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The Virgin and I

Elisabeth Ladenson: The Mancini sisters, 18 December 2008

by Hortense Mancini and Marie Mancini, edited and translated by Sarah Nelson.
Chicago, 217 pp., £31, August 2008, 978 0 226 50279 3
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... In her 1675 memoir – one of the first autobiographical accounts to be published by a woman during her lifetime under her own name – Hortense Mancini begins by noting that she is writing at the request of her patron, Charles-Emmanuel, duc de Savoie, and that she is doing so despite her ‘natural reluctance’ to talk about herself. She apologises in advance for telling a story that may ‘seem like something out of a novel’, and protests that she is well aware that ‘a woman’s glory lies in not giving rise to gossip ...

The End

Angela Carter, 18 September 1986

A Land Apart: A South African Reader 
edited by André Brink and J.M. Coetzee.
Faber, 252 pp., £9.95, August 1986, 0 571 13933 7
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Where Sixpence lives 
by Norma Kitson.
Chatto, 352 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 7011 3085 7
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... of the real South Africa, not just of its fictional representation in the pages of A Land Apart, Nelson Mandela would be prime minister before the year was out.In the Afrikaans section, the narrator of Elsie Joubert’s story, ‘Back Yard’, says: ‘I live on the periphery of an existence which I don’t understand.’ She meditates upon the fact that ...

Guts Benedict

Adam Bradbury, 11 June 1992

The Wrecking Yard 
by Pinckney Benedict.
Secker, 195 pp., £7.99, March 1992, 0 436 20062 7
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Sacred Hunger 
by Barry Unsworth.
Hamish Hamilton, 630 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 241 13003 4
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The Butcher Boy 
by Patrick McCabe.
Picador, 217 pp., £14.99, April 1992, 9780330323581
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... has him in smart check shirt and braces, no doubt chewing a slug of baccy. Like Pynchon’s and Nelson Algren’s, his writing celebrates tips, junkyards, diners, small-town sheriffs’ offices. ‘Small’ is an understatement. These are virtually ghost towns, with less than their fair share of socially well-adjusted individuals – haunted by small minds ...

Notes on a Notebook

Andrew O’Hagan, 30 September 1999

... your own advice. 2. Last April I began to write an account of the life and death of Rosemary Nelson, a 40-year-old solicitor in the town of Lurgan in County Armagh. At 12.40 p.m. on 15 March she got into her car outside her house at 5 Ashgrove Grange. As she drove away a bomb went off in the car. She lost both legs and suffered fatal abdominal ...

At the New Whitechapel

Peter Campbell: Isa Genzken, 30 April 2009

... In the new gallery on the ground floor you find the tapestry of Guernica, commissioned in 1955 by Nelson Rockefeller and lent in 1985 by the Rockefeller estate to the United Nations in New York. The installation by Goshka Macuga links the painting’s showing at the Whitechapel in 1939 with more recent events. The tapestry, which hung outside the Security ...

Don’t sit around and giggle

Jessica Olin: College Girls, 10 May 2007

College Girls: Bluestockings, Sex Kittens and Coeds, Then and Now 
by Lynn Peril.
Norton, 408 pp., £10.99, October 2006, 0 393 32715 9
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... you get. It’s kind of like the experience: I’ve tried what I wanted to do.’ Harvard senior Sarah Currie told Story: ‘A lot of the guys were like, “I think that’s really great.” One of the guys was like, “I think that’s sexy.” Staying at home . . . isn’t as polarising of an issue as I envision it is for women who are in their thirties ...

Of the Mule Breed

David Bromwich: Robert Southey, 21 May 1998

Robert Southey: A Life 
by Mark Storey.
Oxford, 405 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 19 811246 7
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... of character. Almost all his verse is sensational writing for senses now defunct. Yet his lives of Nelson and Wesley are still impressive performances; and there is a morbid appeal in the eclipse of a career that spun out Thalaba, The Curse of Kehama, Roderick, Joan of Arc, and the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Adepts of cultural studies have found ...

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 ...

Even When It’s a Big Fat Lie

Alex Abramovich: ‘Country Music’, 8 October 2020

Country Music 
directed by Ken Burns.
PBS, eight episodes
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... presence.) In many quarters Kelly was taken to task. But when Trump’s (then) press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was asked about it, she concurred. ‘I don’t know that I’m going to get into debating the Civil War,’ she said. ‘But I do know that many historians, including Shelby Foote, in Ken Burns’s famous Civil War documentary, agree that ...


Christopher Hitchens, 12 January 1995

... Gehlen and Klaus Barbie to supervise its Cold War discipline, which organised the arrest of Nelson Mandela, the Phoenix programme in South Vietnam, the military coup in Greece in 1967, the arming and financing of Fascist elements in Italy and Japan, the mass murder of the Left in Indonesia and the deployment of death squads in El Salvador and ...

One Long Scream

Jacqueline Rose: Trauma and Justice in South Africa, 23 May 2019

... for an Exhibition. (Kentridge is the daughter of two anti-apartheid lawyers; her father defended Nelson Mandela in the Treason Trial of 1956.) Unlike other moments in the poem, it does not seem as if this is the voice of a mother speaking to her daughter, but the daughter, punishingly, addressing herself. When I look back at the conference, in fact pretty ...

The Adulteress Wife

Toril Moi: Beauvoir Misrepresented, 11 February 2010

The Second Sex 
by Simone de Beauvoir and Constance Borde, translated by Sheila Malovany-Chevallier.
Cape, 822 pp., £30, November 2009, 978 0 224 07859 7
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... she published America Day by Day, a deeply perceptive book about the experience. Moreover, she met Nelson Algren there. The writing of The Second Sex thus coincided with her discovery of America and with her passionate affair with Algren. It also coincided with Sartre’s transatlantic affair with the New York-based Frenchwoman Dolorès Vanetti, which caused ...

Humid Fidelity

Peter Bradshaw: The letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill, 16 September 1999

Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill 
edited by Mary Soames.
Black Swan, 702 pp., £15, August 1999, 0 552 99750 1
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... darling one’ – are more expressive for seeming to be sung at each other from afar, like Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. Here is Winston’s stern note in 1926, instructing Clementine in a new economy drive at Chartwell, his (ruinously expensive) country retreat: a. No more champagne is to be bought. Unless special directions are given, only the ...


Niela Orr, 3 December 2020

Such a Fun Age 
by Kiley Reid.
Bloomsbury, 310 pp., £12.99, January, 978 1 5266 1214 4
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... and feeling is happening internally? What does that mean for the possibility – the duty, as Sarah Schulman calls it in her book Conflict Is Not Abuse – of repair?Something else happened in 2000. In a review of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, James Wood coined the phrase ‘hysterical realism’ to describe a trend. Novels like Smith’s and Wallace’s ...

The Impermanence of Importance

David Runciman: Obama, 2 August 2018

The World as It Is: Inside the Obama White House 
by Ben Rhodes.
Bodley Head, 450 pp., £20, June 2018, 978 1 84792 517 6
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... was one of those well-meaning white people looking forward to seeing Barack Obama eulogise Nelson Mandela so that I could feel better about the world, only I was the person tasked with writing the eulogy.’ In the end, unsatisfied with Rhodes’s draft, Obama writes the speech himself. It is much better, but now it is Rhodes’s turn to be ...

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