When the smoke clears
Times Literary Supplement » Literature
by simonwnewsuk1902
1w ago
Thirty years after her intense relationship with the poet H. D. had ended, Frances Gregg wrote: “The only conversation with Hilda that I remember with almost verbatim vividness was on the subject of woolen combinations”. Conversations dominate HERmione, the autobiographical lesbian novel that H. D. wrote in the 1920s, creating an impression of hallucinatory “vividness”. (The book was published posthumously in 1981 and has recently been reissued by New Directions.) The twentysomething Hermione – standing in for the author herself – peers dazedly at things and people as they warp, chatter and di ..read more
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When Irish eyes were smiling
Times Literary Supplement » Literature
by simonwnewsuk1902
1w ago
Mary Kenny is a veteran journalist and columnist in Ireland and the UK. As a young firebrand she worked in Fleet Street and in the early 1970s was a founder member of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement. The blurb for The Way We Were: Catholic Ireland since 1922 promises a work filled with “astute reminiscing” about Ireland over the past century. What the book contains is more of the “nostalgic tour” of the author’s own experience also promised on the dust jacket, followed by a dozen leisurely profiles of a miscellaneous group of prominent people. Kenny could certainly claim to have played h ..read more
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Escaping mother church
Times Literary Supplement » Literature
by simonwnewsuk1902
1w ago
As a novelist, memoirist, literary critic and social commentator, Colm Tóibín has always had plenty to get his teeth into; and in his new collection of essays, A Guest at the Feast (the vast majority of which first appeared in the London Review of Books), he tackles a number of selected topics with his customary bite and aplomb. The bite is severe when it comes to Ireland’s illiberal attitudes, say, or the convolutions of clerical self-justification; and aplomb is well in force in matters of personal reflection or apprehension. The first essay, for example, attaches a jokey title to an article ..read more
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People like us
Times Literary Supplement » Literature
by simonwnewsuk1902
1w ago
The unnamed narrator of Jonathan Dee’s Sugar Street rocks up in an insalubrious district of an unnamed American town with nothing but a large quantity of ill-gotten cash for company, having jettisoned his mobile phone and identification documents. He rents cheap lodgings from a mercurial alcoholic called Autumn, who treats him with casual disdain but seems to like having him around, and proceeds to familiarize himself with his new surroundings. The built environment is a blend of “brutalist structures that will never come down, houses that look like they might come down if you blew too hard on ..read more
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Sleepwalk to disaster
Times Literary Supplement » Literature
by simonwnewsuk1902
1w ago
Pol is, in many ways, unique. For one thing his name is short for Polonius. For another he is an authority on the voluminous writings (“nearly a thousand folios”) of an (entirely fictional) seventeenth-century prophet of ecological apocalypse, Bartholomew Playfere. Even more unique is the (similarly fictional) hormonal disorder from which he suffers, which ages him in fitful bursts: at thirteen he suddenly ages ten years; at thirty-four, he leaps again, and looks like an old man. Accordingly, he has a very particular outlook on life, or, as he terms it: “My Unique Vantage Point”. For all this ..read more
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Trapped in the dark tunnel
Times Literary Supplement » Literature
by simonwnewsuk1902
1w ago
It has been more than twenty years since Michael Bracewell last published a novel. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he produced half a dozen strange and stylish chronicles of the glamorous and the glamorized: transfixed by beauty, money, romantic salvation, some maddening idea of a higher life. This century he has been better known as an art and cultural critic, and has written an acclaimed group biography of Roxy Music (Re-Make/Re-Model, 2007), along with studies of visual artists including Gilbert & George (2017) and Richard Hamilton (2021). Last year came Souvenir (2021), a slim elegy ..read more
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Mystery and the macabre
Times Literary Supplement » Literature
by simonwnewsuk1902
2w ago
Patrick McGuinness’s two-volume anthology of short stories includes a nudist with the chameleon-like ability to blend into his surroundings, a pharaoh’s daughter who wants to be reunited with a severed foot that’s being used as a paperweight, a psychotic hot-air-balloon saboteur and a were-orangutan. The Penguin Book of French Short Stories leans into a strangeness absent from the way French literature is usually presented – as cerebral and philosophical, made up of the works of a culture and people that pride themselves on their thinking. Writing in French has often been portrayed as the summ ..read more
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No safety in greatness
Times Literary Supplement » Literature
by simonwnewsuk1902
2w ago
The history of Cairo is, to a great degree, the history of its destruction. Throughout antiquity and the Middle Ages, Egypt’s rulers often preferred to abandon or tear down the cities their predecessors built, leaving behind only a few sparse monuments to a far-reaching past. In recent years, the Egyptian author Reem Bassiouney has made a name for herself with a series of popular historical novels that bring sweeping and vivid life to this story. Having already written about the late-nineteenth-century and Mamluk eras of Cairo – the two periods that have done the most to define the city before ..read more
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‘Damsels’ and ‘fellows’
Times Literary Supplement » Literature
by simonwnewsuk1902
2w ago
In 1775 Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, issued a proclamation: any slave who fought for Britain in the revolutionary war would be freed. The proclamation was a double-edged sword. Somewhere between 800 and 2,000 slaves cleaved to the promise, but when Dunmore was forced from Virginia a year later, he left many behind to face the wrath of the colonists. In the Upper Country, Kai Thomas’s debut novel, is set in 1859 in Dunmore, Canada, a community of men and women presumably named for the governor, who have escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad. Despite the relative security ..read more
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Pre-Raphaelite Wombat Séance
Times Literary Supplement » Literature
by simonwnewsuk1902
2w ago
“Into this complex world came Top and so did Lizzie’s dead body.” — John Simons, Rossetti’s Wombat: Pre-Raphaelites and Australian animals in Victorian London Into the tent, downpour-driven, a caravan of kangaroos, armadillos, peacocks. The air churned with devils.             Our letters a litany, a blizzard. L was entirely lost to us. There came a stifled scratching tapping as from one buried alive. Gabriel turned zinc-white.             The uncoffining. They cut his words free but he is not free. A finch or ..read more
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