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Mongkut and I

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 30 January 1992

The Romance of the Harem 
by Anna Leonowens, edited by Susan Morgan.
Virginia, 285 pp., £10.50, August 1991, 0 8139 1328 4
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... the truthfulness of her tales should not necessarily cost her her novelist’s licence, since as Susan Morgan observes, ‘there is a long and honourable tradition in English fiction of insisting that a particular book is actually true.’ On the other hand, as Morgan also acknowledges, this particular romance ...

Diary

Julian Barnes: Burning Letters, 7 July 1988

... country. As a browser, I poked about in it with some interest, noting, for instance, that most of Susan Hill is in the Susan Hill collection at Eton College Library, and that Andrew Motion wrote a letter to E.M. Forster in ‘?1970’ which is under ‘restricted access’ at King’s College Cambridge. But as a ...

Mr Trendy Sicko

James Wolcott, 23 May 2019

White 
by Brett Easton Ellis.
Picador, 261 pp., £16.99, May 2019, 978 1 5290 1239 2
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... a stir: Donna Tartt, David Leavitt, Mary Gaitskill, Lorrie Moore, Amy Hempel, Nancy Lemann, Susan Minot, Mary Robison, Anderson Ferrell – a cast of dozens. Many of those rookies trained at the literary dojo of the author, editor, creative writing teacher and guru-mentor-mindgamer Gordon Lish, who bore the dashing nickname ‘Captain Fiction’. The ...

The Staidness of Trousers

E.S. Turner, 6 June 1996

A Peculiar Man: A Life of George Moore 
by Tony Gray.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 344 pp., £20, April 1996, 1 85619 578 3
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... boiled ghost, a gosling’ – these were among the Dublin epithets collected by his fellow writer Susan Mitchell and here passed on by Tony Gray. Manet thought Moore’s face had the look of a broken egg-yolk, and his first portrait of the author ‘was described by the critics as like that of a drowned man, taken out of the water’. Sickert’s portrait was ...

Waiting for the Poetry

Ange Mlinko: Was Adrienne Rich a poet?, 15 July 2021

The Power of Adrienne Rich: A Biography 
by Hilary Holladay.
Doubleday, 416 pp., £25, November 2020, 978 0 385 54150 3
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Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution 
by Adrienne Rich.
Norton, 345 pp., £13.99, May, 978 0 393 54142 7
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... will be familiar to readers of biographies of Rich’s contemporaries – Sylvia Plath, say, or Susan Sontag or Helen Frankenthaler. But the cascade of good fortune that poured down on the ambitious young Adrienne unsettles even her biographer: ‘Had she asked a judge or committee for the moon in those days, who knows but she wouldn’t have come home to ...

Drinking and Spewing

Sally Mapstone: The Variousness of Robert Fergusson, 25 September 2003

‘Heaven-Taught Fergusson’: Robert Burns’s Favourite Scottish Poet 
edited by Robert Crawford.
Tuckwell, 240 pp., £14.99, August 2002, 1 86232 201 5
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... Lives of Scottish Authors. The prevailing view of Fergusson’s English work is well summarised by Susan Manning, in the best essay in Crawford’s volume, as ‘nugatory apprenticework’. Her view is that ‘our reading of Fergusson’s poetry is immensely impoverished if it does not comprehend his writing in English.’ Not many other contributors to ...

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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... at close quarters, and Maynard would be lost to them. ‘How we all used to underrate her,’ said Morgan Forster. Their correspondence between 1918 and 1925, when they married, has been edited by a niece and a nephew, Polly Hill and Richard Keynes, who rightly believe that it will be ‘of value and interest and will not offend their ghosts’. In an ...

Diary

David Bromwich: Putin to the Rescue, 26 September 2013

... he answered a question about the CEOs Lloyd Blankfein (of Goldman Sachs) and Jamie Dimon (of J.P. Morgan Chase): ‘I know both those guys: they are very savvy businessmen.’ Obama was trying to prove himself a comfortable insider, close enough to Wall Street to impress the big movers but sufficiently detached to deserve the public trust. It did not ...

As Many Pairs of Shoes as She Likes

Jenny Turner: On Feminism, 15 December 2011

... Engle broadcast by the BBC last year, showed the big bang underway. The former child actor Robin Morgan (Sisterhood Is Powerful, 1970), wry and ready for her interview in enormous tinted shades; Susan Brownmiller (Against Our Will, 1975), calmly browbeating a smarmy male editor during the Ladies’ Home Journal sit-in of ...

Misbehavin’

Susannah Clapp, 23 July 1987

A Life with Alan: The Diary of A.J.P. Taylor’s Wife, Eva, from 1978 to 1985 
by Eva Haraszti Taylor.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £14.95, June 1987, 0 241 12118 3
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The Painted Banquet: My Life and Loves 
by Jocelyn Rickards.
Weidenfeld, 172 pp., £14.95, May 1987, 0 297 79119 2
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The Beaverbrook Girl 
by Janet Aitken Kidd.
Collins, 240 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 00 217602 5
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... and the wife of an exlover. This is a book in which Hampshire, Stuart, sits next to Hampshire, Susan, in the index. It is also a book in which the author explains that there is only one man ‘about whom I’ve never held one vindictive thought’. That man is Graham Greene. Jocelyn Rickards came to London as a sparky and very pretty 24-year-old in ...

Puellilia

Pat Rogers, 7 August 1986

Mothers of the Novel: One Hundred Good Women Writers before Jane Austen 
by Dale Spender.
Pandora, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 86358 081 5
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Scribbling Sisters 
by Dale Spender and Lynne Spender.
Camden Press, 188 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 948491 00 0
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A Woman of No Character: An Autobiography of Mrs Manley 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 176 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13934 5
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Cecilia 
by Fanny Burney.
Virago, 919 pp., £6.95, May 1986, 0 86068 775 9
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Millenium Hall 
by Sarah Scott.
Virago, 207 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86068 780 5
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Marriage 
by Susan Ferrier.
Virago, 513 pp., £4.50, February 1986, 0 86068 765 1
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Belinda 
by Maria Edgeworth.
Pandora, 434 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 074 2
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Self-Control 
by Mary Brunton.
Pandora, 437 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 9780863580840
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The Female Quixote: The Adventures of Arabella 
by Charlotte Lennox.
Pandora, 423 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 080 7
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... a house of correction. Mrs Manley turns up in an ingenious ‘autobiography’ ghosted by Fidelis Morgan. She uses episodes from the published writings ‘which are widely acknowledged to be autobiographical’, and fills out the existing record on Manley in a number of places. We are told that her very name should be not Delarivière but Delarivier ...

With A, then B, then C

Susan Eilenberg: The Sexual Life of Iris M., 5 September 2002

Iris Murdoch: A Life 
by Peter Conradi.
HarperCollins, 706 pp., £9.99, August 2002, 9780006531753
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... Crean-Smith from The Unicorn, with her tainted, disquieting victimhood, the hideously destructive Morgan from A Fairly Honourable Defeat, and the emotionally opaque Anna Quentin from Under the Net. Murdoch invites no one to enter her reflections. ‘It is good to declare a blankness now and then,’ one of her creatures tells another. ‘We are not anything ...

Sheer Enthusiasm

Thomas Chatterton Williams: Zadie Smith, 30 August 2018

Feel Free: Essays 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 464 pp., £20, February 2018, 978 0 241 14689 7
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... Several​ of the last century’s finest non-fiction writers – Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, James Baldwin – longed to be novelists. In interviews with the Paris Review, each touched on the tension and insecurity involved in their dual métier. Sontag wrote in surprisingly aspirational tones of ‘the novelist [I’d] finally given myself permission to be ...

Hidden Consequences

John Mullan: Byron, 6 November 2003

Byron: Life and Legend 
by Fiona MacCarthy.
Faber, 674 pp., £9.99, November 2003, 0 571 17997 5
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... MacCarthy transcribes a nostalgic pencilled note from Byron’s former servant and cast-off lover Susan Vaughan, sent with a lock of her hair, and apparently written just before emigration, we glimpse suddenly a whole world of hidden consequences. It is not that MacCarthy’s is a bad book. On the contrary. Not only is it conscientiously researched, it is ...

Sorrows of a Polygamist

Mark Ford: Ted Hughes in His Cage, 17 March 2016

Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life 
by Jonathan Bate.
William Collins, 662 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 00 811822 8
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... the murderer of a great and courageous feminist poet. In 1972 the American poet and activist Robin Morgan published Monster, a book that included a piece in which a gang of Plath aficionados are imagined castrating Hughes, stuffing his penis into his mouth and then blowing out his brains. In Britain a militant anti-Hughes faction took to chiselling his name ...

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