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Self-Portrait with a Speedboat

Hugo Williams, 21 January 1988

... 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 ahead, when I started picking up some nonsense from my old rival Renato Salvadori, the knitwear salesman from Lake Como, appearing for Martini. Renato was chopping up the water with a series of kick ...


Lidija Haas: Candia McWilliam, 6 January 2011

What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness 
by Candia McWilliam.
Cape, 482 pp., £18.99, August 2010, 978 0 224 08898 5
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... you never know when one might come along? And yet it is a kind of warning, an antidote to the self-help that urges you to ‘crack right on, kick over the traces, step out of victimhood, let go, move on, and all that’ – it’s a story of ‘self-unhelp’, without the debased form of catharsis that misery porn ...

X marks the self

Thomas Jones, 16 November 2017

Pinpoint: How GPS Is Changing Our World 
by Greg Milner.
Granta, 336 pp., £9.99, June 2017, 978 1 84708 709 6
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... made by the aviator Harry Gatty in Nature Is Your Guide (1958) between ‘home-centred’ and ‘self-centred’ navigation. Using the former, you consider your position in a relation to a single fixed reference point. Milner imagines members of ‘the earliest human society’ going out to hunt or gather with a sense of how far they were from home, and in ...

The Art of Self-Defeat

Noël Annan, 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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... in the Observer uninfluenced by current styles. Not for him the Leavisite mixture of innuendo and self-righteousness intended to convict writers of holding improper thoughts. He always spoke with respect for others and considered their dignity when he disagreed with them. It is true that whatever ideology had him in its grasp at any given time he followed ...

Self-Disclosing Days

Jenny Turner, 23 April 1992

Holograms of Fear 
by Slavenka Drakulic, translated by Ellen Elias-Barsaic and Slavenka Drakulic.
Hutchinson, 184 pp., £13.99, January 1992, 0 09 174994 8
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Revolution From Within 
by Gloria Steinem.
Bloomsbury, 377 pp., £14.99, January 1992, 0 7475 1006 7
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How we survived Communism and even laughed 
by Slavenka Drakulic.
Hutchinson, 193 pp., £15.99, January 1992, 0 09 174925 5
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... it is in fact, as is sadly the convention with all too many ‘literary’ novels these days, a self-regarding show-tour of the fascinatingly sensitive inside of its author’s own head. But women in general, and feminists in particular, are meant not only to love this sort of stuff, but to find it personally and politically useful. And this presumably is ...

Academic Self-Interest

Sheldon Rothblatt, 19 January 1984

From Clergyman to Don: The Rise of the Academic Profession in 19th-Century Oxford 
by A.J. Engel.
Oxford, 302 pp., £22.50, February 1983, 0 19 822606 3
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... an end in itself. The word that sums up this transformation is ‘professionalism’, not the self-employed but the institutional model of professionalism. The subject is much written about these days. Studies have appeared on the theory of professionalism and on specific professions like law, medicine, engineering and accounting and on such academic ...

Self-Deceptions of Empire

David Bromwich: Reinhold Niebuhr, 23 October 2008

The Irony of American History 
by Reinhold Niebuhr.
Chicago, 174 pp., £8.50, June 2008, 978 0 226 58398 3
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... of nations. It is a lament for the fall of man. The projection of the generous instincts of self-sacrifice from the individual to a collective object is a psychological jump that contributes a new and unnecessary evil to the life of society – unnecessary because it goes beyond the minimum necessary evils of regulation, coercion and punishment. The ...

Symptoms of Self-Regard

N.V. Rampant, 5 December 1985

... As she lies there naked on the only hot Day in a ruined August reading Hugo Williams, She looks up at the window-cleaner Who has hesitantly appeared. Wishing that he were Hugo Williams She luxuriates provocatively, Her fantasy protected by the glass Or so she thinks. Would that this abrasive oaf Were Hugo Williams, she muses – Imagining the poet in a black Armani Bomber jacket from Miami Vice, His lips pursed to kiss ...

Self-Made Man

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Edith Wharton’s Domestic Arrangements, 5 April 2007

Edith Wharton 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 853 pp., £25, February 2007, 978 0 7011 6665 6
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... classics’. Both the impressive range of Wharton’s later reading and her lifelong habits of self-education evidently had their origins here. Characteristically, the arrangement of domestic architecture doubles in her telling as an architecture of the self: ‘there was in me a secret retreat where I wished no one to ...

Self-Made Aristocrats

Adam Phillips: The Wittgensteins and Their Money, 4 December 2008

The House of Wittgenstein: A Family at War 
by Alexander Waugh.
Bloomsbury, 366 pp., £20, September 2008, 978 0 7475 9185 6
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... their older sisters. It is, at least in Waugh’s version, a story of the astounding success of a self-made industrialist in Austria in the second half of the 19th century whose family fortune came to grief when the Nazis discovered that the Wittgensteins had Jewish ancestors and so, by the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, were suddenly liable to have their ...

Self-Portrait at Three Degrees

Jorie Graham, 3 December 2015

... Teasing out the possible linkages I – no you – who noticed – if the world – no – the world if – take plankton – I feel I cannot love any more – take plankton – that love is reserved for an other kind of existence – take plankton – that such an existence is a form of porn now – no – what am I saying – take plankton – it is the most important plant on earth – think love – composes at least half the biosphere’s entire primary production – love this – love what – I am saying you have no choice – that’s more than all the land plants on the whole planet put together – blooms so large they can be photographed from space – everything living – take it – here you take it, I can’t hold it anymore – you don’t want it – I don’t care – you carry it for now – I need to catch my breath – I want to lie here and listen – within fifty years if we are lucky – I am writing this in 2015 – like spraying weedkiller over all the world’s vegetation – that’s our raw material, our inventory, right now, we are going through the forms of worship, we call it news, we will make ourselves customers, we won’t wait, how fast can we be delivered – will get that information to you – requires further study – look that’s where the river used to be – one morning I woke up and I was born – I realised I was born – earth was the place to be – hurtling winding unwinding thick nexus looking up at sky down at soil will I learn how to stand on it – I will – I am standing, look, I am a growth possibility, will accumulate a backlog, will become an informed consumer→shapeless unspendable future→this was my song to you→ I stood for the first time on my own→unimaginable strength in these feet, these hands→what am I supposed to not harm→I want to touch things till they break→that is how to see them→all the points of contact→entropy, diminishment, pressing and then pulling back and looking, leaving alone→unimaginable→a meaning in every step→I change shape→it is allowed→wind proves everything wrong→so nothing is unimagined→press too far and there you have it→dream→shape of certainty→wide forces gathering in the sunlight→thought→feel this it is serenity→this is completeness→something darted into the bush→no forcing just curve flight gathering terror unfinality clumps of feel/think then tree-swallows bursting up out of the tree they were not leaves after all the field of rules not visible but suddenness its own rule→surprise ...

One’s Self-Washed Drawers

Rosemary Hill: Ida John, 29 June 2017

The Good Bohemian: The Letters of Ida John 
edited by Rebecca John and Michael Holroyd.
Bloomsbury, 352 pp., £25, May 2017, 978 1 4088 7362 5
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... it be lovely to be free … just be a beautiful mind growing from outward impressions. I think self-consciousness is like gin – it stops the growth.’ Beyond the warm world of female confidences growth was inhibited in other ways. Edna Waugh had been spotted at the age of 14 by a friend of her father, a barrister called William Clarke Hall, who urged ...

Most losers are self-made men

Theo Tait: Richard Ford, 5 July 2012

by Richard Ford.
Bloomsbury, 420 pp., £18.99, June 2012, 978 0 7475 9860 2
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... misunderstanding become his life. One of Ford’s attractions, in a literary culture contorted by self-consciousness and irony, is his directness: ‘My name is Frank Bascombe. I am a sportswriter,’ begins the first of his famous trilogy of novels: The Sportswriter (1986), Independence Day (1995) and The Lay of the Land (2006). Bascombe is a narrator who ...

Self-Portrait: May I Touch You

Jorie Graham, 3 March 2016

...                                                                           here. May I touch your                                                                           name. Your                                                                           capital ...
Accidentally, on Purpose: The Making of a Personal Injury Underworld in America 
by Ken Dornstein.
Macmillan, 452 pp., £19.50, December 1996, 9780333674574
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... their eyes with belladonna and, finally, inducing unconsciousness with sleeping powders’. Other self-mutilators have been known to scald their bodies with hot towels then rasp bricks across the sensitised skin; lacerate their gums so that they can spit blood; inject mineral oil into a joint to give the appearance of a badly swollen sprain; eat soap to ...

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