‘The Mirror and the Light’

Colin Burrow, 19 March 2020

At moments Mantel might have heeded the words addressed by her Wyatt to Cromwell: ‘Be careful . . . You are on the brink of explaining yourself.’

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On Lawrence Joseph

Michael Hofmann, 19 March 2020

If​ it answers to now, if it’s sufficiently fearless and adaptable and capacious, why not write the same poem again and again – in couplets, in slabs, in measured stanzas, in irregular...

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Buchan’s Banter

Christopher Tayler, 20 February 2020

Between​ the wars, the journalist Richard Usborne recalled in 1953, there was a feeling that John Buchan was good for you. ‘If not exactly the author set for homework, Buchan was certainly...

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Fiction and the Age of Lies

Colin Burrow, 20 February 2020

If you believe the Ngram viewer, the phrase ‘damned lies’ has passed its peak, and ‘lying politician’ was far more commonly used in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods than...

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Rereading Bowen

Tessa Hadley, 20 February 2020

Her prose was sophisticated, her references depended on all kinds of knowledge I didn’t have: this writing was not addressed to me, but over my head. Who were these people and what did they want,...

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‘American Dirt’

Christian Lorentzen, 20 February 2020

One of the more ludicrous aspects of the affair involved some photographs, circulated by Jeanine Cummins on social media, of a prelaunch promotional dinner during last summer’s BookExpo Conference...

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William Gibson

Thomas Jones, 20 February 2020

‘Souls can’t move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.’ Whether or not you like Gibson’s novels will depend less on your enthusiasm...

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Leanne Shapton

Namara Smith, 6 February 2020

My​ mother used to tell a story she heard in the Peace Corps in the 1970s. An American couple somewhere in the South Pacific decided to swim across a narrow but deep channel where tiger sharks...

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‘Your Duck Is My Duck’

Christian Lorentzen, 6 February 2020

Deborah Eisenberg​ spent the summer of 1963 at a school for labour organisers and civil rights activists in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. She was 17. ‘It was a proudly Klan...

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Walter Pater

Elizabeth Prettejohn, 6 February 2020

Few authors​ of such historical importance have so high a proportion of their writings forgotten or neglected as Walter Pater. I used to think his essays on ancient sculpture the least studied...

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On Paul Muldoon

Clair Wills, 6 February 2020

Paul​ Muldoon enjoys leading his reader astray. On that the critics agree. I have been looking back at reviews of his work over the years. It is remarkable how often people quote from an early...

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C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill, 23 January 2020

In​ 2000 Christopher Sansom took a year off from his job as a solicitor to write a novel: it had occurred to him that the dissolution of the monasteries might make a good backdrop to a murder...

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Ghosts

Michael Wood, 2 January 2020

‘What is​ a ghost?’ Stephen Dedalus asks in Ulysses, and promptly answers his own question. ‘One who has faded into impalpability through death, through absence, through change...

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Deborah Levy

Lidija Haas, 2 January 2020

The​ world according to Deborah Levy is like an emotionally charged dream or joke. A man accepts soup from an elderly neighbour and retches, catlike, on a mouthful of grey hair. People walk...

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Short Cuts: ‘Little Women’ Redux

Joanna Biggs, 2 January 2020

I envy girls their literature. There’s no literature about getting old, staying in (or leaving) a marriage, raising (or not raising) children comparable with that about growing up.

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'The Pillow Book'

Rivka Galchen, 2 January 2020

The​ Pillow Book was written in Japan more than a thousand years ago. Little is known about its author, Sei Shonagon, save for what can be deduced from the text itself. In 993, when she was in...

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Helen Phillips

Adam Mars-Jones, 2 January 2020

Helen​ Phillips’s disconcerting new novel starts on a note of thrillerish urgency. Molly, at home alone with her small children, hears footsteps in the other room. She clasps them to her,...

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John Williams Made it Work

Christopher Tayler, 9 December 2019

He didn’t remake the world in prose again. He tinkered with a couple of abortive projects, but mostly he enjoyed Nancy’s company, grew tomatoes and drank.

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