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19 February 1981
The Red Lamp of Incest: A Study in the Origins of Mind and Society 
by Robin Fox.
Hutchinson, 271 pp., £7.95, January 1981, 0 09 144080 7
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Betrayal of Innocence: Incest and its Devastation 
by Susan Forward and Craig Buck.
Penguin, 154 pp., £1.95, February 1981, 0 14 022287 1
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... a perennial fascination and they will doubtless both sell well. I am personally more attracted by Susan Forward’s modestly presented case-histories than by Robin Fox’s pretentious fantasies, but there is more meat for discussion in the latter’s argument, so let us start there. Once, long ago, Robin Fox was trained as a British social ...


Robert Taubman

5 August 1982
by John Barth.
Secker, 366 pp., £7.50, July 1982, 0 436 03675 4
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Distant Relations 
by Carlos Fuentes.
Secker, 225 pp., £7.95, July 1982, 0 436 16764 6
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Keepers of the House 
by Lisa St Aubin de Teran.
Cape, 183 pp., £6.95, July 1982, 0 224 02001 3
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An Old Song 
by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Wilfion Books, 102 pp., £5.95, June 1982, 0 905075 12 9
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... is full of information, for instance, about sailing in the Chesapeake Bay. In the summer of 1980 Susan and Fenwick Turner are returning in their cruising sailboat from a nine-month voyage to the Caribbean. Sabbatical is as devotedly a novel about sailing as The Riddle of the Sands; and like that rather staid classic it uses a sailing trip to get its crew ...

All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides

24 October 2019
Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... Benjamin​ Moser begins his biography with a bang: ‘Susan Sontag was America’s last great literary star.’ In my gaudier moments I prefer to think of Sontag as American literature’s first and last great screen star. Transcending staid text, she was projected into the avid imaginations of legions of onlookers who didn’t know Walter Benjamin from Walter Brennan ...


Stanley Uys: Bush’s Bag

7 August 2003
... from a ‘horrific’ situation, the Bush Administration was loath to send in a peacemaking force. Susan Rice, the former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under Clinton, said she failed to ‘understand what they’re waiting for’. But it was plain enough – Bush wanted Charles Taylor to pack his bags and the whole Liberian mess to go ...

On Robert Silvers

Andrew O’Hagan: Remembering Robert Silvers

19 April 2017
... mean Frank Sinatra and Studio 54, it meant Alfred Kazin and Lionel Trilling, Lillian Hellman and Susan Sontag. I loved its papers, the swagger of the contributors, the New York intellectuals, with their neuroses, their arguments, their marriages, and their parties. Wilson’s disagreement with Nabokov, Lillian’s fight with Mary, and Norman’s fights with ...

Ski Lift

Susan Fromberg Schaeffer

5 April 1990
... But we stay someone’s child for ever, And you could change time, stop it, add to it, Turn it forward, back, it was your property, you owned it Like this watch. Come back, but you won’t, I know it, not even in dreams. No one ever does, No curtain calls for this family’s stubborn mules. Gone is gone. I don’t believe it but I will. So people ...

Parcelled Out

Ferdinand Mount: The League of Nations

21 October 2015
The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire 
by Susan Pedersen.
Oxford, 571 pp., £22.99, June 2015, 978 0 19 957048 5
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... the Pax Britannica into a Pax Mundi.’ The British were not alone in feeling like this, for, as Susan Pedersen points out in her magnificent study, the absentees turned the League of Nations into ‘a League of Empires’, its proceedings dominated by Britain and France, but with a hefty input from other colonial powers – Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium ...

Up and doing

Susan Brigden

6 August 1992
Fire from Heaven: Life in an English Town in the 17th Century 
by David Underdown.
HarperCollins, 308 pp., £17.99, May 1992, 0 00 215865 5
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... probably more common.’ Much hangs on that ‘probably’. How are we to tell? As with most forward movements in history, the godly reformation may have passed by those who, in their poverty and distress, had literally no time for it. The poor are likely to remain dispossessed of their history, as of much else, but Professor Underdown has performed a ...


Susan McKay: Breakdown in Power-Sharing

8 March 2018
... and May seem disinclined to intervene, instead urging both parties to ‘reflect on the best way forward to re-establish devolved government in Northern Ireland’. Wishful thinking, Sinn Féin says. All this means that there will be no Northern Ireland Executive when the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement is marked at the beginning of ...

Britain’s Second Most Famous Nurse

Susan Pedersen: Edith Cavell

14 April 2011
Edith Cavell 
by Diana Souhami.
Quercus, 417 pp., £25, September 2010, 978 1 84916 359 0
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... away much that remains puzzling about her behaviour. The sheer narrative force of the story sweeps forward, as strutting cardboard Germans capture, interrogate, seek to intimidate but fail to break a woman motivated only by altruism. It is an engrossing tale, and in its persistent discounting of patriotism one for our time, but I would have liked more caution ...

Bilal and Samir

Swee Chai Ang

7 January 1988
... Medical Aid for Palestinians came into being in 1984. This programme sponsored Pauline Cutting, Susan Wighton and the rest of the volunteers from nine nations whose efforts are commemorated in this book. The decision to send medical volunteers to work in these conditions was a difficult one. It would have been so much simpler just to raise the money and ...


Christopher Hitchens: Men (and Women) of the Year

14 December 1995
... Steinberg, the celebrated victim of fatal child abuse; the crowds who wanted to do the same for Susan Smith, only to turn instantly into a lynch mob on learning that she killed her children. ‘Vicarious identification’ is just right. You hear bar-room nutters referring confidently to ‘O.J. ’, just as they once dropped the name ‘Ollie’. He’s ...
21 May 1981
... who really does have a ‘heart’) and she ‘died so grotesquely that her little body had fallen forward into the trunk’: but in this version she lies looking quite composed, on her back. Ford wanted the grotesquerie, and prepared for it by an anecdote about a cow, here omitted. Maisie must not, at this point, look like a Pre-Raphaelite Ophelia. In ...

Human Boys

Penelope Fitzgerald

7 December 1989
True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole, Margaret Hilda Roberts and Robert and Susan Lilian Townsend 
by Sue Townsend.
Methuen, 117 pp., £5.99, August 1989, 0 413 62450 1
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CounterBlasts No 9: Mr Bevan’s Dream 
by Sue Townsend.
Chatto, 74 pp., £2.99, November 1989, 0 7011 3468 2
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... war, we are at conflict ... I am reading Scoop by a woman called Evelyn Waugh’). There are steps forward, too, into adult experience. He runs away from home, getting as far as Manchester, although his disappearance seems to cause no stir – nothing about him on the Six O’Clock News – and he has to write a card addressed to himself: ‘Come ...

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