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Wendy Lesser: Surfing the OED on CD-ROM, 3 October 1996

... It is a common narcissistic fantasy to believe that the world as we know it started with our own birth, and that prior to our appearance all was darkness and antiquity. My particular generation – located at the heart of the baby-boomers, roughly midway between President Clinton and Madonna – has taken this tendency to an extreme. We would be likely to believe that no one before us had argued for school desegregation, worried about the apolitical masses, lived in split-level houses, used automated tools, got sick because of mislabelling, got well because of tetracycline, slept on Posturepedic beds, favoured clitorial sex, laughed at Scientologists, mocked Interpol, complained about wolf-whistles, turned from the vomitous rubberiness of US cooking to the splendeurs et misères of tapenade, consumed hallucinogenic drugs, taken over multi-use college buildings to protest unjust wars, or elsewhere indulged in a widespread habit of loud public gabbiness ...


Wendy Lesser: On O.J. Simpson, 21 July 1994

... I missed most of the original hoopla in the O.J. Simpson story because I happened to be spending the weekend in a televisionfree zone, as a house-guest in the Connecticut countryside. We all thought, before we secluded ourselves, that O.J. had probably done it; the widely publicised bloodstained ski mask (which has since mutated, as a piece of evidence, into the far less memorable knitted cap) seemed to seal his fate ...

Haute Booboisie

Wendy Lesser: H.L. Mencken, 6 July 2006

Mencken: The American Iconoclast 
by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers.
Oxford, 662 pp., £19.99, January 2006, 0 19 507238 3
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... We posture as apostles of fair play, as good sportsmen, as professional knights-errant – and throw beer bottles at the umpire when he refuses to cheat for our side,’ H.L. Mencken wrote of his fellow Americans. ‘We deafen the world with our whoops for liberty – and submit to laws that destroy our most sacred rights . . . We play policeman and Sunday-school superintendent to half of Christendom – and lynch a darky every two days in our own backyard ...

Voldemort or Stalin?

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Shostakovich, 1 December 2011

Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen Quartets 
by Wendy Lesser.
Yale, 350 pp., £18.99, April 2011, 978 0 300 16933 1
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Shostakovich in Dialogue: Form, Imagery and Ideas in Quartets 1-7 
by Judith Kuhn.
Ashgate, 296 pp., £65, February 2010, 978 0 7546 6406 2
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... plays, as little dramas, basically, with four characters,’ the violinist Philip Setzer told Wendy Lesser. ‘In the Eighth, for instance, three people are holding sustained notes and one is “crying”.’ Lesser interviewed members of six quartets which regularly perform Shostakovich’s music, including the ...

Thom Gunn in New York

Michael Nott, 22 October 2020

... fun.’ ‘He was very interested in sex as a defining thing about the human being,’ his friend Wendy Lesser told me. ‘I never would have said that when he was alive; it wouldn’t have occurred to me. But now that I look at the course of his life, and what sex ended up meaning to him when he was old, it was really central at least to him, his sense ...

In the Company of Confreres

Terry Eagleton: ‘Modern British Fiction’, 12 December 2002

On Modern British Fiction 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 328 pp., £14.99, October 2002, 0 19 924932 6
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... So did Christopher Isherwood, on whom there is an uninspired contribution from Katherine Bucknell. Wendy Lesser remarks on what she sees as Penelope Fitzgerald’s uncanny ability to re-create alien cultures. In his deceptively off-the-cuff critical style, Michael Wood writes sensitively of Naipaul and Salman Rushdie, pointing out that for Rushdie ...

Zanchevsky, Zakrevsky or Zakovsky?

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Julian Barnes, 18 February 2016

The Noise of Time 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 184 pp., £14.99, January 2016, 978 1 910702 60 4
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... and the composer’s son, the conductor Maxim Shostakovich, echoes in various interviews; that Wendy Lesser picks up on in her biographical reading of the string quartets; and that the quartets themselves offer in musical rendition.* In all of them, Shostakovich is the little man struggling with an oppressive and banal Power, partially defeated but ...


Wendy Steiner, 1 June 1989

Real Presences 
by George Steiner.
Faber, 236 pp., £12.99, May 1989, 0 571 14071 8
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... other body who will decide what is great interpretation, but their existence would imply a pool of lesser interpreters and all the Alexandrian institutions that enable training in explication and its publication. One cannot legislate a situation in which mediocrity disappears and critics produce only classics unless one does away with ongoing criticism ...

Victim’s Voice

Julie Davidson, 24 January 1991

Rape: My Story 
by Jill Saward and Wendy Green.
Bloomsbury, 153 pp., £13.99, September 1990, 0 7475 0751 1
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... their several appetites satisfied by any great glut of lurid detail. Jill Saward’s ghost writer, Wendy Green, has done this ingenuous or idealistic or immature young woman – she presents herself as all three – the service of finding a flat, uniform and very nearly monotonous style to describe the lunchtime nightmare of 6 March 1986. It’s a style which ...


James Meek, 5 April 2018

... history starts to crowd it out. In September​ last year, in Lutterworth in Leicestershire, I met Wendy Warren. She was born in Kent in 1935 and moved to Leicester just after the Second World War when her father, an engineer, found work there. She did well at school and was set to go to college, but her father lost his job and she chose to help her mother by ...

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