On Hope Mirrlees

Clair Wills, 10 September 2020

The​ Turkish language has a tense for gossip. Officially known as the reported past, it’s also the ‘hearsay’ tense, in which it’s possible to say things without its...

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Childhood, for King, is a permanent condition, its obsessions inalienable, incurable. Even his adult characters embody a child’s awe and fear: they’re motherless wanderers, bewildered in the...

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How to Read Aloud

Irina Dumitrescu, 10 September 2020

It is easy to overlook how loud pre­-modern education was. Most of our evidence for more than a thousand years of teaching consists of books, and, to the modern way of thinking, books are objects used...

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Early Kermode

Stefan Collini, 13 August 2020

So when had all that started to happen, when did the smart London weeklies and monthlies begin to commission reviews from the little-known young lecturer who, recruited by D.J. Gordon, had moved to the...

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My first reading of The Vanishing Half was greedy, fast, for plot, with the sun on my back and murder in the news. On my second, I noticed different things. Brit Bennett’s sentences don’t...

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The Smell of Blood: Sarah Moss

Blake Morrison, 13 August 2020

The frustration of the dozen voices composing the narrative of Summerwater is easy to under­stand: male, female, young, old, Scottish, English, they’re fed up with the weather, because it’s...

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Why is luck good or bad, an incentive to gambling, while chance seems weirdly neutral? And what was it like in the old days when Fortune played a larger role in ordinary consciousness, taking up quite...

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The Shrine

Alan Bennett, 30 July 2020

I said, ‘You’ve got some of the mud on your trousers.’ I said, ‘I’m still going to kneel, only I won’t wear the jacket.’ He said, ‘That’s the stuff,’...

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Listening to people’s stories and believing them is a benevolent impulse, Nikita Lalwani argues. But her novels are full of moments when the stories people tell about themselves and the world prove...

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How many times? Catherine Lacey

Nicole Flattery, 16 July 2020

The struggle of Pew is one that first occurs to brooding teenagers of the community: what would you do, and who would you be, if nobody was watching? It’s a question that’s no less sad and...

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An Ordinary Woman

Alan Bennett, 16 July 2020

She said, ‘Only living in close proximity together bestows a kind of protective coating on members of the family, so that in normal circumstances they don’t fall for each other, and somehow...

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obligatorynoteofhope.com: Jenny Offill

Adam Mars-Jones, 2 July 2020

Is it possible to find an adequate tone or combination of tones, an adequate form or combination of forms, for the purpose of contemplating extinction? If the whole of culture is an attempt to deny the...

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The more one thinks about it, the odder it seems that one of the figureheads for this particular strain of national mythology is Elizabeth I, a multilingual queen whose letters and speeches display far...

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In 1801, Wordsworth congratulated a reader of Lyrical Ballads for identifying the pathos of the poems as ‘the pathos of humanity’ and not ‘jacobinal pathos’; only ‘bad poets...

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Jean Stafford’s writing has a strange, foreign flavour. It’s bitter and strong, dark, some­ times poisonous. Reading her work, three­ quarters of a century on, I feel all the angsty...

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Before I Began: Coetzee Makes a Leap

Christopher Tayler, 4 June 2020

The tone darkens a bit, not surprisingly, in The Death of Jesus, and there’s a concomitant rise in the teasing of meaning-hungry readers. But it’s still tempting to see the Jesus stuff as a...

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The Last Whale

Colin Burrow, 4 June 2020

Melville’s gaze is always that squinting vision of the mid-19th-century adventurer-cum-naturalist-cum-money-maker, for whom a whale is a fascinating creature partly because of what you can get for...

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Ruin it your own way

Susan Pedersen, 4 June 2020

Shelagh Delaney resented being pigeonholed: ‘I could go on writing plays if I never saw Salford, Manchester or any Northern working-class district again.’ Unfortunately, by this point, the...

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