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You are the we of me

Joyce Carol Oates: The Autobiography of Carson McCullers, 2 September 1999

Illumination and Night Glare: The Unfinished Autobiography of Carson McCullers 
edited by Carlos Dews.
Wisconsin, 256 pp., £19.95, September 1999, 0 299 16440 3
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... of the erratic, often inebriated behaviour of Carson McCullers, a literary prodigy to set beside Scott Fitzgerald in the previous generation. (McCullers, married to a bisexual man, was frequently enamoured of women who sometimes, but more often didn’t, welcome her effusive advances.) Of the trio, Flannery O’Connor, who published her first novel Wise ...

A Bit of a Lush

Christopher Tayler: William Boyd, 23 May 2002

Any Human Heart 
by William Boyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 504 pp., £17.99, April 2002, 9780241141779
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... and Henry Green are his contemporaries at Oxford; he takes tea with Ottoline Morrell and twits Virginia Woolf. Cyril Connolly and Evelyn Waugh are London acquaintances. Picasso sketches his portrait, Hemingway is a fellow war correspondent, and Paris brings a meeting with James Joyce. His wartime boss at Naval Intelligence is, of course, Ian Fleming, who ...

Just William

Doris Grumbach, 25 June 1987

Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice 
by Sharon O’Brien.
Oxford, 544 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 19 504132 1
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... it took her forty years to do so. Born in 1873 among the lush hills and greenery of Winchester, Virginia, to a feckless gentleman farmer and his beautiful Southern belle wife, she was removed from the landscape she loved at the age of nine, when the family moved to the harsh, flat, frozen prairie town of Red Cloud, Nebraska. This, the first rude trauma of ...

An Agreement with Hell

Eric Foner, 20 February 1997

Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution 
by Jack Rakove.
Knopf, 439 pp., $35, April 1996, 0 394 57858 9
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... it ‘a covenant with death, an agreement with hell’. Three years later, in the case of Dred Scott, Chief Justice Roger Taney vindicated Calhoun (and Garrison) by declaring that blacks formed no part of the ‘people’ who had formed the Constitution. They could never be citizens of the nation and ‘had no rights which the white man was bound to ...

No Clapping

Rosemary Hill: The Bloomsbury Memoir Club, 17 July 2014

The Bloomsbury Group Memoir Club 
by S.P. Rosenbaum, edited by James Haule.
Palgrave, 203 pp., £20, January 2014, 978 1 137 36035 9
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... domestic and sexual permutations would have caused no consternation among listeners who included Virginia and Leonard Woolf and Clive Bell. Nor, perhaps, would Forster’s own discomfort with the question of Sex, which played a large, complicated part in his own life: ‘You work it out,’ his essay goes on: ‘I can’t so well.’ Increasingly anguished ...

Shatost

John Bayley, 16 June 1983

Dostoevsky and ‘The Idiot’: Author, Narrator and Reader 
by Robin Feuer Miller.
Harvard, 296 pp., £16, October 1981, 0 674 21490 0
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Dostoevsky 
by John Jones.
Oxford, 365 pp., £15, May 1983, 9780198126454
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New Essays on Dostoyevsky 
edited by Malcolm Jones and Garth Terry.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £25, March 1983, 0 521 24890 6
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The Art of Dostoevsky: Deliriums and Nocturnes 
by Robert Louis Jackson.
Princeton, 380 pp., £17.60, January 1982, 0 691 06484 9
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... The novel did not invent such reality, but has developed its conjuration into a fine art. Think of Scott, virtually the founder of the great classic novel, and his unemphatic and impenetrable ability to seem to order and control experience, to give a self to history and to men and women in history. From this point of view, ...

United States of Amnesia

Eric Foner, 9 September 2021

The Ground Breaking: The Tulsa Race Massacre and an American City’s Search for Justice 
by Scott Ellsworth.
Icon, 304 pp., £16.99, May 2021, 978 1 78578 727 0
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... known as the Tulsa Race Massacre – is a central theme of The Ground Breaking, a riveting book by Scott Ellsworth, who has spent most of his adult life piecing together the story of perhaps the deadliest instance of racial violence in the country’s history. (I say perhaps because the exact number of victims remains unknown.)Ellsworth, who teaches at the ...

Carry up your Coffee boldly

Thomas Keymer: Jonathan Swift, 17 April 2014

Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World 
by Leo Damrosch.
Yale, 573 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 300 16499 2
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Parodies, Hoaxes, Mock Treatises: ‘Polite Conversation’, ‘Directions to Servants’ and Other Works 
by Jonathan Swift, edited by Valerie Rumbold.
Cambridge, 821 pp., £85, July 2013, 978 0 521 84326 3
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Journal to Stella: Letters to Esther Johnson and Rebecca Dingley, 1710-13 
by Jonathan Swift, edited by Abigail Williams.
Cambridge, 800 pp., £85, December 2013, 978 0 521 84166 5
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... wars on pointless subjects; straight-faced manuals of advice on behaving badly. For Walter Scott, his shrewdest 19th-century reader, Swift ‘possessed the faculty of transfusing his own soul into the body of anyone whom he selected’. His lifelong preference was to write under assumed identities – Isaac Bickerstaff or Lemuel Gulliver; the bumptious ...

Jane Austen’s Word Process

Marilyn Butler, 25 June 1987

Computation into Criticism: A Study of Jane Austen’s Novels and an Experiment in Method 
by J.F Burrows.
Oxford, 245 pp., £25, February 1987, 0 19 812856 8
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... of novels by others. They are Henry James’s The Awkward Age, E.M. Forster’s Howards End and Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, together with two modern attempts to imitate Austen’s Regency English, Georgette Heyer’s Frederica and the continuation of ‘Sanditon’ by Another Lady. He conducts some tests comparing the idiolects of the leading characters ...

Azure Puddles

John Bayley, 21 May 1987

Compton Mackenzie: A Life 
by Andro Linklater.
Chatto, 384 pp., £14.95, May 1987, 0 7011 2583 7
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... pleasure. But Mackenzie’s influence at the time was far greater, and it was international. Both Scott Fitzgerald and Edmund Wilson were fascinated by him: the lush vivacity of his prose not only animates the former’s early novels (intended to be ‘intellectual’ like H.G. Wells, ‘and improper like Compton Mackenzie’), but is just as evident in the ...

The Monster Plot

Thomas Powers: James Angleton, Spymaster, 10 May 2018

The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton 
by Jefferson Morley.
Scribe, 336 pp., £20, December 2017, 978 1 911344 73 5
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... of Yale. But it was the man himself, sitting on the edge of an overstuffed club chair, pulling a Virginia Slim from a cigarette packet, that really left an impression. No man was ever more deliberate, from the way he lit and held that cigarette, and followed it with another, to the cock of his head and the play of his eyebrows and his wide mouth, which said ...

Baffled at a Bookcase

Alan Bennett: My Libraries, 28 July 2011

... young man reacts more dramatically, by hurling half the books to the floor. In Me, I’m Afraid of Virginia Woolf someone else gives vent to their frustration with literature by drawing breasts on a photograph of Virginia Woolf and kitting out E.M. Forster with a big cigar. Orton himself notoriously defaced library books ...

Among the Picts

John Sutherland, 18 August 1994

Stained Radiance: A Fictionist’s Prelude 
by J. Leslie Mitchell.
Polygon, 219 pp., £7.95, July 1993, 0 7486 6141 7
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The Speak of the Mearns 
by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
Polygon, 268 pp., £8.95, June 1994, 0 7486 6167 0
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... that recurs in the novels and Gibbon often recalls Old Mortality, the crazed Cameronian in Scott’s novel who haunted the area’s churchyards, devoting his life to the sisyphean task of keeping legible the mossed-over memorials to the Covenanter martyrs of 1685. Gibbon, in one of his many parts an expert archaeologist, has a similar devotion to old ...

Damnable Heresy

David Simpson: The Epic of Everest, 25 October 2012

Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest 
by Wade Davis.
Vintage, 655 pp., £12.99, October 2012, 978 0 09 956383 9
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... everyone he met. He was painted by Duncan Grant and gushingly admired by Lytton Strachey, while Virginia Woolf thought he had ‘a head like a Greek god’. He performed in plays alongside Rupert Brooke and was the model for George Emerson in Forster’s A Room with a View. And he was a great rock climber, perhaps the best. He missed the first year of the ...

New Women

Patricia Beer, 17 July 1980

The Odd Women 
by George Gissing.
Virago, 336 pp., £2.50, May 1980, 0 86068 140 8
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The Beth Book 
by Sarah Grand.
Virago, 527 pp., £3.50, January 1980, 0 86068 088 6
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... woman on whom it dawned that she was one of the nine hundred and ninety-nine. Alice and Virginia Madden are two such. They are the oldest of a family of daughters left almost penniless by the premature death of their doctor father. It is with them that The Odd Women begins and ends. Rhoda Nunn is dismissive of them: ‘The eldest can’t teach ...

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