Monthly Archives: November 2012

Other problems with the press

When the French philosopher Jacques Derrida said everything was language and therefore ‘there is no outside the text’ he was only stating the obvious: that politics and society are so highly encoded that what we exchange every day are signs, … Continue reading

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Sex and Mary McCarthy

Mary McCarthy’s 1963 bestseller The Group is a minutely detailed and unflinching study of eight girls just out of America’s then top women’s college, Vassar.  They’re about to embark on romance, sex, work. The novel shows where those first forays into … Continue reading

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Philosophers’ Lives

Philosopher-biographer Ray Monk last week told The Guardian that “Some philosophers are scornful of the notion that the life can help us understand the work. Wittgenstein had a notion of understanding as seeing connections rather than building a theory. When you understand … Continue reading

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Brave New World and a Suicide

Aldous Huxley’s 1932 classic Brave New World is a satire on a world that has banished tragedy. A totalitarian state has imposed ‘social stability’ on an England with a mixture of relaxing drugs, somatic stimuli and official Voices cajoling and … Continue reading

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A Conference on the Russian Avant-Garde

The actual topic of a conference at London’s Courtauld Institute 2-3 November, 2012, was Russian Culture in Exile (1921-1953) but we found ourselves talking about poets, painters and critics mostly in their formative years before the Bolshevik Revolution: big names … Continue reading

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A Modernist Woman

Alexander Archipenko (1887-1964) is for me the artist who invented Modernist Woman. This fabulous image is taken from his sketchbooks c.1920. What’s the difference between a modern woman and a Modernist woman? See the protagonist of my novel Anyone’s Game. … Continue reading

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A Russian Madame Bovary in Scotland?

Any woman novelist who writes about adultery has to hate Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. The French writer’s novel of 1859 is a masterpiece of nineteenth-century realism, but its attitude to ‘the fallen woman’ as used to be said is contemptuous. Lydia … Continue reading

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