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Susannah Clapp, 1 October 1981

Edwardian Childhoods 
by Thea Thompson.
Routledge, 232 pp., £9.75, February 1981, 0 7100 0676 4
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... their details are of the pinafore-and-button-boot variety. Annie Wilson, ninth child of Enoch and Elizabeth (‘Father should have more consideration,’ her sisters used to grumble), tells of bread from the Board of Guardians and second-hand shoes, of guiding her father’s hand to sign a letter asking for work, of a mother who was ‘a beautiful ...

A House Full of No One

Colm Tóibín, 6 February 1997

Heaven’s Coast: A Memoir 
by Mark Doty.
Cape, 305 pp., £16.99, October 1996, 0 224 04390 0
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Atlantis 
by Mark Doty.
Cape, 95 pp., £7, July 1996, 0 224 04400 1
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This Wild Darkness: The Story of My Death 
by Harold Brodkey.
Fourth Estate, 177 pp., £14.99, November 1996, 1 85702 546 6
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PWA: Looking Aids in the Face 
by Oscar Moore.
Picador, 185 pp., £6.99, November 1996, 0 330 35193 1
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... Now, with the appearance of Heaven’s Coast: A Memoir, we know that Doty’s boyfriend Wally Roberts was dying slowly from Aids when these poems were being written. Doty also kept a diary during that time, some of which he quotes in the memoir. Heaven’s Coast deals with each change in Wally’s illness; the book is a charting of the mixture of the ...

Creases and Flecks

Laura Quinney: Mark Doty, 3 October 2002

Still Life with Oysters and Lemon 
by Mark Doty.
Beacon, 72 pp., $11, January 2002, 0 8070 6609 5
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Source 
by Mark Doty.
Cape, 69 pp., £8, April 2002, 9780224062282
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... description more generally. Sometimes Doty describes a work of art (Murano glass, a watercolour by Elizabeth Bishop), sometimes an ordinary object (a second-hand kimono, a crab shell), sometimes a part of the natural world (beaches, horses, dogs), sometimes a man-made scene (gardens, harbours, Times Square). He recognises how fond of description he is, and ...

Diary

John Sutherland: My Grandmother the Thief, 21 August 2003

... handsome, unlike the California-lite architecture of the depressing mall that surrounds it. The Roberts Report of 1959 and the subsequent Library and Museums Act promised ‘an efficient and comprehensive’ service to every British citizen. Colchester’s new public library rose to the challenge magnificently (i.e. better than Chelmsford ...

Dummy and Biffy

Noël Annan, 17 October 1985

Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community 
by Christopher Andrew.
Heinemann, 616 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 02110 5
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The Secret Generation 
by John Gardner.
Heinemann, 453 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 434 28250 2
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Two Thyrds 
by Bertie Denham.
Ross Anderson Publications, 292 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 86360 006 9
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The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany 1933-1939 
by Wesley Wark.
Tauris, 304 pp., £19.50, October 1985, 1 85043 014 4
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... man. For him Philby and Co are the modern equivalents of heroic Jesuit priests plotting against Elizabeth. In Le Carré’s world the dingy agents of the KGB and MI6 are interchangeable. Who can forget A.J.P. Taylor’s jibe that no spy ever told his masters anything of value they could not have gleaned from the press? Or Malcolm Muggeridge’s chronicles ...

Little Havens of Intimacy

Linda Colley: Margaret Thatcher, 7 September 2000

Margaret Thatcher. Vol. I: The Grocer’s Daughter 
by John Campbell.
Cape, 512 pp., £25, May 2000, 0 224 04097 9
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... Joseph, one of Thatcher’s closest Party allies, in the early 1970s. (One is reminded of the film Elizabeth, and of its heroine’s no less momentous and politically charged declaration: ‘I have become a Virgin.’) Joseph’s remark, Thatcher writes in her memoirs, acted on her as a revelation and a summons to action. The Conservative Party and ...

Audrey and Her Sisters

Wayne Koestenbaum, 18 September 1997

Audrey Hepburn 
by Barry Paris.
Weidenfeld, 454 pp., £20, February 1997, 0 297 81728 0
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... including Colette, Edith Head, Deborah Kerr, Leslie Caron, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, Marni Nixon, Julie Andrews, Mia Farrow, Jeanne Moreau, Merle Oberon, Capucine and Cher. I could advance a lesbian interpretation of Audrey Hepburn’s oeuvre, though that is not my present aim: instead, I wish to inquire into reverberations ...

Use Use Use

Robert Baird: Robert Duncan’s Dream, 24 October 2013

Robert Duncan: The Ambassador from Venus 
by Lisa Jarnot.
California, 509 pp., £27.95, August 2013, 978 0 520 23416 1
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... agree – but it’s become less plausible to rank Duncan’s work with that of Frank O’Hara, Elizabeth Bishop or the Roberts Lowell and Creeley, all of whom were born within a decade of him. I don’t imagine that even his most enthusiastic supporters would put his influence anywhere near that of John Ashbery, who ...

When Bitcoin Grows Up

John Lanchester: What is Money?, 21 April 2016

... money, the English five or ten or twenty quid note. On one side we have a famous dead person: Elizabeth Fry or Charles Darwin or Adam Smith, depending on whether it’s a five or ten or twenty. On the other we have a picture of the queen, and just above that the words ‘I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of’, and then the value of the ...

Men in Love

Paul Delany, 3 September 1987

Women in Love 
by D.H. Lawrence, edited by David Farmer, Lindeth Vasey and John Worthen.
Cambridge, 633 pp., £40, May 1987, 0 521 23565 0
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The Letters of D.H. Lawrence: Vol. IV, 1921-24 
edited by Warren Roberts, James Boulton and Elizabeth Mansfield.
Cambridge, 627 pp., £35, May 1987, 0 521 23113 2
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... Lawrence’s maxim ‘we shed our sicknesses in books’ is usually applied to Sons and Lovers, where he disposed of his nearly fatal over-attachment to his mother. But Women in Love is a cathartic novel too, though here the sickness is less easy to cure. The sickness itself is obvious enough: it is misanthropy, a continuous rage at almost everyone around ...

Histories of Australia

Stuart Macintyre, 28 September 1989

The Oxford History of Autralia. Vol III: 1860-1900 
by Beverley Kingston.
Oxford, 368 pp., £22.50, July 1989, 0 19 554611 3
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The Road from Coorain: An Australian Memoir 
by Jill Ker Conway.
Heinemann, 238 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 434 14244 1
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A Secret Country 
by John Pilger.
Cape, 286 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 224 02600 3
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Convict Workers: Reinterpreting Australia’s Past 
edited by Stephen Nicholas.
Cambridge, 246 pp., $45, June 1989, 0 521 36126 5
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... then, still convalescent from illness, only because of an aberrant desire to meet the young Queen Elizabeth during her tour of the Antipodes in 1954. She charmed him. Stricken by remorse for a lifetime of stiffnecked pride, he dragged himself again from his sickbed on the following Sunday to seek forgiveness at the nearest church. He died from a stroke within ...

The Grey Boneyard of Fifties England

Iain Sinclair, 22 August 1996

A Perfect Execution 
by Tim Binding.
Picador, 344 pp., £15.99, May 1996, 0 330 34564 8
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... insist that his character is called ‘Ethel’ not ‘Edith’), nods at the police killer Harry Roberts in his Epping Forest hide, as well as contriving a transatlantic shipboard conclusion in homage to Dr Crippen. In all this, in the texture and soul of his work, Binding is remorselessly, unforgivingly English. These fictions achieve and sustain the dream ...

From Lying to Leering

Rebecca Solnit: Penis Power, 19 January 2017

... liberation over the last 160 years in the US. By that measure Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells, Rosa Parks, Bella Abzug, Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, Malcolm X, Del Martin and Harvey Milk were just lowly practitioners of identity politics, which we’ve been told to get over. Shortly after the election ...

The Only Alphabet

August Kleinzahler: Ashbery’s Early Life, 21 September 2017

The Songs We Know Best: John Ashbery’s Early Life 
by Karin Roffman.
Farrar, Straus, 316 pp., £25.50, June 2017, 978 0 374 29384 0
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... five stanzas, ending with a cleverly ironic twist. His aunt Jane sent the poem to her cousin Elizabeth Sherwood Rinehart, who passed it to her mother-in-law, Mary Roberts Rinehart, a popular mystery writer. Ashbery was told his poem had received ‘great acclaim’. Having thus conquered the realm of poetry, for the ...

As Many Pairs of Shoes as She Likes

Jenny Turner: On Feminism, 15 December 2011

... with the less privileged sisters. And yet, the strange thing is how often they haven’t: Elizabeth Cady Stanton opposed votes for freedmen; Betty Friedan made the epoch-defining suggestion that middle-class American women should dump the housework on ‘full-time help’. There are so many examples of this sort that it would be funny if it weren’t ...

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