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Closely Missed Trains

Joanna Biggs: Florian Zeller’s Hair, 12 March 2009

Artificial Snow 
by Florian Zeller, translated by Sue Rose.
Pushkin, 119 pp., £10, January 2009, 978 1 901285 84 0
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Elle t’attend 
by Florian Zeller.
Flammarion, 154 pp., €12, September 2008, 978 2 08 120749 3
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... A few summers ago, I sat in on lectures at the Sorbonne, where it seemed to be the fashion for the lecturers to talk in metaphors. Beckett’s prose was a snowball rolling down a mountain: you start with nothing, and as it picks up more snow, you end up with something. His novels were a washing machine: language is slung into the drum and turns until it comes out clean ...

All This Love Business

Jean McNicol: Vanessa and Julian Bell, 24 January 2013

Julian Bell: From Bloomsbury to the Spanish Civil War 
by Peter Stansky and William Abrahams.
Stanford, 314 pp., £38.95, 0 8047 7413 7
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... Soon he began to think about having an affair. The wife of the dean, Ling Shuhua, whom he called Sue, seemed a candidate. ‘Fortunately she’s only reasonably nice-looking, so I’m not yet in love with her,’ he wrote to his mother. But she was so suitable: she was a writer and painter and, he told Vanessa, ‘really in our world’. He describes her ...

Cambridge Theatre

Donald Davie, 19 August 1982

Swansongs 
by Sue Lenier.
Oleander Press, 80 pp., £7.50, April 1982, 9780906672044
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Collected Poems 
by Sylvia Plath, edited by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 351 pp., £10, September 1981, 0 571 10573 4
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Devotions 
by Clive Wilmer.
Carcanet, 63 pp., £3.25, June 1982, 0 85635 359 0
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... Sue Lenier’s poems occupy 70 closely printed pages, of which I have read – the things I do for LRB! – 50 or so. If ‘read’ is the word for what one does, or can do, with language like this: Mourn no more for the flowers you have broken, Lies you have told and clouds stirred on my face Roused from my dark to the moons you have awoken, In this fair night your blackness keeps no place, When Winter holds her blue tongue to the trees Licking them white, they cry not at their death With tears like wings of flies washed in the breeze And blown away, each sad and lonely breath, And as each creature waits for Spring’s pale arms To rouse their sleep and tenderly lead them out, So I to you who did me all this harm Will wait, heart-full, to wake you with my shout  Of happiness, love and trembling sin –  As all the night goes out, the stars come in ...

Bowie’s Last Tape

Thomas Jones, 4 February 2016

... his death. ‘Something happened on the day he died,’ he sings in ‘Blackstar’. ‘His spirit rose a metre then stepped aside/Somebody else took his place.’ Or in ‘Dollar Days’: ‘If I’ll never see the English evergreens I’m running to/It’s nothing to me/It’s nothing to see/I’m dying to/Push their backs against the grain and fool them all ...

Allegedly

Michael Davie, 1 November 1984

Public Scandal, Odium and Contempt: An Investigation of Recent Libel Cases 
by David Hooper.
Secker, 230 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 0 436 20093 7
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... come to the boil. His face flushed, his back straightened, and his eyes widened. Then he rose to his feet, and finally he exploded. ‘If this article is published, young man I shall sue your newspaper for one hundred thousand pounds.’ A hundred thousand pounds seemed a lot of money in those days. Controlling my ...

Oozy

Diana Rose, 20 September 1984

A Nice Girl like Me: A Story of the Seventies 
by Rosie Boycott.
Chatto, 250 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 7011 2665 5
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... up against.) Nor is Rosie having much fun in bed. She is distinctly lukewarm about her affair with Sue and is half-heartedly joining threesomes: partly ‘because the men found it fascinating’ and partly because ‘to refuse was as old-fashioned as refusing sex altogether.’ She does not seem to enjoy taking LSD either: it had ‘provided a non-stop joust ...

Never Mind the Bollocks

Hilary Rose and Steven Rose: Brains and Gender, 28 April 2011

Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences 
by Rebecca Jordan-Young.
Harvard, 394 pp., £25.95, September 2010, 978 0 674 05730 2
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... alliance, Ethel Tobach and Betty Rosoff launched the series Genes and Gender; Ruth Hubbard, Mary Sue Henifer and Barbara Fried co-edited a collection called Women Look at Biology Looking at Women and Anne Fausto-Sterling explored society in biology as well as biology in society, before turning her attention to hormone research and the construction of sex and ...

Diary

Clive James, 21 October 1982

... he grabbed you And held you helpless, or the Kray who stabbed you. The other big event is Poet Sue, A scribbling Cambridge undergraduette, Who as the French once went mad for Minou Is cried up as the greatest talent yet By dons who should have better things to do, You might think, than to stand there getting wet Drooling about the girl’s supreme facility ...

Slick Chick

Elaine Showalter, 11 July 1991

The Haunting of Sylvia Plath 
by Jacqueline Rose.
Virago, 288 pp., £14.99, June 1991, 1 85381 307 9
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Passions of the Mind 
by A.S. Byatt.
Chatto, 340 pp., £17, August 1991, 0 7011 3260 4
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... her survivor. She has become his phantom limb. The story of Sylvia Plath, according to Jacqueline Rose, seems ‘effortlessly to transmute itself into soap opera’. As Rose demonstrates in her ambitious and original book, The Haunting of Sylvia Plath, Plath has become one who ‘haunts our culture’, the ‘Marilyn Monroe ...

Most Curious of Seas

Richard Fortey: Noah’s Flood, 1 July 1999

Noah’s Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event that Changed History 
by William Ryan and Walter Pitman.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., £17.99, February 1999, 0 684 81052 2
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... a great roaring sound. Those who delayed were drowned. In a matter of weeks the water level rose four hundred feet. Those who took part in the desperate diaspora fled westwards along the Danube valley, or southwards and eastwards at the foot of the Caucasus. Others crossed the wild terrain far to the east, eventually to find haven around a lake that ...

White Lies

James Campbell: Nella Larsen, 5 October 2006

In Search of Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Colour Line 
by George Hutchinson.
Harvard, 611 pp., £25.95, June 2006, 0 674 02180 0
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... ambiguous skin colour to sleep with prostitutes without paying. ‘One night it did not work. He rose from the bed and told the woman that he was a Negro. “You are?” she said. “I thought maybe you were just another wop or something.”’ Twenty years earlier, James Weldon Johnson, a black man who served as American consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua ...

Five Poems

John Ashbery, 7 September 1995

... with everything. The greenhouse was ethereal and too far away. A gnat ignited the harbour; it rose up gold and sloppy, with too many seals to think about. The basement was a dirigible. The Home Counties bristled at suggestions of voyeurism and venery: ‘Was it for this you came? To watch us writhe and cringe? Are you happy, knowing the palace janissaries ...

Je suis bizarre

Sarah LeFanu: Gwen John, 6 September 2001

Gwen John: A Life 
by Sue Roe.
Chatto, 364 pp., £25, June 2001, 0 7011 6695 9
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... only other full-length biography), Susan Chitty emphasises John’s friendships with women. Sue Roe makes less of the strong feelings John had for, and herself inspired in other women. There was an innkeeper’s wife, according to Chitty, who pursued her to Paris on her way back from Toulouse. (She was pursued by men, too. She was always complaining of ...

Lunchtime No News

Paul Foot, 27 June 1991

Kill the messenger 
by Bernard Ingham.
HarperCollins, 408 pp., £17.50, May 1991, 0 00 215944 9
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... in his own life between the working-class boy from Hebden Bridge and the glory to which he rose: ‘He spoke of his miner father coughing up his pneumoconiosis in the next bedroom to himself at home and of the 18 constituents who had died when their cage crashed in carnage to the bottom of Markham shaft the previous August. We were of an age and we ...

Winter Facts

Lorna Sage, 4 April 1996

Remake 
by Christine Brooke-Rose.
Carcanet, 172 pp., £9.95, February 1996, 1 85754 222 3
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... Christine Brooke-Rose’s story of how this new book came to be is that she set out to write about her life, and instead produced a kind of antibiography. It’s described in the jacket’s blurb by Carcanet as ‘an autobiographical novel with a difference’ which ‘uses life material to compose a third-person fiction ...

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