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Stop screaming, Mrs Steiner

Wendy Steiner, 17 December 1992

The American way of Birth 
by Jessica Mitford.
Gollancz, 237 pp., £16.99, October 1992, 0 575 05430 1
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... armchairs and a television. I was alert throughout and ostensibly in control of myself. ‘Mrs Steiner, stop screaming and push,’ the doctor instructed me at one point, and without hesitation I did just that. The event had rather gratifying drama as well, for after I had dutifully walked about the hospital corridors, halting to pant when a pain came ...


Wendy Steiner, 1 June 1989

Real Presences 
by George Steiner.
Faber, 236 pp., £12.99, May 1989, 0 571 14071 8
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... a cultured populace, and consumption gives way to creativity. This is the vision with which George Steiner opens his new meditation, Real Presences. His subtitle – ‘Is there anything in what we say?’ – indicates the motivation for this dream of immanence: the desire to reinstate the belief that meaning resides in the artwork and the need to recover ...

Old-Fashioned Girls

Wendy Steiner, 25 January 1990

Brain Sex: The Real Difference between Men and Women 
by Anne Moir and David Jessel.
Joseph, 228 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 7181 2884 2
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... This must be the first popular attempt in decades to prove that the sexes are inherently unequal. According to the authors of Brain Sex, the male and female brains are differently structured because of the pre-natal activity of genes and hormones, and these produce ‘the real difference’ between men and women. The traditional view of the genders is thus a valid reflection of nature, and all the liberationist adjustments in nurture since the Sixties have done nothing to change matters ...

Here/Not Here

Wendy Steiner, 4 July 1996

... scar. How can the celebrity outsider maintain a sense of his identity, or painterly authority, when he is his own subject-matter and his audience sees that subject-matter as ‘other’, less than ‘us’? Basquiat’s solutions to this dilemma are often brilliant. In the triptych Zydeco (1984), for example, a cinematographer in profile looks through the lens of his movie camera ...


Wendy Steiner: In London, 24 May 1990

... Half an hour to get to the butcher’s and back, an hour to rent my son a clarinet, and 45 minutes to meet my children’s plane at Heathrow. It’s been a month since they went off for the holidays. I have written what I needed to write, the windows and upholstery have been cleaned, and there have been entertainments, epiphanies. By now I find myself looking wistfully at children in the street ...


Wendy Steiner, 28 June 1990

The New Women and the Old Men: Love, Sex and the Women Question 
by Ruth Brandon.
Secker, 294 pp., £16.95, January 1990, 0 436 06722 6
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... There was a time when phrases like ‘sexual politics’, ‘male chauvinism’ and ‘phallogocentrism’ carried a certain paradoxical éclat, yoking, as they do, the private realm of sex with the public realms of politics and language. We have grown so accustomed to the merging of public and private that it is hard to feel the force of such conceits these days, hard to remember that getting married was not always an act of political defiance (or defeat) and having children was not invariably a part of ‘having it all ...

Scholarship and its Affiliations

Wendy Steiner, 30 March 1989

... oeuvre. But one constituency has remained more or less silent about Blunt: the academy. George Steiner’s searching New Yorker essay in 1980 provoked no particular response from art historians and theorists. The British Academy debated Blunt’s expulsion after his exposure, but despite rancorous arguments and the dramatic resignation of ...

‘The most wonderful person I’d ever met’

Wendy Steiner, 28 September 1989

Waverley Place 
by Susan Brownmiller.
Hamish Hamilton, 294 pp., £12.95, August 1989, 0 241 12804 8
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... Joel Steinberg, who maimed his lover Hedda Nussbaum and killed their illegally-adopted daughter Lisa, complained that Lisa was in the habit of staring at him. By the time his murder trial was over, he had been stared at by millions of people, for under a New York State experiment, television cameras were allowed into court to cover the People v. Steinberg ...


Wendy Steiner, 19 October 1995

Gertrude Stein in Words and Pictures 
by Renate Stendhal.
Thames and Hudson, 286 pp., £14.95, March 1995, 0 500 27832 6
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‘Favoured Strangers’: Gertrude Stein and Her Family 
by Linda Wagner-Martin.
Rutgers, 346 pp., $34.95, August 1995, 0 8135 2169 6
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... Gertrude Stein knew how to make herself happy. Sometimes she was heroic, as when she delivered medical supplies to soldiers during the First World War by toddling over enemy lines in an old Ford. And in World War Two, she was honoured by the French Resistance for transmitting information during the Occupation. ‘Gertrude Stein, safe, safe, is safe’, came the press release from liberated Culoz ...

When you die you’ll go to hell

Wendy Steiner, 27 May 1993

Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes 
by Helen Benedict.
Oxford, 309 pp., £22.50, February 1993, 0 19 506680 4
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Reproducing Rape: Domination through Talk in the Courtroom 
by Gregory Matoesian.
Polity, 256 pp., £45, February 1993, 0 7456 1036 6
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... Sticks and stones may break my bones ...’ Like most children, I learned this piece of wisdom with tears streaming down my face, hurt to the quick by the taunts of my playmates. At the time, it seemed a very foolish statement. What was this splitting of hurt into ‘real’ injury and ‘unreal’ feeling? I certainly felt hurt. Recently I learned that there is a second verse: ‘When you die you’ll go to hell, and suffer all you called me ...


Adam Gopnik, 23 May 1996

The Scandal of Pleasure 
by Wendy Steiner.
Chicago, 263 pp., £19.95, January 1996, 0 226 77223 3
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... and the belief that citing a lot of instances is the same thing as covering a lot of ground. Steiner wants to let a hundred flowers bloom in the American academy at a moment when the amateur reader, on the evidence of her own book, may have the feeling that the weeds are taking over the garden. This is a shame, because the points she makes in The Scandal ...

Beauty + Terror

Kevin Kopelson: Robert Mapplethorpe, 30 June 2016

Robert Mapplethorpe: The Archive 
by Frances Terpak and Michelle Brunnick.
Getty Research Institute, 240 pp., £32.50, March 2016, 978 1 60606 470 2
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Robert Mapplethorpe: The Photographs 
by Paul Martineau and Britt Salvesen.
Getty Museum, 340 pp., £40, March 2016, 978 1 60606 469 6
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... in those first powerful experiences with crude images’. He does not say precisely which feeling. Wendy Steiner, in The Scandal of Pleasure (1995), is another such critic; Richard Meyer, in Outlaw Representation (2002), is another. In fact, some critics back then, supportive of Mapplethorpe but unaware of what he’d said, found nothing at all ...


Alan Bennett: Bennett’s Dissection, 1 January 2009

... comes to know it, too, as I’m sure boxing isn’t his thing. 22 January. I’m reading George Steiner’s My Unwritten Books, a series of chapters, some more autobiographical than others, on the books he wishes he’d written. The first section is on the Cambridge scholar and scientist Joseph Needham, microbiologist and expert on China, a man who ...


Andrew O’Hagan: Pukey poetry anthologies, 4 November 2004

Poems to Last a Lifetime 
edited by Daisy Goodwin.
HarperCollins, 308 pp., £18.99, October 2004, 0 00 717707 0
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All the Poems You Need to Say I Do 
edited by Peter Forbes.
Picador, 197 pp., £10, October 2004, 0 330 43388 1
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... introductions? We’re only a step away from the felicities of Patience Strong and Helen Steiner Rice, from verses on greetings cards, words intended for the heart-sore and the nostalgic, words to soothe and lull and never question. And that’s the rub with all this pukey anthologising: a certain kind of poem self-selects, a form of address that ...

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