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Hermione Lee: Katherine Anne Porter, 12 February 2009

Collected Stories and Other Writings 
by Katherine Anne Porter, edited by Darlene Harbour Unrue.
Library of America, 1039 pp., $40, October 2008, 978 1 59853 029 2
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... other people’s memory of the past, at which she had spent her life peering in wonder like a child at a magic lantern show. Ah, but there is my own life to come yet, she thought, my own life now and beyond. In the next ‘Miranda’ story, set in 1918 during the flu epidemic (in which Porter herself nearly died), home still haunts her dreams: ‘Too ...

No Cleaning, No Cooking

Richard Beck: Nell Zink, 16 July 2015

‘The Wallcreeper’ and ‘Mislaid’ 
by Nell Zink.
Fourth Estate, 168 pp. and 288 pp., £20, June 2015, 978 0 00 813960 5
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... private in-state college with ambitions of becoming a playwright. She sleeps with and then marries Lee, a poetry professor. The main thing Peggy and Lee have in common is that they are gay, which doesn’t make for a terrific marriage. But at least Lee can enjoy the benefits that accrue to ...


Andrew O’Hagan, 14 December 1995

Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 791 pp., £25, September 1995, 0 316 87620 8
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... usual anything but slow on the uptake, knew they might tell us something we needed to know about Lee Harvey Oswald, perhaps the most mysterious and most tragic American figure in the age of Schiller. If the gods of reason were attentive, it would make sense for him to be reunited with his sparring partner and sometime mate, Norman Mailer. Surely, if he was ...

I like you

Hermione Lee: Boston Marriage, 24 May 2007

Between Women: Friendship, Desire and Marriage in Victorian England 
by Sharon Marcus.
Princeton, 356 pp., £12.95, March 2007, 978 0 691 12835 1
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... her resistance to desire for or friendship with women; Pip in Great Expectations is the feminised child or doll in the cruel triad of Estella/Pip/Miss Havisham; and Trollope (punitively described as complacent, conservative and antifeminist) is seen to make an exception to his general attitude, under the influence of his feminist friend Kate Field, in Can You ...


Lee Gillette: In Brussels, 7 January 2016

... that … we have a mum … we have a family … and that despite everything he remains her child. ‘He’ was his fugitive brother, Salah. It was riveting. It appeared unscripted, and earnest. The reporters for the most part refrained from filling those ponderous silences that were as much a part of what he said as the words. The question Belgium’s ...

How to be a wife

Colm Tóibín: The Discretion of Jackie Kennedy, 6 June 2002

Janet & Jackie: The Story of a Mother and Her Daughter, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis 
by Jan Pottker.
St Martin’s, 381 pp., $24.95, October 2001, 0 312 26607 3
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Mrs Kennedy: The Missing History of the Kennedy Years 
by Barbara Leaming.
Weidenfeld, 389 pp., £20, October 2001, 0 297 64333 9
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... and feared and needed the approval of her snobbish, dull, shrieking and ambitious mother Janet Lee Bouvier as much as Maisie loathed and feared and needed her mother; she flirted with her father, who drank and spent money and flirted in turn with anyone who came his way. Her parents made no secret of their disastrous marriage and the great gap between her ...


Julia Bryan-Wilson: Rosie Lee Tompkins, 17 December 2020

... Rosie Lee Tompkins​ , born Effie Mae Martin in Gould, Arkansas in 1936, grew up picking cotton alongside her fourteen siblings and half-siblings. As was common for a child of rural sharecroppers, her formal schooling was limited, but Tompkins learned to sew by making bedcoverings with her mother, scrapping together any available pieces of cloth ...


Janet Todd, 21 December 1989

Willa Cather: A Life Saved Up 
by Hermione Lee.
Virago, 409 pp., £12.99, October 1989, 0 86068 661 2
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... she set her 17th-century novel: Shadows on the Rock rather sentimentally describes, through a child protagonist, the gracious, admired culture of the past. Now in her sixties, Cather was monumental in character and achievement, rocklike to many, stern, undoubting, assured, severe and undemocratic. To some – especially to those she patronised – she ...


James Wood, 8 December 1994

Shadow Dance 
by Angela Carter.
Virago, 182 pp., £9.99, September 1994, 1 85381 840 2
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Flesh and the Mirror: Essays on the Art of Angela Carter 
edited by Lorna Sage.
Virago, 358 pp., £8.99, September 1994, 1 85381 760 0
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... cannot help itself. When Fevvers, the Victorian Cockney aerialist and performer, discovers as a child that she has wings, she is told: ‘Oh my little one, I think you must be the pure child of the century that just now is waiting in the wings, the New Age in which no women will be bound to the ground.’ The source of ...

In His Pink Negligée

Colm Tóibín: The Ruthless Truman Capote, 21 April 2005

The Complete Stories 
by Truman Capote.
Random House, 400 pp., $24.95, September 2004, 0 679 64310 9
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Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote 
edited by Gerald Clarke.
Random House, 487 pp., $27.95, September 2004, 0 375 50133 9
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... He announced to David Selznick that ‘a delightful book’ called To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was ‘going to be a great success’. He himself, he wrote, was the model for the character Dill, being a childhood friend of the author’s. The first letter in Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote sets the tone. The date is not ...

Nobody Liked Her

Lee Palmer Wandel: Witchcraft Trials, 3 December 2009

The Last Witch of Langenburg: Murder in a German Village 
by Thomas Robisheaux.
Norton, 427 pp., £18.99, March 2009, 978 0 393 06551 0
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... she was a resident of a small village, peaceably married, and had given birth to her second child a month before. She was still housebound, according to custom, but had seemed healthy that day to those who were with her: her sister, her husband and a friend. Thus, a visit she received, though not unusual, later came to seem significant. Towards ...

Even if I married a whole harem of women I’d still act like a bachelor

Elaine Showalter: Isaac Bashevis Singer, 17 September 1998

Shadows on the Hudson 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated by Joseph Sherman.
Hamish Hamilton, 560 pp., £16.99, June 1998, 0 241 13940 6
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Isaac Bashevis Singer: A Life 
by Janice Hadda.
Oxford, 254 pp., £22.50, February 1998, 0 19 508420 9
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... various disorderly responses to the savagery of life’. But then another New York Times reviewer, Lee Siegel, called it a ‘chaotic, rambling, repetitive and parochial’ book in a ‘plodding translation’ – a ‘shapeless lump’ compared to Singer’s best stories, which are ‘hard diamonds of perfection’. Reviewers have also speculated about ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Flirtation, Seduction and Betrayal, 5 September 2002

... wit: Those two sketches . . . both seemed dreadful to me – the most vicious of all forms of child worship enshrined in slovenly language of the most emetic sentimentality . . . followed by a lot of painstaking but washy verse masquerading as poetry . . . I felt I wanted a whole page adv. in the next issue explaining that I have nothing whatever to do ...

Bustin’ up the Chiffarobe

Alex Abramovich: Paul Beatty, 7 January 2016

The Sellout 
by Paul Beatty.
Farrar, Straus, 288 pp., £17, March 2015, 978 0 374 26050 7
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... member of the Little Rascals, becomes the sellout’s slave. (The Little Rascals were the child stars of Hal Roach’s Our Gang comedy shorts in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.) ‘Massa,’ Hominy says, ‘sometimes we just have to accept who we are and act accordingly. I’m a slave. That’s who I am. It’s the role I was born to play. A slave who ...

On Nicholas Moore

Peter Howarth: Nicholas Moore, 24 September 2015

... chocolate biscuits, Moore fell sick himself, and would spend long periods in hospital. His other child was taken into care; Moore was eventually diagnosed with diabetes, which would later require his leg to be amputated. When he began to write again Larkin-loving editors wouldn’t touch his poetry: his only publication after 1950 had been a botanical ...

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