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The Sense of the Self

Galen Strawson, 18 April 1996

... conclusions of extreme generality on this sort of question, that I expect my remarks about the self to apply, if true, to human beings generally. When it comes to the sense of the self, the difference between those who can’t sleep and those who can may be more important than any cultural differences. By the ‘sense of ...

Self-Positioning

Stefan Collini: The Movement, 25 June 2009

The Movement Reconsidered: Essays on Larkin, Amis, Gunn, Davie and Their Contemporaries 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 336 pp., £18.99, May 2009, 978 0 19 955825 4
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... fallen,’ Raine comments, ‘for the propaganda – Larkin’s bluff, insular, faux-xenophobic self-caricature.’ Compound terms using ‘self-’ often raise questions about agency and responsibility. When we speak of ‘self-criticism’ or ‘...

The Labile Self

Marina Warner: Dressing Up, 5 January 2012

Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe 
by Ulinka Rublack.
Oxford, 354 pp., £30, October 2011, 978 0 19 929874 7
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... of clothing funny but important, seeming trifles that can reveal serious matters about society and self: ‘mode’ in the sense of custom and process (le mode) is thoroughly entangled with ‘mode’ in the sense of fashion (la mode, a term that entered German, she tells us, in mid-century). Every ribbon signals identity; every padded this or that proclaims ...

Self-Amused

Adam Phillips: Isaiah Berlin, 23 July 2009

Isaiah Berlin, Enlightening: Letters 1946-60 
edited by Henry Hardy and Jennifer Holmes.
Chatto, 844 pp., £35, June 2009, 978 0 7011 7889 5
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... as specks in the distance & that I was alone in my distinguished detachment. Noticing, in his self-amused way, that he was behaving rather oddly, both inside the plane and when he got out, Berlin was baffled by the choices he’d made. An interest in the costs of choice-making, in the losses that every decision involved, was one of the things that ...

Self-Extinction

Russell Davies, 18 June 1981

Short Lives 
by Katinka Matson.
Picador, 366 pp., £2.50, February 1981, 9780330262194
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... There is nothing very mysterious about the interest we take in self-destructive personalities. To be callous about it – and we are all callous when it comes to disasters relived on the printed page – their lives make excellent biographies. Not only do they suffer in a dramatic way: they do it more purposefully than the rest of us, with our dull sense of un-satisfactoriness, can manage ...

Self-Hugging

Andrew O’Hagan: A Paean to Boswell, 5 October 2000

Boswell's Presumptuous Task 
by Adam Sisman.
Hamish Hamilton, 352 pp., £17.99, November 2000, 0 241 13637 7
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James Boswell’s ‘Life of Johnson’: Research Edition: Vol. II 
edited by Bruce Redford and Elizabeth Goldring.
Edinburgh, 303 pp., £50, February 2000, 0 7486 0606 8
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Samuel Johnson: The Life of an Author 
by Lawrence Lipking.
Harvard, 372 pp., £11.50, March 2000, 0 674 00198 2
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Dr Johnson's London 
by Liza Picard.
Weidenfeld, 362 pp., £20, July 2000, 0 297 84218 8
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... though generally in a good’, and he was, for the greater part of his life, a great engine of self-admiration, as well as a copious begetter of admiration in other people. Yet none that loved him could easily match the love of James Boswell, who puttered along for many years, joyously, drunkenly, boisterously, earnestly, with his love of Dr Johnson both a ...

Self-Effacers

John Lanchester, 24 May 1990

Chicago Loop 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 183 pp., £12.99, April 1990, 0 241 12949 4
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Lies of Silence 
by Brian Moore.
Bloomsbury, 194 pp., £12.99, April 1990, 0 7475 0610 8
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Amongst Women 
by John McGahern.
Faber, 184 pp., £12.99, May 1990, 0 571 14284 2
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The Condition of Ice 
by Christopher Burns.
Secker, 170 pp., £12.95, April 1990, 0 436 19989 0
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... brilliance on our attention, the four novelists here under review would be clustered towards the self-effacing side of the spectrum, with colleagues such as Burgess, Nabokov and Amis fils huddling together for warmth at the far end. Paul Theroux’s last novel, My Secret History, deployed a cool transparency of style to great effect in telling a story which ...

Self-Management

Seamus Perry: Southey’s Genius for Repression, 26 January 2006

Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793-1810 
edited by Lynda Pratt, Tim Fulford and Daniel Sanjiv Roberts.
Pickering & Chatto, 2624 pp., £450, May 2004, 1 85196 731 1
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... developing. For Southey, it was more like a suit of armour or an exoskeleton. His gift for self-suppression was amazing, in part no doubt because he had been forced to perfect it so early. His first years were spent in the stuffy house of an aunt, a hygiene fetishist whose childcare regime consisted mostly of enforcing long periods of inaction so as to ...

Self-Hatred

Gabriele Annan, 5 November 1992

Death in Rome 
by Wolfgang Koeppen, translated by Michael Hofmann.
Hamish Hamilton, 192 pp., £9.99, November 1992, 9780241132388
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... But if the translation is an act of love, the novel itself is an expression of hatred – German self-hatred, which, Thomas Mann said, ‘goes to the point of self-disgust and self-abomination.’ The blurb tells us that the four chief characters in the novel represent the four elements ...

Help-Self

Jenny Diski: Alastair Campbell’s Dodgy Novel, 6 November 2008

All in the Mind 
by Alastair Campbell.
Hutchinson, 297 pp., £17.99, November 2008, 978 0 09 192578 9
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... in your past.’ He’s also a bit of a philosopher: ‘He believed that humility was the key to self-respect and mutual respect.’ And he’s a ‘skilful and profound observer of human nature’ who ‘always tried hard to imagine how his patients felt’. He works in a hospital, where only the most difficult cases are referred to him, but also takes on ...

Self-Slaughters

Stephen Wall, 12 March 1992

Ever After 
by Graham Swift.
Picador, 261 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 330 32331 8
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... versus not being naturally comes up, although whether the Almighty has fixed his canon against self-slaughter doesn’t seem to worry him unduly. Questions of divine intention do, however, trouble Unwin’s Mid-Victorian ancestor Matthew Pearce, whose papers have come down to him; he is supposed to be editing them. These documents are the source for the ...

Self-Contained

Tessa Hadley: Richler’s happy families, 3 February 2005

Feed My Dear Dogs 
by Emma Richler.
Fourth Estate, 502 pp., £17.99, January 2005, 0 00 718985 0
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... is ice hockey, a second home by a lake, and French spoken. The cultural life of a family may be so self-contained and self-referential that it can be transplanted into another continent and the difference will scarcely show. The five Weiss siblings, three boys and two girls, are bright, witty, full of promise. The precise ...

Self-Illuminated

Gilberto Perez: Godard’s Method, 1 April 2004

Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at 70 
by Colin MacCabe.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, November 2003, 0 7475 6318 7
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... expression and was to proclaim la politique des auteurs, he was declaring in favour of the self-effacing author. And he was himself to become the least self-effacing of film-makers. In a medium that makes things visible but keeps the director invisible behind the camera – auteur criticism was invented to bring the ...

Against Self-Criticism

Adam Phillips, 5 March 2015

... a Freudian point of view, Christ’s story about love was a cover story, a repression of and a self-cure for ambivalence. In Freud’s vision we are, above all, ambivalent animals: wherever we hate we love, wherever we love we hate. If someone can satisfy us, they can frustrate us; and if someone can frustrate us we always believe they can satisfy us. And ...

Self-Portrait

August Kleinzahler, 6 February 1997

... It was a lost dream, a bridges and heights and headed home dream, but too long, far too long and mazey and all the wrong tone. And then there was that station, so massive, with its tiers, platforms, girders and steps, trains rushing through on the express track, filled to bursting, commuters illuminated, each face vivid, highlighted – is that you? – exasperation, fatigue, concern at the time ...

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