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Men are just boys

Marina Warner: Boys’ Play, 6 May 2021

No Boys Play Here: A Story of Shakespeare and My Family’s Missing Men 
by Sally Bayley.
William Collins, 253 pp., £14.99, January, 978 0 00 831888 8
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... In No Boys Play Here, which forms a diptych with Girl with Dove, her unsparing memoir of 2018, Sally Bayley is concerned with ‘boys trying to become men, but also girls playing at being boys’. Dads, uncles, brothers, neighbours – figures of menace and disaster – loom and vanish (‘when I look for the men they are never there’). When they do ...

Villain’s Talk

John Bayley, 17 April 1986

The Fisher King 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 256 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 434 59926 3
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... Leintwardine’s early feminist realist novel I stopped at a chemist, later made into a film as Sally goes shopping. But Beals’s wish to identify figures in the present with more fabulous archetypes in the past, like Henchman’s instinct for meaning in ‘the curious synchronisms and juxtapositions, physical and moral, in which we all from time to time ...


John Bayley, 6 September 1984

The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Vol. V: 1936-1941 
edited by Anne Olivier Bell and Andrew McNeillie.
Chatto, 402 pp., £17.50, June 1984, 0 7012 0566 0
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Deceived with Kindness: A Bloomsbury Childhood 
by Angelica Garnett.
Chatto, 181 pp., £9.95, August 1984, 0 7011 2821 6
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... reacting against. It was against characters in books, which formed a convenient target and Aunt Sally, disguising the fact that what she really repudiated was the imaginative and introspective organisation which produced the character as a work of art. ‘If they didn’t feel a thing why did they go and pretend to?’ asks Rachel in The Voyage Out. Her ...

In the Company of Confreres

Terry Eagleton: ‘Modern British Fiction’, 12 December 2002

On Modern British Fiction 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 328 pp., £14.99, October 2002, 0 19 924932 6
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... with impunity to give away the endings of whodunnits. We are told on page 248 who strangled Sally in James’s Cover Her Face (it wasn’t, of course, the loyal housekeeper), and a page later Priestman coolly lets the murderer of A Certain Justice out of the bag. If this kind of thing catches on, one can imagine the Crime Writers Guild threatening to ...


Theo Tait: Beyond the Barnes persona, 1 September 2005

Arthur & George 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 360 pp., £17.99, July 2005, 0 224 07703 1
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... master of ceremonies, unwilling or unable to prevent himself interrupting the proceedings. As John Bayley put it a few years back, one primary object of a Barnes novel ‘is to dazzle and bemuse the reader throughout with the knowledge and reminder that this is a very clever young person writing a very clever and witty novel’. The most obvious manifestation ...

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