerwater’, about a city lost beneath a lake. But Lewis’s poem seems truer to its spirit, as rain keeps ...

Be a lamp unto yourself

John Lanchester, 5 May 1988

S.: A Novel 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 244 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 233 98255 8
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... Yet he irks me. Even his description of a pussy. It could as easily be a tree. (The velveteen of moss in the ingathered crotch of my limbs, the investiture of algae on the terraces of my bark, etc.) It’s true: one object in an Updike novel could just as easily be another, in that what is being described never seems to interrupt the flow of prose. The ...

On Hera Lindsay Bird

Stephanie Burt: Hera Lindsay Bird, 30 November 2017

... a comedy routine: for every teaspoon of the avant-garde in her work, there is a tablespoon of Sarah Silverman, telegraphed in titles that ‘deface’ canonical writers (‘Keats Is Dead So Fuck Me from Behind’) or ‘elevate’ pop culture ephemera (‘Monica’, named for the character from Friends). I put ‘deface’ and ‘elevate’ in scare ...

Stalker & Co

Damian Grant, 20 November 1986

... in March last year, and the subsequent harassment of two students involved in this incident, Sarah Hollis and Steven Shaw. The student story ends (for the present) less happily: within the last few weeks Steven Shaw has fled the country to put himself out of the reach of further police persecution, and to avoid the compounded injury of being prosecuted ...

Even Uglier

Terry Eagleton: Music Hall, 20 December 2012

My Old Man: A Personal History of Music Hall 
by John Major.
Harper, 363 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 0 00 745013 8
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... Robey, Harry Lauder, Dan Leno and Vesta Tilley rubbed shoulders with the likes of Sir Henry Wood, Sarah Bernhardt and the Ballets Russes. Dickens was fascinated by the performing style of Charles Mathews, a blacked-up minstrel, and put it to use in his own public readings, though without the burned cork. T.S. Eliot revered Marie Lloyd, and the present ...

On the Beach

Jenny Diski: Privacy, 28 July 2011

Islands of Privacy 
by Christena Nippert-Eng.
Chicago, 404 pp., £14.50, October 2010, 978 0 226 58653 3
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... heck I was doing. And there I am, poking around trying to get that string out. All of a sudden, Sarah pops her head out from under the bed – with this big smile – and yells: ‘Hi, Mommy!’ Nippert-Eng asks her readers to look at the amount of ‘work’ Gina has to do to ensure she has some privacy (and even that fails), and to consider also how much ...

Across the Tellyverse

Jenny Turner: Daleks v. Cybermen, 22 June 2006

Doctor Who 
BBC1Show More
Doctor Who: A Critical Reading of the Series 
by Kim Newman.
BFI, 138 pp., £12, December 2005, 1 84457 090 8
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... brown suits and frockish overcoats – is intended to make him look like ‘the type of man Kate Moss might date’, according to a BBC website (Jarvis Cocker is mentioned, and the narrowness of Pete Doherty’s trousers). Then there is the BBC stylist’s choice of footwear: Converse Chucks, subsequently chosen to signify nubility by David Cameron’s ...

Diary

Rebecca Solnit: After the Oil Spill, 5 August 2010

... New Orleans’s Saint Charles Avenue is lined with oak trees whose broad branches drip Spanish moss and Mardi Gras beads from the pre-Lenten parades, and behind the oaks are beautiful old houses with turrets, porches, balconies, bay windows, gables, dormers and lush gardens. There are no refineries for miles, hardly even gas stations on the stretch I was on in mid-June, and the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded on 20 April and the oil welling up a mile below it were dozens of miles away as the bird flies ...

Chop, Chop, Chop

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘Grief Is the Thing with Feathers’, 21 January 2016

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers 
by Max Porter.
Faber, 114 pp., £10, September 2015, 978 0 571 32376 0
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... smelling to human nostrils of decay, ‘a sweet furry stink of just-beyond-edible food, and moss, and leather, and yeast’. Crow has a nose of his own, and assesses the widower’s bouquet with a wine columnist’s precision and panache: ‘notes of rotten hedge, bluebottles’. His relationship to his victim/client has a number of ...

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