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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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... professional opinion between work and audience is eliminated. The cultural establishment expands to a cultured populace, and consumption gives way to creativity. This is the vision with which George Steiner opens his new meditation, Real Presences. His subtitle – ‘Is there anything in what we say?’ – indicates the motivation for this dream of immanence: the desire to reinstate the belief that ...
17 December 1992
The American way of Birth 
by Jessica Mitford.
Gollancz, 237 pp., £16.99, October 1992, 0 575 05430 1
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... my second child appeared, the hospital had acquired a reasonably pleasant delivery room complete with armchairs and a television. I was alert throughout and ostensibly in control of myself. ‘Mrs Steiner, stop screaming and push,’ the doctor instructed me at one point, and without hesitation I did just that. The event had rather gratifying drama as well, for after I had dutifully walked about the ...

Here/Not Here

Wendy Steiner

4 July 1996
... scar. How can the celebrity outsider maintain a sense of his identity, or painterly authority, when he is his own subject-matter and his audience sees that subject-matter as ‘other’, less than ‘us’? Basquiat’s solutions to this dilemma are often brilliant. In the triptych Zydeco (1984), for example, a cinematographer in profile looks through the lens of his movie camera. In a Cubist pun ...

Old-Fashioned Girls

Wendy Steiner

25 January 1990
Brain Sex: The Real Difference between Men and Women 
by Anne Moir and David Jessel.
Joseph, 228 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 7181 2884 2
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... This must be the first popular attempt in decades to prove that the sexes are inherently unequal. According to the authors of Brain Sex, the male and female brains are differently structured because of the pre-natal activity of genes and hormones, and these produce ‘the real difference’ between men and women. The traditional view of the genders is thus a valid reflection of nature, and all the ...
30 March 1989
... endless literature on British espionage. Bluntiana have already outstripped Blunt’s own prodigious oeuvre. But one constituency has remained more or less silent about Blunt: the academy. George Steiner’s searching New Yorker essay in 1980 provoked no particular response from art historians and theorists. The British Academy debated Blunt’s expulsion after his exposure, but despite rancorous ...


Wendy Steiner

19 October 1995
Gertrude Stein in Words and Pictures 
by Renate Stendhal.
Thames and Hudson, 286 pp., £14.95, March 1995, 0 500 27832 6
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‘Favoured Strangers’: Gertrude Stein and Her Family 
by Linda Wagner-Martin.
Rutgers, 346 pp., $34.95, August 1995, 0 8135 2169 6
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... Gertrude Stein knew how to make herself happy. Sometimes she was heroic, as when she delivered medical supplies to soldiers during the First World War by toddling over enemy lines in an old Ford. And in World War Two, she was honoured by the French Resistance for transmitting information during the Occupation. ‘Gertrude Stein, safe, safe, is safe’, came the press release from liberated Culoz. But ...
28 September 1989
Waverley Place 
by Susan Brownmiller.
Hamish Hamilton, 294 pp., £12.95, August 1989, 0 241 12804 8
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... Joel Steinberg, who maimed his lover Hedda Nussbaum and killed their illegally-adopted daughter Lisa, complained that Lisa was in the habit of staring at him. By the time his murder trial was over, he had been stared at by millions of people, for under a New York State experiment, television cameras were allowed into court to cover the People v. Steinberg. Steinberg’s fear of staring – one of the ...


Wendy Steiner: In London

24 May 1990
... Half an hour to get to the butcher’s and back, an hour to rent my son a clarinet, and 45 minutes to meet my children’s plane at Heathrow. It’s been a month since they went off for the holidays. I have written what I needed to write, the windows and upholstery have been cleaned, and there have been entertainments, epiphanies. By now I find myself looking wistfully at children in the street. It ...


Wendy Steiner

28 June 1990
The New Women and the Old Men: Love, Sex and the Women Question 
by Ruth Brandon.
Secker, 294 pp., £16.95, January 1990, 0 436 06722 6
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... There was a time when phrases like ‘sexual politics’, ‘male chauvinism’ and ‘phallogocentrism’ carried a certain paradoxical éclat, yoking, as they do, the private realm of sex with the public realms of politics and language. We have grown so accustomed to the merging of public and private that it is hard to feel the force of such conceits these days, hard to remember that getting married ...
27 May 1993
Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes 
by Helen Benedict.
Oxford, 309 pp., £22.50, February 1993, 0 19 506680 4
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Reproducing Rape: Domination through Talk in the Courtroom 
by Gregory Matoesian.
Polity, 256 pp., £45, February 1993, 0 7456 1036 6
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... Sticks and stones may break my bones ...’ Like most children, I learned this piece of wisdom with tears streaming down my face, hurt to the quick by the taunts of my playmates. At the time, it seemed a very foolish statement. What was this splitting of hurt into ‘real’ injury and ‘unreal’ feeling? I certainly felt hurt. Recently I learned that there is a second verse: ‘When you die you’ll ...

Beauty + Terror

Kevin Kopelson: Robert Mapplethorpe

29 June 2016
Robert Mapplethorpe: The Archive 
by Frances Terpak and Michelle Brunnick.
Getty Research Institute, 240 pp., £32.50, March 2016, 978 1 60606 470 2
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Robert Mapplethorpe: The Photographs 
by Paul Martineau and Britt Salvesen.
Getty Museum, 340 pp., £40, March 2016, 978 1 60606 469 6
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... separates art and mere pornography mainly because he cherished the feeling the latter induced in him in those first powerful experiences with crude images’. He does not say precisely which feeling. WendySteiner, in The Scandal of Pleasure (1995), is another such critic; Richard Meyer, in Outlaw Representation (2002), is another. In fact, some critics back then, supportive of Mapplethorpe but unaware ...


Adam Gopnik

23 May 1996
The Scandal of Pleasure 
by Wendy Steiner.
Chicago, 263 pp., £19.95, January 1996, 0 226 77223 3
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... to confuse energy with lucidity; a desire to please, or at least not offend, as many people as possible; and the belief that citing a lot of instances is the same thing as covering a lot of ground. Steiner wants to let a hundred flowers bloom in the American academy at a moment when the amateur reader, on the evidence of her own book, may have the feeling that the weeds are taking over the garden. This ...


Alan Bennett: Bennett’s Dissection

1 January 2009
... after his defeat by Sugar Ray Robinson. How my old lady came to know this is a mystery, and how Tom comes to know it, too, as I’m sure boxing isn’t his thing. 22 January. I’m reading George Steiner’s My Unwritten Books, a series of chapters, some more autobiographical than others, on the books he wishes he’d written. The first section is on the Cambridge scholar and scientist Joseph Needham ...


Andrew O’Hagan: Pukey poetry anthologies

4 November 2004
Poems to Last a Lifetime 
edited by Daisy Goodwin.
HarperCollins, 308 pp., £18.99, October 2004, 0 00 717707 0
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All the Poems You Need to Say I Do 
edited by Peter Forbes.
Picador, 197 pp., £10, October 2004, 0 330 43388 1
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... of such sky-blue and touchy-feely anthologies of variously thoughtful poetry with their invariably thoughtless introductions? We’re only a step away from the felicities of Patience Strong and Helen Steiner Rice, from verses on greetings cards, words intended for the heart-sore and the nostalgic, words to soothe and lull and never question. And that’s the rub with all this pukey anthologising: a ...

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