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Hari Kunzru, 22 May 1997

Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House 
by Matthew Collin and John Godfrey.
Serpent’s Tail, 314 pp., £18.99, April 1997, 1 85242 377 3
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Disco Biscuits 
edited by Jane Champion.
Sceptre, 300 pp., £6.99, February 1997, 0 340 68265 5
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... Ecstasy’ is a brand name. According to tradition, the tag first became attached to the drug MDMA (3-4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine) some time in the early Eighties, when it moved out of the American psychotherapeutic community, in which it had circulated for over a decade, and into wider use as a recreational drug. The street-dealers needed something punchy, and with its connotations of sexual abandon, the word ‘ecstasy’ propelled the drug into mass use, international prohibition and ultimately a social significance only matched, in the pharmaceutical stakes, by the flowering of an LSD culture during the Sixties ...


Jane Holland: My Snooker Career, 6 February 1997

... to get a place in the top ten. The first time I played Allison Fisher, now seven-times world champion, I was heavily pregnant with my second child. My feet were aching, and she suggested I slip my shoes off for the rest of the match. It was in the early rounds, and none of the referees seemed to notice, so barefoot and pregnant I played the World ...

Can’t hear, speak up!

Joanna Biggs: 'I'm a narcissist and so is Ben Lerner', 5 December 2019

The Topeka School 
by Ben Lerner.
Granta, 304 pp., £16.99, November 2019, 978 1 78378 572 8
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... that novel and The Topeka School, Lerner the writer – born in Topeka, school debating champion, graduate of Brown, Fulbright fellow in Madrid, now poet and novelist, resident in Brooklyn and married with two girls – has received a Guggenheim fellowship and a MacArthur ‘genius’ grant; when early copies of The Topeka School arrived in London ...

History’s Revenges

Peter Clarke, 5 March 1981

The Illustrated Dictionary of British History 
edited by Arthur Marwick.
Thames and Hudson, 319 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 500 25072 3
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Who’s Who in Modern History, 1860-1980 
by Alan Palmer.
Weidenfeld, 332 pp., £8.50, October 1980, 0 297 77642 8
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... VIII, 2nd s of Henry VII, qv, S 1509: m 1st, Catherine of Aragon; 2nd, Anne Boleyn; 3rd, Jane Seymour; 4th, Anne of Cleves; 5th, Catherine Howard; 6th, Catherine Parr etc). The authors have made their own compromise, which, as the price of retaining connected prose, offers a highly selective summary of salient events. It is instructive to observe how ...

Adulation or Eggs

Susan Eilenberg: At home with the Carlyles, 7 October 2004

Thomas and Jane Carlyle: Portrait of a Marriage 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Pimlico, 560 pp., £15, February 2003, 0 7126 6634 6
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... Reminiscences, a hundred years since Alexander Carlyle’s New Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle, Froude’s posthumous My Relations with Carlyle, and Alexander Carlyle and Sir James Crichton-Browne’s The Nemesis of Froude. Everyone has long since taken sides, if not with the tactless first biographer or with the vindictive and ...

From a Novel in Progress

James Wood, 9 May 2002

... Editor of the Times was responsible for my first denial. I was living in London with my wife, Jane Sheridan, and things were not going well. At University College, where I was teaching philosophy, I had become one of those figures whom students romanticise and sometimes pity. I didn’t have the proper qualifications, and the classes I gave were printed ...

She’s a tiger-cat!

Miranda Seymour: Birds’ claw omelettes with Vernon Lee, 22 January 2004

Vernon Lee: A Literary Biography 
by Vineta Colby.
Virginia, 387 pp., £32.50, May 2003, 0 8139 2158 9
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... rewarding than Fielding (largely on moral grounds), Maria Edgeworth to write more enjoyably than Jane Austen, Villette to be superior to Jane Eyre, and a certain Mrs Jenkin to be a finer writer by far, in the realistic mode, than George Eliot. (Mrs Jenkin was a close friend of the Ruffinis.) At 15, Vernon Lee was already ...

Aversion Theory

Lord Goodman, 20 May 1982

Clinging to the Wreckage 
by John Mortimer.
Weidenfeld, 200 pp., £8.50, March 1982, 0 297 78010 7
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... Lawrence or Ernest Hemingway as conventional, but what about Thomas Hardy or Anthony Trollope or Jane Austen or Charles Dickens or John Galsworthy? And, in particular, what about John Mortimer? He would, I think, indignantly deny the suggestion, but although he espouses unconventional causes he represents the essential upper-middle-class Englishman, pursuing ...

At Tate Britain

Rosemary Hill: Aubrey Beardsley, 24 September 2020

... art matured at hectic speed. Its roots were among the Pre-Raphaelites. Burne-Jones was an early champion and the dishevelled androgynous figure in Withered Spring, a drawing of 1891, has the heavy, sensuous eyes and mouth of Jane Morris. A year later, in Incipit Vita Nova, they had gone. An impassive female head with ...

Costume Codes

David Trotter, 12 January 1995

Rebel Women: Feminism, Modernism and the Edwardian Novel 
by Jane Eldridge Miller.
Virago, 241 pp., £15.99, October 1994, 1 85381 830 5
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... sentence’ that Woolf thought Dorothy Richardson had evolved and literary feminism. Jane Eldridge Miller’s wide-ranging and perceptive study of Edwardian fiction by and about women is at its formidable best when most conclusively laying this view to rest. Miller stops short of Radclyffe Hall, but her aim is to define the tradition in which ...

Being splendid

Stephen Wall, 3 March 1988

Civil to Strangers 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 388 pp., £11.95, October 1987, 0 333 39128 4
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The Pleasure of Miss Pym 
by Charles Burkhart.
Texas, 120 pp., $17.95, July 1987, 0 292 76496 0
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The World of Barbara Pym 
by Janice Rossen.
Macmillan, 193 pp., £27.50, November 1987, 0 333 42372 0
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The Life and Work of Barbara Pym 
edited by Dale Salwak.
Macmillan, 210 pp., £27.50, April 1987, 0 333 40831 4
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... individual novels are preferred or not on idiosyncratic bases. John Halperin, for instance, offers Jane and Prudence as ‘arguably Pym’s best novel’ because it illustrates most powerfully his theme: her treatment of the war between the sexes. It ‘depicts women as the victims of men, of their selfishness and brutality’. Mary ...

Each of us is a snowball

Susannah Clapp: Squares are best, 22 October 2020

Square Haunting 
by Francesca Wade.
Faber, 422 pp., £20, January, 978 0 571 33065 2
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... In the end, alongside HD, Sayers and Woolf, Wade decided to concentrate on the classicist Jane Harrison and the historian Eileen Power.Woolf is the most obvious motor for Square Haunting. The title tips its hat to ‘Street Haunting’, her essay about a London meander. Its premise – the difficulty and importance for women of securing what was then ...

At Dulwich

Emily LaBarge: Helen Frankenthaler, 16 December 2021

... later that he and Noland immediately began ‘staining’ in their own work. (Greenberg went on to champion them as leading colour field painters, without ever mentioning Frankenthaler; his policy, he said, with former lovers.) Frankenthaler continued to paint in this mode for more than six decades, and to diverse ends: spare works with vast stretches of ...

Culture and Sincerity

Graham Hough, 6 May 1982

... within the bounds of a settled and limited society. The same interest pervades his essays on Jane Austen, where he passes lightly over the wit, the satirical edge, the structural elegance of her works, to celebrate them as the vehicles of insight and practical morality. Again, he is not in the least troubled by the confinement of their social ...

Bourgeois Reveries

Julian Bell: Farmer Eliot, 3 February 2011

Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper 
by Alexandra Harris.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £19.95, October 2010, 978 0 500 25171 3
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... And so the poet as farmer (‘or’ – in Harris’s brisk stepping back – ‘at least as a champion of agriculture’) was in touch with the rural revivalists. Rolf Gardiner at Springhead in Dorset was trying to ‘rebuild a hill-and-vale economy along modern organic lines’, at once reducing local unemployment and staging work camps where the ...

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