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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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... signal that the work was best not approached too literally. That her preface nonetheless insisted on the truthfulness of her tales should not necessarily cost her her novelist’s licence, since as SusanMorgan 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 ...

Mr Trendy Sicko

James Wolcott

23 May 2019
by Brett Easton Ellis.
Picador, 261 pp., £16.99, May, 978 1 5290 1239 2
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... as their faces. It was tough keeping track of all the debutantes promenading into print and creating 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 ...
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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... seemed born to be insulted. ‘An over-ripe gooseberry, a great big intoxicated baby, a satyr, a 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 ...


Julian Barnes: Burning Letters

7 July 1988
... thorough: it will delight the heart and ease the mind of every literary biographer in the 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 ...
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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... t want to be delighted. Her pranks put them all on edge. The Lilac Fairy was impossible, they felt, 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 ...


David Bromwich: Putin to the Rescue

26 September 2013
... pressure for government action against the ‘banksters’ who drove the financial collapse of 2008, 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 ...

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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... pure English . . . seldom rise above mediocrity,’ David Irving wrote in 1800, in his influential 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 ...


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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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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by Susan​ Ferrier.
Virago, 513 pp., £4.50, February 1986, 0 86068 765 1
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by Maria Edgeworth.
Pandora, 434 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 074 2
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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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... on the road, she is about as undutiful a daughter as you could imagine in Hanoverian England, outside 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 ...

As Many Pairs of Shoes as She Likes

Jenny Turner: On Feminism

15 December 2011
... and the new form of television chat shows. A montage in Women, a documentary series by Vanessa 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 ...


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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... Jocelyn Rickards was quite pleased with that, listing among those who would agree an eminent philosopher 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 ...

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 ...

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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... of Byron’s women are often mentioned but rarely quoted. There are odd, telling exceptions. When 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 ...

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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... for those he and his sister, Olwyn, derisively called ‘women’s libbers’, who vilified him as 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 ...

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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... fictional doubles are those whose being it is hardest to imagine or even to want to imagine: Hannah 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 ...

Who do you think you are?

Jacqueline Rose: Trans Narratives

4 May 2016
... people who aim to pass, she had lived in fear of ‘detection and ruin’ (in the words of Garfinkel, one of the first medical commentators to write sympathetically about transsexuality). As Susan Stryker and Aren Aizura write in their introduction to the second of Routledge’s two monumental Transgender Studies readers, published in 2006 and 2013, however obsessed we may be with the most ...

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