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Living Doll and Lilac Fairy

Penelope Fitzgerald, 31 August 1989

Carrington: A Life of Dora Carrington 1893-1932 
by Gretchen Gerzina.
Murray, 342 pp., £18.95, June 1989, 0 7195 4688 5
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Lydia and Maynard: Letters between Lydia Lopokova and John Maynard Keynes 
edited by Polly Hill and Richard Keynes.
Deutsch, 367 pp., £17.95, September 1989, 0 233 98283 3
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Mazo de la Roche: The Hidden Life 
by Joan Givner.
Oxford, 273 pp., £18, July 1989, 0 19 540705 9
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Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby: A Working Partnership 
by Jean Kennard.
University Press of New England, 224 pp., £24, July 1989, 0 87451 474 6
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Dangerous by Degrees: Women at Oxford and the Somerville College Novelists 
by Susan Leonardi.
Rutgers, 254 pp., $33, May 1989, 0 8135 1366 9
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The Selected Letters of Somerville and Ross 
edited by Gifford Lewis.
Faber, 308 pp., £14.99, July 1989, 0 571 15348 8
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... father more than her mother. She studied at the Slade under the all-powerful trinity of Frederick Brown, Wilson Steer and Tonks. It was 1910, and the students were advised not to attend Roger Fry’s Post-Expressionist exhibition. By 1914 Carrington, a mild bohemian, had cut her hair short, Mark Gertler and C.W. Nevinson were in love with her, and the world ...

Misunderstanding Yugoslavia

Basil Davidson, 23 May 1996

Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War 
by Susan Woodward.
Brookings, 536 pp., £35.50, May 1995, 0 8157 9514 9
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... we see today, a kind of miracle ensued. After the early Fifties, and for the next thirty years, as Susan Woodward explains in this careful and even-handed book, Yugoslavia was ‘a relatively prosperous, open and stable society’. And in this new society the South Slav peoples acquainted themselves with many happier aspects of the modern world. Schooling ...

My God, the Suburbs!

Colm Tóibín: John Cheever, 5 November 2009

Cheever: A Life 
by Blake Bailey.
Picador, 770 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 330 43790 5
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... comic and maudlin. He was aware, as were others, of his ‘cultivated accent’ – his daughter, Susan, reported her friends asking if he was English or something – and noted that he should be careful with it. ‘When this gets into my prose, my prose is at its worst.’ The first Cheever in America was Ezekiel, who was headmaster of the Boston Latin ...

Tic in the Brain

Deborah Friedell: Mrs Dickens, 11 September 2008

Girl in a Blue Dress 
by Gaynor Arnold.
Tindall Street, 438 pp., £9.99, August 2008, 978 0 9556476 1 1
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... and an allowance. The children will, by custom, stay with him. In 2005, Dinner for Dickens by Susan Rossi-Wilcox and Lillian Nayder included a transcript of What Shall We Have for Dinner?, a slim collection of menus attributed to Catherine Dickens. For parties of eight to ten, try turbot, shrimp sauce, roast loin of mutton, pigeon pie, broccoli, mashed ...

A Bowl of Wheetos

Eleanor Birne: Julie Myerson’s hauntings, 20 July 2006

The Story of You 
by Julie Myerson.
Cape, 312 pp., £12.99, June 2006, 0 224 07801 1
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... a habit of dying in her arms. Myerson’s narrators are always women – Amy, Donna, Laura, Rosy, Susan, Tess – and usually they are women with children, caught up in domestic routines. Deaths apart, these are idealised portraits of middle-class family life. She is a novelist of scrubbed-pine kitchen tables, airing cupboards and French windows opening onto ...

Spying on Writers

Christian Lorentzen, 11 October 2018

... woman with a crew-like haircut, masculine voice and a marvellous mind.’ An investigation into Susan Sontag conducted at Hoover’s request went on for four years and yielded little beyond Sontag’s résumé, her travels (most of which resulted in published articles), and a record of her anti-war activities, which were public and meant to bring attention ...

Tesco and a Motorway

Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite: In the Coalfields, 9 September 2021

Anne & Betty: United by the Struggle 
by Anne Scargill and Betty Cook.
Route, 256 pp., £20, November 2020, 978 1 901927 81 8
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Women of the Durham Coalfield in the 20th Century: Hannah’s Daughter 
by Margaret Hedley.
History Press, 159 pp., £14.99, March, 978 0 7509 9504 7
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Coal Country: The Meaning and Memory of Deindustrialisation in Postwar Scotland 
by Ewan Gibbs.
University of London, 306 pp., £25, February, 978 1 912702 55 8
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Scottish Coal Miners in the 20th Century 
by Jim Phillips.
Edinburgh, 336 pp., £24.99, February, 978 1 4744 5232 8
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The Shadow of the Mine: Coal and the End of Industrial Britain 
by Huw Beynon and Ray Hudson.
Verso, 402 pp., £20, June, 978 1 83976 155 3
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... lowest ranks – the closest to peat – are lignite and sub-bituminous coal, known in Britain as brown coal. These have been estimated to make up nearly a third of proved global reserves, but are not much exploited in areas where higher-grade coal is available, because they produce a lot of smoke and relatively little heat (they are also difficult to ...

‘A Naughty House’

Charles Nicholl: Shakespeare’s Landlord, 24 June 2010

... I count a dozen cases, including that of the three Frenchmen, in this category. Among them are Susan Browne, ‘taken in bed with a Scotsman in a common bawdy house’; Anthony Horne, tailor, ‘locked up in a shed in Chiswell Street with Margery Blague in the night, and apprehended by the constable’; Henry Manne, gentleman, ‘complained to be a very ...

Perfect and Serene Oddity

Michael Hofmann: The Strangeness of Robert Walser, 16 November 2006

Speaking to the Rose: Writings, 1912-32 
by Robert Walser, translated and edited by Christopher Middleton.
Nebraska, 128 pp., £9.99, November 2005, 0 8032 9833 1
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... having been the object of your attentions. It’s like nailing the proverbial jelly to the wall. Susan Sontag talks about him slipping through the net of comparisons. It’s perhaps not beside the point to recall that when a very young man, Walser wanted to be an actor, and while that ambition may have been squelched in the course of a typically humiliating ...

The Manners of a Hog

Christopher Tayler: Buchan’s Banter, 20 February 2020

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan 
by Ursula Buchan.
Bloomsbury, 479 pp., £25, April 2019, 978 1 4088 7081 5
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... days saving indigenous Canadians in the name of ‘the brotherhood of all men, white and red and brown’. The Island of Sheep (1936) proposes a similar brotherhood between the angry African tribesmen who save the day in the backstory and the angry Norwegian whale hunters who do the same in the main plot. Buchan’s idiosyncratic Toryism finds its fullest ...

What Dettol Can’t Fix

Bee Wilson: A Life in Lists, 13 September 2018

Elisabeth’s Lists: A Family Story 
by Lulah Ellender.
Granta, 318 pp., £16.99, March 2018, 978 1 78378 383 0
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... sometimes logging the name of the particular hen who had laid it. She noted whether the eggs were brown or white or ‘brownish’ and any that were double-yolked. At the end of the week, she tallied up the total. She also made a note of hens that were broody and the ones that were moulting. When the very first hen laid its first egg, Young recorded the event ...

Pomenvylopes

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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... is the collection now housed in Amherst.) Dickinson, Bingham explains, wrote on backs of brown-paper bags or of discarded bills, programmes, and invitations; on tiny scraps of stationery pinned together; on leaves torn from old notebooks (one such sheet dated ‘1824’); on soiled and mildewed subscription blanks, or on department or drug-store ...

War on God! That is Progress!

Susan Watkins: Paul Lafargue and French socialism, 13 May 1999

Paul Lafargue and the Flowering of French Socialism, 1882-1911 
by Leslie Derfler.
Harvard, 382 pp., £27.95, July 1998, 0 674 65912 0
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... aftermath of the French Revolution. Paul was their only child, extremely bright, with a shock of brown curls, lively dark eyes, fine cheekbones, a long straight nose and a very high opinion of himself. When, in 1851, the Spanish authorities crushed a rebellion on Cuba, the Lafargues sold the coffee plantation, the slaves and cooper’s workshop out of which ...

Balloons and Counter-Balloons

Susan Eilenberg: ‘The Age of Wonder’, 7 January 2010

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science 
by Richard Holmes.
HarperPress, 380 pp., £9.99, September 2009, 978 0 00 714953 7
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... held him and had “intellectual conversations” with him’: ‘This spirit of my vision had brown hair, blue eyes and a bright rosy complexion, and was, as far as I can recollect, unlike any of the amatory forms which in early youth had so often haunted my imagination.’ His obsessive insistence, then and later, on the reality of these hallucinations ...

Cleaning up

Simon Schaffer, 1 July 1982

Explaining the Unexplained: Mysteries of the Paranormal 
by Hans Eysenck and Carl Sargent.
Weidenfeld, 192 pp., £9.95, April 1982, 0 297 78068 9
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Appearances of the Dead: A Cultural History of Ghosts 
by R.C. Finucane.
Junction, 292 pp., £13.50, May 1982, 0 86245 043 8
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Hauntings and Apparitions 
by Andrew Mackenzie.
Heinemann, 240 pp., £8.50, June 1982, 0 434 44051 5
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Beyond the Body: An Investigation of Out-of-the-Body Experiences 
by Susan Blackmore.
Heinemann, 270 pp., £8.50, June 1982, 0 434 07470 5
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... The question is not this simple, however. In the books by Dr Finucane, by Andrew Mackenzie and by Susan Blackmore, there are countless contemporary experiences of ‘psychic’ phenomena. They are all very carefully classified: out-of-the-body experiences, psychokinesis (the ability to move objects without physical contact or any known force), extra-sensory ...

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