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22 September 1994
The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture 
by Terry Castle.
Columbia, 322 pp., £20, January 1994, 0 231 07652 5
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... In this camp and dashing and deliberately lightweight study of a certain strand of ‘sexual ontology’ TerryCastle pursues the lesbian-as-ghost from Defoe’s wistful nearly-real Mrs Veal onwards. She had, she explains, been planning and researching a much heavier straight book about hauntings – on ‘the ...


Terry Castle: Shaking Hands with the Hilldebeest

30 March 2016
... of Executive Decisions on which our Great Country’s Future Depends – takes my frozen mitt in 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 ...

Desperately Seeking Susan

Terry Castle: Remembering Susan Sontag

17 March 2005
... described in the press as a ‘mane’ – contemptuously. That woman is a fake! She tried to fly back 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 ...

Rah, Rah, Cheers, Queers

Terry Castle: On Getting Married

29 August 2013
... her meds – I flinched at the thought of asking her directly about the little missive’s psychic 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 ...

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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... suggests; the novel’s plot has an almost ‘Shakespearean’ tragic force. Describing Fenwick’s exorbitantly 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 ...

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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... not true! Ovid all bollocks. Would have been in love with me, had I lived in ancient Greece. May 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 ...


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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... by way of Sussex & Hants, & are to be at Fareham – & perhaps may be in Southampton, on which possibility 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 ...
30 October 1997
Noel Coward and Radclyffe Hall: Kindred Spirits 
by Terry Castle.
Columbia, 150 pp., £15.95, November 1996, 0 231 10596 7
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Your John: The Love Letters of Radclyffe Hall 
edited by Joanne Glasgow.
New York, 273 pp., £20, March 1997, 0 8147 3092 2
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Radclyffe Hall: A Woman Called John 
by Sally Cline.
Murray, 434 pp., £25, June 1997, 9780719554087
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... is much more gloomy and melodramatic, and bears little resemblance to her own not terribly tragic life. Early in her suggestive and elegantly written study of Noël Coward and Radclyffe Hall, TerryCastle admits that Hall’s ‘style is for the most part the antithesis of Coward’s – painfully discursive, polemical, almost entirely devoid of gaiety, archness or ambiguity’. Castle attempts to ...

Do I like it?

Terry Castle: Outsider Art

28 July 2011
... and absurdly bloated economy of top-tier dealers, curators, biennials, and celebrity artists and 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 ...

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 ...

If everybody had a Wadley

Terry Castle: The Queen of Whale Cay: The Eccentric Story of ‘Joe’ Carstairs, Fastest Woman on Water by Kate Summerscale

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 ...
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 ...


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 ...

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. When, you wonder ...

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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... circumstances in the 1850s. De Acosta liked to maintain he was a heroic supporter of Cuban independence 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 ...

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