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Tocqueville in Saginaw

Alan Ryan, 2 March 1989

Tocqueville: A Biography 
by André Jardin, translated by Lydia Davis and Robert Hemenway.
Peter Halban, 550 pp., £18, October 1988, 1 870015 13 4
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... When Americans test the health of their republic, scrutinise the civic virtue of their fellow citizens, or worry that religion is playing too large or too small a role in public life, the text from which they draw their standards of political health and psychological well-being, and the text from which they draw their hopes and fears is a one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old treatise written by a French aristocrat of 30 who had spent barely nine months in the country ...

Poor Rose

Christian Lorentzen: Against Alice Munro, 6 June 2013

Dear Life 
by Alice Munro.
Chatto, 319 pp., £18.99, November 2012, 978 0 7011 8784 2
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... might have proved useful to a writer churning over material she’s used before, as in the case of Lydia Davis. I started to think of reading Munro’s sentences as something like walking across a field after a blizzard in a good pair of snowshoes: it’s a trudge, but when you get to the other side your feet aren’t wet. A new turn comes with Friend of ...

Stifled Truth

Wyatt Mason: Tobias Wolff and fictions of the self, 5 February 2004

Old School 
by Tobias Wolff.
Bloomsbury, 195 pp., £12.99, February 2004, 0 7475 6948 7
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... Sorrentino, Ronald Sukenick and Paul West, as well as their heirs, such as T. Coraghessan Boyle, Lydia Davis, Rick Moody, William Vollmann and David Foster Wallace. None of these writers – however popular or influential, however frequently their writing appeared in the Paris Review or Conjunctions or the year-end Best American and Pushcart anthologies ...

Even My Hair Feels Drunk

Adam Mars-Jones: Joy Williams, 2 February 2017

The Visiting Privilege 
by Joy Williams.
Tuskar Rock, 490 pp., £16.99, November 2016, 978 1 78125 746 3
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Ninety-Nine Stories of God 
by Joy Williams.
Tin House, 220 pp., £16.95, July 2016, 978 1 941040 35 5
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... wholeness. Williams prefers a sense of fracture and ambush. There’s no sense, as there is with Lydia Davis, whose taste for brevity amounts almost to obsession, that there is a moral hygiene involved in removing the superfluous, except perhaps in the piece numbered 61, which might almost be a homage to Davis; it ...

The Adulteress Wife

Toril Moi: Beauvoir Misrepresented, 11 February 2010

The Second Sex 
by Simone de Beauvoir and Constance Borde, translated by Sheila Malovany-Chevallier.
Cape, 822 pp., £30, November 2009, 978 0 224 07859 7
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... multi-volume study of Flaubert, The Family Idiot, and of Beauvoir’s America Day by Day; Lydia Davis, a translator of Proust; or Richard Sieburth, translator of Leiris, Michaux and Nerval. Instead, the publishers chose Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier, two Americans who have lived in Paris since the 1960s and worked as English ...

Crabby, Prickly, Bitter, Harsh

Michael Wood: Tolstoy’s Malice, 22 May 2008

War and Peace 
by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
Vintage, 1273 pp., £20, November 2007, 978 0 09 951223 3
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... with the Center for Writers and Translators in Paris (other volumes in the series are pieces by Lydia Davis and Alan Jenkins and a forthcoming work by Paul Muldoon). One of Pevear’s test cases is a sentence in which Tolstoy repeats a phrase with apparent (or indeed perhaps real) carelessness: ‘Nine days after the abandoning of Moscow, a messenger ...

Skipwith and Anktill

David Wootton: Tudor Microhistory, 10 August 2000

Travesties and Transgressions in Tudor and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Oxford, 351 pp., £25, November 1999, 0 19 820781 6
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A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the Second Earl of Castlehaven 
by Cynthia Herrup.
Oxford, 216 pp., £18.99, December 1999, 0 19 512518 5
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... microhistory, a word coined by Italians, but used to describe above all the work of Natalie Zemon Davis (The Return of Martin Guerre, 1983) and Robert Darnton (The Great Cat Massacre, 1984). Microhistorians have turned to the verbatim records of interrogations kept in the law courts of early modern Europe (or at least those parts of Europe where Roman law ...

They were less depressed in the Middle Ages

John Bossy: Suicide, 11 November 1999

Marx on Suicide 
edited by Eric Plaut and Kevin Anderson, translated by Gabrielle Edgcomb.
Northwestern, 152 pp., £11.20, May 1999, 0 8101 1632 4
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Suicide in the Middle Ages, Vol I: The Violent Against Themselves 
by Alexander Murray.
Oxford, 510 pp., £30, January 1999, 0 19 820539 2
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A History of Suicide: Voluntary Death in Western Culture 
by Georges Minois, translated by Lydia Cochrane.
Johns Hopkins, 420 pp., £30, December 1998, 0 8018 5919 0
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... alleged suicides or to the living people connected with them – the source that provided Natalie Davis with rich narrative material for her Fiction in the Archives. There are distinct signs of generosity here. In the case of Michelet le Cavelier, who, like Testard, killed himself by jumping out of a window, this time in the rue de la Ferronnerie in ...

Loitering in the Piazza

Stephen Greenblatt, 27 October 1988

Inheriting Power: The Story of an Exorcist 
by Giovanni Levi, translated by Lydia Cochrane.
Chicago, 209 pp., £21.50, June 1988, 0 226 47417 8
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... The best of these microhistories – Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms and Natalie Zemon Davis’s The Return of Martin Guerre – succeed in making their stories what Kenneth Burke calls ‘representative anecdotes’, reflections of reality that are inevitably selections of reality. The selections work if they manage to convey a sense of both ...

Leg-and-Skirt Management

Anne Hollander: Fascist Fashions, 21 April 2005

Nazi Chic? Fashioning Women in the Third Reich 
by Irene Guenther.
Berg, 499 pp., £17.99, April 2004, 9781859737170
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Fashion under Fascism: Beyond the Black Shirt 
by Eugenia Paulicelli.
Berg, 227 pp., £15.99, February 2004, 1 85973 778 1
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... preferred being attractive in the depraved modern way, like Dietrich and Garbo, or maybe Bette Davis, and dressing, like the rest of the modern world, in imitation of Paris. Folk-dress invoked notions of national purity, meaning no make-up and no permanent waves, no smoking and no cocktails. Some eager Nazi supporters went in for it, but only the very ...

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