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The Labile Self

Marina Warner: Dressing Up

5 January 2012
Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe 
by Ulinka Rublack.
Oxford, 354 pp., £30, October 2011, 978 0 19 929874 7
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... of clothing funny but important, seeming trifles that can reveal serious matters about society and self: ‘mode’ in the sense of custom and process (le mode) is thoroughly entangled with ‘mode’ in the sense of fashion (la mode, a term that entered German, she tells us, in mid-century). Every ribbon signals identity; every padded this or that proclaims ...


John Lanchester

24 May 1990
Chicago Loop 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 183 pp., £12.99, April 1990, 0 241 12949 4
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Lies of Silence 
by Brian Moore.
Bloomsbury, 194 pp., £12.99, April 1990, 0 7475 0610 8
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Amongst Women 
by John McGahern.
Faber, 184 pp., £12.99, May 1990, 0 571 14284 2
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The Condition of Ice 
by Christopher Burns.
Secker, 170 pp., £12.95, April 1990, 0 436 19989 0
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... brilliance on our attention, the four novelists here under review would be clustered towards the self-effacing side of the spectrum, with colleagues such as Burgess, Nabokov and Amis fils huddling together for warmth at the far end. Paul Theroux’s last novel, My Secret History, deployed a cool transparency of style to great effect in telling a story which ...


Russell Davies

18 June 1981
Short Lives 
by Katinka Matson.
Picador, 366 pp., £2.50, February 1981, 9780330262194
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... There is nothing very mysterious about the interest we take in self-destructive personalities. To be callous about it – and we are all callous when it comes to disasters relived on the printed page – their lives make excellent biographies. Not only do they suffer in a dramatic way: they do it more purposefully than the rest of us, with our dull sense of un-satisfactoriness, can manage ...


Seamus Perry: Southey’s Genius for Repression

26 January 2006
Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793-1810 
edited by Lynda Pratt, Tim Fulford and Daniel Sanjiv Roberts.
Pickering & Chatto, 2624 pp., £450, May 2004, 1 85196 731 1
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... other, or thought he did, an agent of that millennial regeneration and the perfected image of himself. Coleridge had found a ‘Sheet Anchor’, ‘a down-right, upright Republican’ with an ‘undeviating simplicity of Rectitude’. Southey was quite as impressed by him, ‘a Cantab … whom I very much esteem & admire, tho’ two thirds of our ...


Stephen Wall

12 March 1992
Ever After 
by Graham Swift.
Picador, 261 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 330 32331 8
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... versus not being naturally comes up, although whether the Almighty has fixed his canon against self-slaughter doesn’t seem to worry him unduly. Questions of divine intention do, however, trouble Unwin’s Mid-Victorian ancestor Matthew Pearce, whose papers have come down to him; he is supposed to be editing them. These documents are the source for the ...


Jenny Diski: Alastair Campbell’s Dodgy Novel

6 November 2008
All in the Mind 
by Alastair Campbell.
Hutchinson, 297 pp., £17.99, November 2008, 978 0 09 192578 9
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... is also a fact of life). So Campbell’s private mental distress is laid out by Campbell himself for all to see just as his novel on the subject appears. I am a great believer in keeping fiction and author separate. But there’s fiction and fiction. Campbell’s fiction and the recent documentary are too close to each other not to be connected by a ...

The Frisson

Will Self

20 January 2014
The View from the Train: Cities and Other Landscapes 
by Patrick Keiller.
Verso, 218 pp., £14.99, November 2013, 978 1 78168 140 4
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... its creator’s waywardness in the jargon of institutional authenticity. And indeed, Robinson himself, always unseen, and clothed only in the skimpiest of biographical detail by his equally invisible fabulators, also has a quality of makeshift invention. The name itself is seemingly chosen for reasons of ...


Gabriele Annan

5 November 1992
Death in Rome 
by Wolfgang Koeppen, translated by Michael Hofmann.
Hamish Hamilton, 192 pp., £9.99, November 1992, 9780241132388
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... not quite as colloquial as Hofmann’s. But if the translation is an act of love, the novel itself is an expression of hatred – German self-hatred, which, Thomas Mann said, ‘goes to the point of self-disgust and self-abomination.’ The blurb ...
5 March 2015
... that there was surely something ironic about Christ’s injunction to love thy neighbour as thyself – because actually, of course, people hate themselves. Or you could say that, given the way people treat one another, perhaps they had always loved their neighbours in the way they loved themselves: that is, with a good deal of cruelty and ...
21 January 1988
... Johnson and Johnson Baby Oil. I reached the final of the 1980 World Powerboat Championship – myself, Lucy Manners, Werner Panic and the rest. I was going for the record of no hours, no minutes, no seconds and I reckoned I was in with a chance. I was dancing the Self-Portrait along inside the yellow buoys, nice dry water ...


Tessa Hadley: Richler’s happy families

3 February 2005
Feed My Dear Dogs 
by Emma Richler.
Fourth Estate, 502 pp., £17.99, January 2005, 0 00 718985 0
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... is ice hockey, a second home by a lake, and French spoken. The cultural life of a family may be so self-contained and self-referential that it can be transplanted into another continent and the difference will scarcely show. The five Weiss siblings, three boys and two girls, are bright, witty, full of promise. The precise ...


Will Self: Video Games

8 November 2012
...  ...


Will Self: My Typewriters

5 March 2015
... one that plummeted through fluvial time until, in 2004, it met me, a writer wilfully submerging himself in bygones. Not that Shalom’s life is quite as bounded by typing as my own; now he’s in semi-retirement he can devote more energy to his singing. He’s the first tenor for the Shabbaton Choir, which tours extensively; recent highlights include concerts ...
19 July 1984
Faces of Philip: A Memoir of Philip Toynbee 
by Jessica Mitford.
Heinemann, 175 pp., £9.95, July 1984, 0 434 46802 9
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... after the birth of younger brother, so parents pack him off to boarding-school; revenges himself when grown up on awful, snobbish mother by burlesqueing her upper-class values and becoming known for Appalling Behaviour. Runs away from Rugby to help Esmond Romilly bring down the public schools. Joins CP at Oxford, leaves it after defeat of Spanish ...


Gilberto Perez: Godard’s Method

1 April 2004
Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at 70 
by Colin MacCabe.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, November 2003, 0 7475 6318 7
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... I have no use for a writer who directs my attention to himself and to his wit instead of the people he is interpreting,’ Jean-Luc Godard said in one of his early articles for Cahiers du cinéma. From the beginning Godard liked to be contrary. In a magazine that championed a cinema of personal expression and was to proclaim la politique des auteurs, he was declaring in favour of the self-effacing author ...

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