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Are women nicer than men?

Michael Wood, 21 February 1985

The Dark Hole Days 
by Una Woods.
Blackstaff, 127 pp., £3.50, December 1984, 0 85640 316 4
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Superior Women 
by Alice Adams.
Heinemann, 374 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 0 434 00631 9
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The Collected Stories 
by Frank Tuohy.
Macmillan, 410 pp., £12.95, December 1984, 0 333 38534 9
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The Apple in the Dark 
by Clarice Lispector, translated by Gregory Rabassa.
Virago, 361 pp., £10.95, January 1985, 0 86068 605 1
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Family Ties 
by Clarice Lispector and Giovanni Pontiero.
Carcanet, 140 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 0 85636 569 6
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... Places in fiction often have a curious dual nationality. They are entangled in historical events, marked on a solid social map. ‘It’s not exactly the moon I’m asking for,’ a girl thinks in The Dark Hole Days, ‘but surely all my dreams don’t end here: me in a duffle coat signing on the dole and walking in the debris of Belfast.’ Later she adds: ‘Belfast would fit into a corner of London ...

Dressed as an Admiral

Michael Wood: Neruda’s Hocus Pocus, 2 September 2004

Memoirs 
by Pablo Neruda, translated by Hardie St Martin.
Souvenir, 370 pp., £12.99, June 2004, 9780285648111
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Isla Negra: A Bilingual Edition 
by Pablo Neruda, translated by Alastair Reid.
Souvenir, 416 pp., £14.99, June 2004, 0 285 64913 2
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The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems 
edited by Mark Eisner.
City Lights, 199 pp., $16.95, April 2004, 0 87286 428 6
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... out. My life is a long pilgrimage that is always turning on itself, always returning to the woods in the south, to the forest lost in me.’ This sounds like hocus pocus, and the weird, disavowing syntax is suspicious. The regions sink the roots, the roots can’t get out, and the forest gets lost. What is the poet doing all this time? Well, he’s ...

Grousing

James Francken: Toby Litt, 7 August 2003

Finding Myself 
by Toby Litt.
Hamish Hamilton, 425 pp., £14.99, June 2003, 0 241 14155 9
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... tot up the cigarettes she smokes, mix in a crowd with improbable names – in Bridget’s case, Una, Piggy and Desdemona – and be hampered by an awful, overbearing mother (Fielding dedicated the novel to her ‘mum … for not being like Bridget’s’). Chick-lit novelists have stuck with this style, and their books continue to sell. Finding Myself, Toby ...

That Wilting Flower

Hilary Mantel: The Lure of the Unexplained, 24 January 2008

Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained 
edited by Una McGovern.
Chambers, 760 pp., £35, October 2007, 978 0 550 10215 7
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... of space flight became credible, there were no aliens; instead there were green men who hid in the woods. In the same way, psychotic delusions keep up with scientific change: the people once pursued by phantasms of the dead are now pestered by living celebrities who watch them from inside their TV sets, and those who used to confess themselves possessed now ...

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