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One word says to its mate

Claire Harman: W.S. Graham, 4 October 2001

The Nightfisherman: Selected Letters of W.S. Graham 
edited by Michael Snow and Margaret Snow.
Carcanet, 401 pp., £12.95, November 1999, 1 85754 445 5
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... sizable audience. The Nightfisherman, a selection of Graham’s letters by his friends Michael and Margaret Snow, with 19 poems, photographs, drawings and his essay ‘Notes on a Poetry of Release’, is the most useful and revealing book on the poet yet published and sets out the clearest record of his life. Graham was born into a blue-collar family in ...

Not everybody cries

Christopher Tayler: Tash Aw, 29 August 2013

Five Star Billionaire 
by Tash Aw.
Fourth Estate, 437 pp., £18.99, February 2013, 978 0 00 749415 6
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... Spies, a German primitivist who tried to do for Bali what Gauguin did for Tahiti. His visitors are Margaret, a precocious 15-year-old whose parents are American anthropologists, and Karl, a Dutch artist she’s decided she’s in love with. Margaret, who has only recently been deriding Bali’s European painters as ignorant ...

Two Poems

Robert VanderMolen, 1 December 2005

... writes to his friend – Like everyone else who writes to friends in these parts, Trees, brush and snow, only something like a cardinal Shows any spunk, as in a Xmas card opened in Florida Or San Diego. The dirty green tufts at peaks of white pine Complete it. Sipping soup or poking through a catalogue Imagination is at its low-watermark, though it shouldn’t ...

Two Poems

Ruth Padel, 4 January 2007

... ridge-trails; wolf-shadows where cedars flush in dawn’s first light under first winter snow. You’ve betrayed all this to our enemies, the Greeks. (Euripides, Trojan Women, 1060-70) I was on his boat. As we left we saw a deranged old man, a fire-eater. Our shorn hills behind the charred wall-stumps like black figs fallen, quivered through the ...

Royal Classic Knitwear

Margaret Anne Doody: Iris and Laura, 5 October 2000

The Blind Assassin 
by Margaret Atwood.
Bloomsbury, 521 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 0 7475 4937 0
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... Margaret Atwood’s tenth novel is both familiar and new. As it is an Atwood novel, we get eggs, a ravine, shit, snow, an ethereal double or sisterly doppelgänger, a bridge, a river, an act of violence – images and themes from her earlier fiction metamorphosed. The Blind Assassin also possesses the unusual lyrical sensuousness that distinguished Alias Grace (1996), Atwood’s last major work ...

The Ramsey Effect

Kieran Setiya, 18 February 2021

Frank Ramsey: A Sheer Excess of Powers 
by Cheryl Misak.
Oxford, 500 pp., £25, February 2020, 978 0 19 875535 7
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... book is not the first to tell the story of his life: an unfinished memoir by his younger sister, Margaret Paul, was published in 2012, but it was missing a crucial chapter – about Wittgenstein’s return to Cambridge in 1929 – and wasn’t especially good on the philosophy. Misak, a philosopher at the University of Toronto, draws on extensive archival ...

The Symbol

Virginia Woolf, 20 June 1985

... There was​ a little dent on the top of the mountain like a crater on the moon. It was filled with snow, iridescent like a pigeon’s breast, or dead white. There was a scurry of dry particles now and again, covering nothing. It was too high for breathing flesh or fur-covered life. All the same the snow was iridescent one moment; and blood red; and pure white, according to the day ...

How to be a queen

David Carpenter: She-Wolves, 15 December 2011

She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England before Elizabeth 
by Helen Castor.
Faber, 474 pp., £9.99, July 2011, 978 0 571 23706 7
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... of France, who, with her lover, Roger Mortimer, deposed and murdered her husband, Edward II; and Margaret of Anjou, who, given that her husband, Henry VI, was incapable, demanded to rule as regent and then fought tenaciously for the succession of her son. Conventionally, these women would all be classified as ‘medieval’: Matilda and Eleanor from the 12th ...

Mother One, Mother Two

Jeremy Harding: A memoir, 31 March 2005

... me with the machinery of my investigation and informed me of the name of my natural mother – Margaret Walsh – which my adoptive mother had only ever hazarded or garbled. But after a few days in the Family Records Centre in London, it was clear that there’d be work to do: the number of Margaret Walshes qualifying as ...


Gillian Bennett: Self-impersonation, 3 November 2005

The Woman who Pretended to Be who She Was: Myths of Self-Impersonation 
by Wendy Doniger.
Oxford, 272 pp., £17.99, January 2005, 0 19 516016 9
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... mirror it can be clearly seen where we always knew it was, behind us. It is the mirror that outs Snow White: when the wicked queen ceases to be ‘the fairest of them all’ it is obliged to tell her so, and the countdown to disaster and a happy ending begins. Many of the films Doniger discusses involve double or triple masking, and often it is a mirror or ...

Were I a cloud

Patricia Beer, 28 January 1993

Robert Bridges: A Biography 
by Catherine Phillips.
Oxford, 363 pp., £25, August 1992, 0 19 212251 7
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... His son Edward fought in the thick of the First World War and was badly wounded. His daughter Margaret died agonisingly of tubercular meningitis. His house burnt down. His wife Monica, a woman of spirit and intelligence, was physically delicate and the constant prey of such serious illnesses that Bridges often stayed at her bedside for weeks at a ...

Like the trees on Primrose Hill

Samuel Hynes, 2 March 1989

Louis MacNeice: A Study 
by Edna Longley.
Faber, 178 pp., £4.95, August 1988, 0 571 13748 2
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Louis MacNeice: Selected Poems 
edited by Michael Longley.
Faber, 160 pp., £4.95, August 1988, 0 571 15270 8
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A Scatter of Memories 
by Margaret Gardiner.
Free Association, 280 pp., £15.95, November 1988, 1 85343 043 9
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... of rain or the crackling of a newly lit fire or the jokes of a street-hawker or the silence of snow in moonlight or the purring of a powerful car. This is a catalogue of the sensory pleasures that any Londoner might know (and note how carefully all five of the senses are brought into it). But it is also an act of self-definition, MacNeice claiming a role ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The films of Carol Reed, 19 October 2006

Odd Man Out 
directed by Carol Reed.
September 2006
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... police cars, dark shapes behind torches and headlights, advance slowly through the thickly falling snow towards Johnny and Kathleen, is a kind of diagram of a world without charity in this sense, or a picture of the death of charity. ‘I know no other film image,’ Dai Vaughan says in his BFI Classics book on Odd Man Out, ‘which conveys such utter ...

The chair she sat on

J.I.M. Stewart, 19 July 1984

Secrets of a Woman’s Heart: The Later Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett 1920-1969 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hodder, 336 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 340 26241 9
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... novels. The Cambridge dons in Pastors and Masters are distinctly unlike those conjured up by C.P. Snow; and the young Lambs, Staces, Clares and Sullivans wouldn’t readily hit it off with the Swallows, Amazons and Coots. In her novels this sort of realism has been virtually scrapped in the interest of perceptions and compulsions which are at once highly ...


Patrick Parrinder, 7 July 1988

Forty Stories 
by Donald Barthelme.
Secker, 256 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 436 03424 7
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Tiny Lies 
by Kate Pullinger.
Cape, 174 pp., £9.95, April 1988, 0 224 02560 0
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Ellen Foster 
by Kaye Gibbons.
Cape, 146 pp., £9.95, May 1988, 0 224 02529 5
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After the War 
by Frederick Raphael.
Collins, 528 pp., £11.95, April 1988, 0 00 223352 5
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... the War: at more than five hundred pages it aspires to the status of a grand social saga à la Margaret Drabble or C.P. Snow. Michael Jordan, sensitive and Jewish, has his first introduction to English mores at a boarding-school evacuated to the coast of North Devon. After the war he grows up to become a successful TV ...

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