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Get the placentas

Gavin Francis: ‘The Life Project’, 2 June 2016

The Life Project: The Extraordinary Story of Our Ordinary Lives 
by Helen Pearson.
Allen Lane, 399 pp., £20, February 2016, 978 1 84614 826 2
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... a member of her entourage to ‘talk to this gentleman’, then pushed on to give her speech. Helen Pearson makes no judgment as to whether splashing Margaret Thatcher with coffee helped Butler to get his funding. She does tell us that he spent his evenings writing begging letters to the worthies listed in Who’s Who, and that he managed to get ...

Trees are complicated

Maureen N. McLane: H.D. casts a spell, 2 February 2023

by H.D..
New Directions, 281 pp., £14.99, November 2022, 978 0 8112 2209 9
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Winged Words: The Life and Work of the Poet H.D. 
by Donna Krolik Hollenberg.
Michigan, 360 pp., £68, June 2022, 978 0 472 13301 7
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... and most significantly, her late long work, Helen in Egypt (1961) – a psychomachia and revisionary epic taking up Stesichoros’ poem from the sixth century BCe, in which a blameless Helen goes not with Paris to Troy but to Egypt to wait out the war. Part of H.D.’s ...

Dream On

Katha Pollitt: Bringing up Babies, 11 September 2003

I Don't Know How She Does It 
by Allison Pearson.
Vintage, 256 pp., £6.99, May 2003, 0 09 942838 5
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A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother 
by Rachel Cusk.
Fourth Estate, 224 pp., £6.99, July 2002, 1 84115 487 3
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The Truth about Babies: From A-Z 
by Ian Sansom.
Granta, 352 pp., £6.99, June 2003, 1 86207 575 1
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What Are Children For? 
by Laurie Taylor and Matthew Taylor.
Short Books, 141 pp., £6.99, January 2003, 1 904095 25 9
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The Commercialisation of Intimate Life 
by Arlie Russell Hochschild.
California, 313 pp., £32.95, May 2003, 0 520 21487 0
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... fantasy. Although both books began life as newspaper columns, it would be unfair to call Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It a working-mother version of Bridget Jones’s Diary. Pearson is a more literary writer than Helen Fielding (and almost as funny). On the other ...

No False Modesty

Rosemary Hill: Edith Sitwell, 20 October 2011

Edith Sitwell: Avant-Garde Poet, English Genius 
by Richard Greene.
Virago, 532 pp., £25, March 2011, 978 1 86049 967 8
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... the desperate daring of her escape to London, where, with the help of a beloved governess, Helen Rootham, she took a flat in Pembridge Mansions, Bayswater. Here she and Rootham lived on a grudging and uncertain allowance from Sir George, plus what they could earn. Thereafter, Sitwell was always short of money and as each generation passed she was left ...

Fallen Women

Patricia Highsmith, 21 June 1984

‘Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son’: The Story of Peter Sutcliffe 
by Gordon Burn.
Heinemann, 272 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 0 434 09827 2
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... pretty. She and her twin had recently taken to streetwalking to pick up some money. One of them, Helen Rytka, would be what the Police reckoned was the Ripper’s seventh victim. By then prostitutes had been advised to work in pairs. The Rytka sisters had instead agreed to check with each other every twenty minutes somewhere on the street. Peter’s often ...

Little Philadelphias

Ange Mlinko: Imagism, 25 March 2010

The Verse Revolutionaries: Ezra Pound, H.D. and the Imagists 
by Helen Carr.
Cape, 982 pp., £30, May 2009, 978 0 224 04030 3
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... and ‘blessed’. The bombastic birth of Vorticism occurs more than 600 pages into Helen Carr’s Verse Revolutionaries, a ‘group biography’ which chiefly follows Ezra Pound and the Imagists during the period that inspired Virginia Woolf’s famous aperçu, ‘On or about December 1910, human character changed.’ But by the time we get to ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland, 11 July 1991

The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... that she was anything but subordinate or in thrall to them: ‘she was a close friend of Karl Pearson [and] Havelock Ellis, with whom she discussed, in person and in a vast correspondence, ideas on women’s sexual and spiritual needs and their position in a socialist state.’ It sounds very cerebral. Phyllis Grosskurth suggests something more carnal in ...

What the Romans did

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 5 February 1987

English Classical Scholarship: Historical Reflections on Bentley, Porson and Housman 
by C.O. Brink.
James Clark, 243 pp., £11.95, February 1986, 0 227 67872 9
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Latin Poets and Roman Life 
by Jasper Griffin.
Duckworth, 226 pp., £24, January 1986, 0 7156 1970 5
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The Mirror of Myth: Classical Themes and Variations 
by Jasper Griffin.
Faber, 144 pp., £15, February 1986, 0 571 13805 5
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... of Trinity, practised critical scholarship in his commentary on Marcus Aurelius, and John Pearson, an eminent theologian, who was successively Master of Jesus, Master of Trinity and Bishop of Chester, displayed it in brilliant emendations of the text of Aeschylus. In 1662 Richard Bentley, one of the greatest critical scholars, was born near ...

Roaming the Greenwood

Colm Tóibín: A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition by Gregory Woods, 21 January 1999

A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition 
by Gregory Woods.
Yale, 448 pp., £24.95, February 1998, 0 300 07201 5
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... Mine be thy love, and thy love’s use their treasure. In The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Helen Vendler points out that ‘the individual letters of the word “h-e-w-s” (the Quarto spelling) or “h-u-e-s” [are] in as many lines as possible’ in Sonnet 20. She also notes the ‘unique case’ of feminine rhymes throughout the sonnet. Woods ...

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