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Consider the Wombat

Katherine Rundell, 11 October 2018

... wombat is no longer common. Overgrazing and the destruction of their natural habitat has caused a sharp drop in their numbers; all species of wombat are now protected, and the northern hairy-nosed wombat is critically endangered. It has sleeker, softer fur than the common variety, and poor eyesight, relying on its large silky nose to guide it to food in the ...

The National Razor

Hilary Mantel: Aux Armes, Citoyennes, 16 July 1998

The Women of Paris and Their French Revolution 
by Dominique Godineau, translated by Katherine Sharp.
California, 415 pp., £45, January 1998, 0 520 06718 5
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... We have seen her at the edge of crowds, dwarfed against public buildings. We have seen her in woodcuts, a naked sabre in her hand, the tricolour cockade pinned to her cap; in drawings, with her wooden clogs and apron, her basket over her arm, her knitting in her hands: click, click, through the debates of the Assembly, in the gallery of the Jacobin Club, and each day at the foot of the scaffold, where the tumbrils bring up their freight of dying flesh ...

Bury that bastard

Nicole Flattery, 5 March 2020

by Anne Enright.
Cape, 264 pp., £16.99, February, 978 1 78733 206 5
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... self-identify as bohemian. All of this is presided over by Norah’s mother, the highly strung Katherine O’Dell, beloved Irish actress of stage and screen. Norah remembers her mother’s dress that evening as ill-fitting and embarrassing: ‘narrow bodice’, ‘fold-over white satin boat neck’, ‘lots of bare skin’. The party is full of ...


Katherine Duncan-Jones: Nocturnal Plastifications, 12 November 1998

... cut some flaps of skin loose on the palm of my right hand while peeling my apple and pear with a sharp knife (yet often I used only a table knife) at breakfast. However, being extremely busy, as October and November advanced, with teaching, lecturing, and writing the introduction to my edition of the Sonnets, I didn’t devote much thought to any of ...

I behave like a fiend

Deborah Friedell: Katherine Mansfield’s Lies, 4 January 2024

All Sorts of Lives: Katherine Mansfield and the Art of Risking Everything 
by Claire Harman.
Vintage, 295 pp., £10.99, January, 978 1 5299 1834 2
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... Virginia Woolf​ wasn’t sure what she felt when she heard that Katherine Mansfield was dead. The cook, ‘in her sensational way’, had broken the news to her at breakfast: ‘Mrs Murry’s dead! It says so in the paper!’At that one feels – what? A shock of relief? – a rival the less? Then confusion at feeling so little – then, gradually, blankness & disappointment; then a depression which I could not rouse myself from all that day ...

On your way, phantom

Colin Burrow: ‘Bring Up the Bodies’, 7 June 2012

Bring Up the Bodies 
by Hilary Mantel.
Fourth Estate, 411 pp., £20, May 2012, 978 0 00 731509 3
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... also of containing too much history.* In it Thomas Cromwell frees Henry VIII from his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, engineers his union with Anne Boleyn by breaking from Rome, and has Thomas More executed. At the end of the book, in the late summer of 1535, Cromwell, the king and his attendants stop off at Wolf Hall in Wiltshire, the home of the blandly ...


D.A.N. Jones, 20 December 1984

Last Ferry to Manly 
by Jill Neville.
Penguin, 165 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 14 007068 0
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Down from the Hill 
by Alan Sillitoe.
Granada, 218 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 246 12517 9
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God Knows 
by Joseph Heller.
Cape, 353 pp., £8.95, November 1984, 0 224 02288 1
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Wilt on High 
by Tom Sharpe.
Secker, 236 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 9780436458118
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... feels like a detective trying to find out what has been going on. There is a dead woman called Katherine Feldmann about whom Lillian feels guilty. It seems that in London Lillian had become something of a literary ‘groupie’. She worked for a publisher who thought Katherine his most promising writer, but Lillian was ...

Young Wystan

Ian Hamilton, 8 September 1994

Juvenilia: Poems 1922-28 
by W.H. Auden, edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Faber, 263 pp., £25, July 1994, 0 571 17140 0
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... about Mother: these subjects are all touched on, or are present, in his early work but without Katherine Bucknell to assist us, we would be hard pressed to locate them, let alone make out a case for their huge personal significance. Auden trained himself as a poet as he might have trained himself to be an engineer. Now and then he worried that he was not ...


Hermione Lee: Katherine Anne Porter, 12 February 2009

Collected Stories and Other Writings 
by Katherine Anne Porter, edited by Darlene Harbour Unrue.
Library of America, 1039 pp., $40, October 2008, 978 1 59853 029 2
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... It is 1912, and Miranda Gay, one of Katherine Anne Porter’s versions of her younger self, is travelling to a family reunion in South Texas, in the country between Austin and San Antonio. She has made a rash early marriage and alienated herself from her family. She talks to an elderly woman cousin on the train, who bursts out: ‘Ah, the family … the whole hideous institution should be wiped from the face of the earth ...

A Man It Would Be Unwise to Cross

Stephen Alford: Thomas Cromwell, 8 November 2018

Thomas Cromwell: A Life 
by Diarmaid MacCulloch.
Allen Lane, 752 pp., £30, September 2018, 978 1 84614 429 5
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... 1530s, the consequences foreseen and unforeseen of Henry’s ‘Great Matter’ – the problem of Katherine of Aragon and the break with the Church of Rome – are all the more shocking because the bonds of social and political solidarity which pushed Cromwell up the ladder of preferment and promotion had once been so resilient. He had no grand plan for ...

At Dulwich Picture Gallery

Peter Campbell: Saul Steinberg’s Playful Modernism, 1 January 2009

... images of America are commentaries in which the fins of an automobile, the needle points of sharp-toed shoes, the armour-like seams of underwear and the tangled words of signage on street fronts build a picture rather as words do in paragraphs by writers he knew: Gaddis, say, or Nabokov or Perelman. Exaggerations – like the grotesque nose and chin ...


C.K. Stead, 7 May 1981

I passed this way 
by Sylvia Ashton-Warner.
Virago, 499 pp., £12, October 1980, 0 86068 160 2
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by Sylvia Ashton-Warner.
Virago, 269 pp., £2.95, October 1980, 0 86068 161 0
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by Sylvia Ashton-Warner.
Virago, 224 pp., £2.95, October 1980, 0 86068 162 9
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... Katherine Mansfield was born in 1888, Sylvia Ashton-Warner in 1908 and Janet Frame in 1924 – three New Zealand women each of whom has achieved some measure of literary fame or reputation outside the country in which she was born. They have in common that they have worked uneasily in (and always breaking out of) the fictional mode ...

Tiff and Dither

Michael Wood, 2 January 1997

Diaries. Vol. I: 1939-60 
by Christopher Isherwood, edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Methuen, 1048 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 413 69680 4
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... Berlin is a skeleton which aches in the cold: it is my own skeleton aching. I feel in my bones the sharp ache of the frost in the girders of the overhead railway, in the ironwork of balconies, in bridges, tramlines, lamp-standards, latrines. The iron throbs and shrinks, the stone and the bricks ache dully, the plaster is numb. And the paragraph after the one ...

Capital W, Capital W

Michael Wood: Women writers, 19 August 1999

Women Writers at Work 
edited by George Plimpton.
Harvill, 381 pp., £9.99, February 1999, 1 86046 586 2
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Just as I Thought 
by Grace Paley.
Virago, 332 pp., £8.99, August 1999, 1 86049 696 2
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... repressed, just allowed to slip beyond the reach of his conscious word-choices. In her very sharp introduction to Women Writers at Work, a collection of Paris Review interviews first published as a volume in 1988, and now expanded and updated to include Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and Susan Sontag, Margaret Atwood remarks that the writers have been ...

No More Baubles

Tom Johnson: Post-Plague Consumption, 22 September 2022

Household Goods and Good Households in Late Medieval London: Consumption and Domesticity after the Plague 
by Katherine L. French.
Pennsylvania, 314 pp., £52, October 2021, 978 0 8122 5305 4
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... their labour power into higher wages, a better quality of life and a mountain of consumer goods? Katherine French provides a new angle on these questions by considering domestic life and material culture in London, as revealed by the abundant evidence in wills. Late medieval Londoners, she argues, had to ‘learn to live with more’. The increase of ...

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