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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 ...


Mark Ford: Emily Dickinson’s Manuscripts, 19 June 2014

The Gorgeous Nothings 
by Emily Dickinson.
New Directions, 255 pp., £26.50, October 2013, 978 0 8112 2175 7
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The Marvel of Biographical Bookkeeping 
by Francis Nenik, translated by Katy Derbyshire.
Readux, 64 pp., £3, October 2013, 978 3 944801 00 1
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... found it by accident,’ Werner writes, ‘in the Amherst College Library, when it fell (rose?) out of an acid-free envelope. If I had not held it lightly in my hands, I would never have suspected the manner in which it was assembled … Look at it here, flying on the page, vying with light.’ Behold, Werner’s sacramental tone urges, a saint’s ...

Doctor in the Dock

Stephen Sedley, 20 October 1994

Medical Negligence 
edited by Michael Powers and Nigel Harris.
Butterworth, 1188 pp., £155, July 1994, 0 406 00452 8
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... patient’s principal response gratitude, Bonney argued, people now expected to be cured and would sue if they were not. The argument rang true. One has only to recall Ernest Shepard’s drawing for All sorts and conditions    Of famous physicians Came hurrying round    At a run to be reminded that tailcoats, boiled fronts, half-glasses and gravitas ...

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 ...

Agents of Their Own Abuse

Jacqueline Rose: The Treatment of Migrant Women, 10 October 2019

... are its ghosts (exactly the return of the repressed). In 1994, the lawyers Jacqueline Bhabha and Sue Shutter described the dire record on migration of ‘Fortress Europe’: 1.3 million refugees were living in Europe at a time when there were two million in Sudan, one of the poorest countries in the world. In May 1993, the German Parliament voted to amend ...

Perfect Light

Jenny Diski, 9 July 1992

Diana: Her True Story 
by Andrew Morton.
Michael O’Mara, 165 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 1 85479 191 5
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Shared Lives 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 285 pp., £16.99, April 1992, 0 7475 1164 0
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Antonia White: Diaries 1958-1979 
edited by Susan Chitty.
Constable, 352 pp., £19.95, May 1992, 0 09 470660 3
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... life is the stated purpose of Lyndall Gordon’s biography of her three girlhood friends, Romy, Rose and Ellie, who never became famous for anything before they each died, younger than people are supposed to these days. Of course, an early death is almost as sexy as fame and riches, especially if it’s the death of a woman who is ...

What makes a waif?

Joanne O’Leary, 13 September 2018

The Long-Winded Lady: Tales from the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 215 pp., £10.99, January 2017, 978 1 906539 59 7
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Maeve Brennan: Homesick at the ‘New Yorker’ 
by Angela Bourke.
Counterpoint, 360 pp., $16.95, February 2016, 978 1 61902 715 2
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The Springs of Affection: Stories 
by Maeve Brennan.
Stinging Fly, 368 pp., £8.99, May 2016, 978 1 906539 54 2
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... and showy up-dos must have seemed exotic in the New Yorker’s ascetic halls. She sported a rose in her left lapel, and carried a black and white skunk bag she was ‘inhumanly fond of’. No woman, she said, should wear a bra that cost less than $50 at Saks. Maeve Brennan photographed by Karl Bissinger in 1948 There are plenty of photographs of ...

Knife, Stone, Paper

Stephen Sedley: Law Lords, 1 July 2021

English Law under Two Elizabeths: The Late Tudor Legal World and the Present 
by John Baker.
Cambridge, 222 pp., £22.99, January, 978 1 108 94732 9
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The Constitutional Balance 
by John Laws.
Hart, 144 pp., £30, January, 978 1 5099 3545 1
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... professions, the universities and the church, could own property, and could trade, contract and sue just as men could, provided they were unwed or widowed and, if married, could sue jointly with their husbands or as executrices of estates. The much maligned Star Chamber, which in 1569 had pronounced the air of England too ...

Fatal Non-Readers

Hilary Mantel: Marie-Antoinette, 30 September 1999

The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette 
by Chantal Thomas, translated by Julie Rose.
Zone, 255 pp., £17.95, June 1999, 0 942299 39 6
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... not surprising that she sought allies outside the usual royal circles. Her favourite dressmaker, Rose Bertin, was given free access to the royal apartments, and was known as ‘the female minister’. Choosing what to wear was Antoinette’s waking duty each day. With her first cup of coffee came a catalogue of samples from her wardrobe. Though the fashions ...


Pamela Thomas: Tea with Marshal Tito, 6 October 2005

... and come out alive.’ The general laughed and went back inside. Then there was a murmur that rose to a roar, and the motorbike outriders around the Rolls-Royce adjusted their goggles and gunned their engines. Marshal Tito emerged from the hotel, surrounded by bodyguards, and disappeared into the Rolls. As he jumped onto the running board, the general ...

In Kent

Patrick Cockburn, 18 March 2021

... are Sittingbourne, Faversham and the Isle of Sheppey, just offshore. In November case numbers rose steeply and soon north-east Kent had the highest infection rates in the country. By the middle of the month the council ward of Sheppey East, on the Isle of Sheppey, had an infection rate of 1917 per 100,000 – seven times the level in the UK as a whole.The ...

Yuh wanna play bad?

Christopher Tayler: Henry Roth, 23 March 2006

Redemption: The Life of Henry Roth 
by Steven Kellman.
Norton, 372 pp., $16.99, September 2005, 0 393 05779 8
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Call It Sleep 
by Henry Roth.
Picador US, 462 pp., $15, July 2005, 0 312 42412 4
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... both its abomination and its cathartic redemption.’ He concedes that the catharsis was tough on Rose Broder, Roth’s sister, who was still alive when A Diving Rock on the Hudson was published. ‘This is not pleasant for me,’ she told a reporter. When she threatened to sue, Roth gave her $10,000 and a legal assurance ...


Richard Poirier, 24 January 1985

Slow Learner 
by Thomas Pynchon.
Cape, 204 pp., £8.50, January 1985, 0 224 02283 0
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... is more or less the subject of the two most impressive stories in the collection, ‘Under the Rose’ (1961) and ‘The Secret Integration’, which appeared in 1964, the year after the publication of V. ‘Under the Rose’ is set in Egypt during the Fashoda Crisis of 1898 and has at its centre two British ...

In a horizontal posture

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 5 July 1984

The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mary Russell Mitford: 1836-1854 
edited by Meredith Raymond and Mary Rose Sullivan.
Baylor University, Browning Institute, Wedgestone Press and Wellesley College, 431 pp., March 1983, 0 911459 01 4
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Love and the Woman Question in Victorian Literature: The Art of Self-Postponement 
by Kathleen Blake.
Harvester, 254 pp., £25, November 1983, 0 7108 0560 8
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... offspring of her own beloved spaniel.) For Barrett, who read avidly in Balzac, Stendhal, Eugène Sue and the elder Dumas, as well as Hugo and Sand, this was a literature whose ‘poetry’ and greatness were undeniable – despite its ‘monstrous & hideous morality’: ‘They light me up, & make me feel alive to the ends of my fingers.’ Not ...

Belfast Book

Patricia Craig, 5 June 1986

Lonely the man without heroes 
by M.S. Power.
Heinemann, 222 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 434 59960 3
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The Pearlkillers 
by Rachel Ingalls.
Faber, 205 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 571 13795 4
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The Girls 
by John Bowen.
Hamish Hamilton, 182 pp., £8.95, April 1986, 0 241 11867 0
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To have and to hold 
by Deborah Moggach.
Viking, 320 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 670 80812 1
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Vacant Possession 
by Hilary Mantel.
Chatto, 239 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 7011 3047 4
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Breaking the rules 
by Caroline Lassalle.
Hamish Hamilton, 280 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 241 11837 9
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The Bay of Silence 
by Lisa St Aubin de Teran.
Cape, 163 pp., £8.95, May 1986, 0 224 02345 4
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... stretched above the haze of smoke. Rows of red-brick houses radiated on all sides and above them rose blocks of factories with many of their windows catching the light.’ There’s a piece of scene-painting for the nostalgic to latch onto. A novel like McLaverty’s Call my brother back (1939) offers a view of Belfast as unpretentious as a game of hopscotch ...

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