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Diary

Terry Castle: Shaking Hands with the Hilldebeest, 31 March 2016

... her own, enfolds it Don Giovanni-style, and now regards me with a rakish and appraising eye: Well, Terry [she says]: We’ll Just Have to Do Something (heh heh) to Warm It Up. Won’t We? (Heh heh heh)Love-impaled Sappho, help me in my discombobulation! Did you hear that? HILLARY CLINTON IS FLIRTING WITH ME! She’s got my hand and she is warming it ...

Desperately Seeking Susan

Terry Castle: Remembering Susan Sontag, 17 March 2005

... to California the next day! I was there for months. Through all of the bombardment, of course, Terry. Then she ruminated. Had I ever met Baez? Was she a secret lesbian? I confessed that I’d once waited in line behind the folk singer at my cash machine (Baez lives near Stanford) and had taken the opportunity to inspect the hairs on the back of her ...

Sublimely Bad

Terry Castle, 23 February 1995

Secresy; or, The Ruin on the Rock 
by Eliza Fenwick, edited by Isobel Grundy.
Broadview, 359 pp., £9.99, May 1994, 1 55111 014 8
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... melodramatic final scenes, in which Sibella, having finally escaped from her uncle’s castle, falls into a hysterical stupor on finding out that Clement has secretly married Caroline Ashburn’s wealthy, dissipated mother, Grundy enthuses over the ‘sublime’ handling of Sibella’s breakdown and the ‘extraordinary emotional power’ of the ...

Rah, Rah, Cheers, Queers

Terry Castle: On Getting Married, 29 August 2013

... provenance. Like mother, like daughter. Repression the family legacy, after all. What Happens in Terry Stays in Terry. Emblazoned on the slip of paper was a Harry-Potterish list of aristocratic-sounding titles that Mavis seems to have invented for the three of us (me, my sister and herself) for reasons unknown. Honorifics ...

Diary

Terry Castle: Moving House, 27 August 2009

... Thinking about the three things I learned yesterday, courtesy of Levine Breaking News – a mysterious right-wing, LA-based, showbiz-obsessed website that sends me, unsolicited, ‘breaking story’ email updates several times a day. The first: Odontophobia is the fear of teeth. Good to know, but surely raises some questions. Whose teeth? What about that lady on the catafalque in the Poe story? Berenice: I think that was her name ...

Always the Bridesmaid

Terry Castle: Sappho, 30 September 1999

Victorian Sappho 
by Yopie Prins.
Princeton, 278 pp., £40, May 1999, 0 691 05918 7
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... in fact have been referring to me in Wretched Tatty Papyrus Fragment No. 211 (Lobel-Page): Come [Terry?] … cast off your [air-cushioned?] Nikes the [?] nightingale [?] … Sappho of Lesbos has always seemed more phantasm than historical personage, of course: we know so little of her life and have so precious little of her poetry that editors and ...

Sister-Sister

Terry Castle, 3 August 1995

Jane Austen’s Letters 
edited by Deirde Le Faye.
Oxford, 621 pp., £30, March 1995, 0 19 811764 7
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... I said all I thought right – & if they are in the place, Mrs K. has promised to call in Castle Square; – it will be about the end of July. Elsewhere we learn more than we want to know, perhaps, about the incessant visits of various collateral family members, the meals eaten and cups of tea drunk, whether fires have been necessary in the ...

Seductress Extraordinaire

Terry Castle: The vampiric Mercedes de Acosta, 24 June 2004

‘That Furious Lesbian’: The Story of Mercedes de Acosta 
by Robert Schanke.
Southern Illinois, 210 pp., £16.95, June 2004, 0 8093 2579 9
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Women in Turmoil: Six Plays 
by Mercedes de Acosta, edited by Robert Schanke.
Southern Illinois, 252 pp., £26.95, June 2003, 0 8093 2509 8
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... who had escaped a government firing squad – literally – by diving off the ramparts of Morro Castle into shark-infested Havana Bay, where he was picked up by an American schooner. It seems more likely, however, that he was a political snitch working on behalf of American and Cuban business interests and had to be hustled out of the country for his own ...

Do I like it?

Terry Castle: Outsider Art, 28 July 2011

... collectors. How valuable can a flimsy Richard Tuttle wall-piece be, if the outsider artist James Castle (no relation that I know of) accidently managed to do something very similar using cast-off bits of cardboard and string in a trailer in Idaho? And yes, I enjoy a perverse feeling of triumph when art-savvy friends say of some piece, ‘Oh, whose work is ...

Flournoy’s Complaint

Terry Castle, 23 May 1996

From India to the Planet Mars: A Case of Multiple Personality with Imaginary Languages 
by Théodore Flournoy, edited by Sonu Shamdasani.
Princeton, 335 pp., £33.50, February 1996, 0 691 03407 9
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... The dilemma: it is 1892, you are a 30-year-old female shop assistant in a small silk manufacturing concern in Geneva, the city of your birth. You live with your parents in a modest but pleasant suburban house; you travel to work on the streetcar. You have no suitors, but don’t really mind: you have a spiritual protector named ‘Léopold’, a reincarnation of the 18th-century magician Cagliostro, who appears to you in visions in the long brown robe of a monk, offering advice and emotional solace ...

If everybody had a Wadley

Terry Castle: ‘Joe’ Carstairs, the ‘fastest woman on water’, 5 March 1998

The Queen of Whale Cay: The Eccentric Story of ‘Joe’ Carstairs, Fastest Woman on Water 
by Kate Summerscale.
Fourth Estate, 248 pp., £12.99, August 1997, 1 85702 360 9
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... Changelings, centaurs, ogres and elves may no longer inhabit the earth, but occasionally we run into their descendants: people so monstrous, incandescent, or freakishly themselves that only a quasi-supernatural description seems to do them justice. In the 20th century they come in all shapes and sizes: from the obvious ghouls and werewolves (Rasputin, Hitler, Idi Amin, Jeffrey Dahmer) to various mid-rank demigods and unicorn-people (T ...

Terror on the Vineyard

Terry Castle: Boss Ladies, Watch Out!, 15 April 1999

A Likely Story: One Summer with Lillian Hellman 
by Rosemary Mahoney.
Doubleday, 273 pp., $23.95, November 1998, 9780385479318
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... When slave girls rebel, boss ladies watch out! In literature as in life, the revenge of a female underling on a female superior can be a messy business – with limbs, eyeballs, breasts, and other detachable body parts left dripping in gore around the house. A variety of situations may propel such fury. In Euripides’ Electra, Western civilisation’s mythic prototype for female-on-female mayhem, the rebel is an Outraged Daughter and the boss lady her Wicked Old Mother: Clytemnestra’s doom is sealed when she puts her sex life ahead of her daughter’s ...

Love-of-One’s-Life Department

Terry Castle: The lesbian scarcity economy, 21 October 2004

Wild Girls: Paris, Sappho and Art: The Lives and Loves of Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks 
by Diana Souhami.
Weidenfeld, 224 pp., £18.99, July 2004, 9780297643869
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... The island of Lesbos: talk about a small world. Pick up any edition of Sappho’s fragments and the same old names keep coming up: Erinna, Gongyla, Attis, Kleis, Anactoria. You would think that after two thousand years these girls would be ready to quit the scene, but no, here they come again – a bit leathery from all the centuries of tennis and golf, but still the only game in town ...

My Heroin Christmas

Terry Castle: Art Pepper and Me, 18 December 2003

... self-destructive (and self-deluding) bastard Art Pepper must have been. And what’s up with you, Terry Castle, that you claim to like this guy? I admit it: it is strange. And I probably can’t keep wriggling out of it by joking about it being a sex thing. Towards the end of Straight Life there’s a long and absorbing interview with one of Pepper’s ...

Yes You, Sweetheart

Terry Castle: A Garland for Colette, 16 March 2000

Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette 
by Judith Thurman.
Bloomsbury, 596 pp., £25, November 1999, 0 7475 4309 7
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... Who more omnivorous – not to mention lewd – than Colette, the frizzle-headed Cat Woman of 20th-century French writing? Shocking still the sheer salaciousness of the prose, even in the works of her apprenticeship, written in the days when ladies wore bustles and carried parasols. Take the following scene from the autobiographical Claudine à Paris (1901), in which the precocious yet virginal 17-year-old heroine, recently arrived in the capital with her dreamy widower father, is flirting with her ‘uncle’ Renaud, a handsome older friend of the family by whom (though she hasn’t realised it yet) she desperately wants to be fucked ...

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