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The Essays of Virginia Woolf reviewed by Claire Harman TLS

The Essays of Virginia Woolf reviewed by Claire Harman TLS

Real, Live Practice Babies Once upon a time, infants were quietly removed from orphanages and delivered to the home economics programs at elite U.S. colleges, where young women were eager to learn the science of mothering. These infants became “practice babies,” living in “practice apartments,” where a gaggle of young “practice mothers” took turns caring for them. After a year or two of such rearing, the babies would be returned to orphanages, where they apparently were in great demand; adoptive parents were eager to take home an infant that had been cared for with the latest “scientific” childcare methods. This scenario is the premise of The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald. The lovely novel, which I had the delight to read over my holiday vacation, charts the life of Henry, a orphan who started his life as a practice baby at a women’s college. But the “practice baby” idea is more than just a fictional device–it is, bizarrely enough, a historical fact.

The artists who crossed the line - News, Art The two men are part of Voina, a radical art collective that has infuriated the Russian authorities with a series of increasingly audacious stunts, and whose jailing has caused concern in Russia about a return to a Soviet-style censorship of the arts. Over the past three years, the group's installations and performances have included organising the mock execution of migrant workers in a Moscow supermarket, an impromptu expletive-filled punk rock performance in a courtroom, throwing live cats at McDonald's cashiers and painting an enormous penis on a bridge in St Petersburg. The group first came to prominence in February 2008, two days before the carefully choreographed elections that brought President Dmitry Medvedev to power. About 12 activists, one of whom was a pregnant woman, entered the Biology Museum and staged an orgy. Soon, the stunts became bigger and harder to ignore.

Edouard Levé’s ‘Suicide’ and Edouard Levé’s Suicide It would be an interesting experiment to sit someone down in a chair and present them with a copy of Edouard Levé’s Suicide from which front and back covers, promotional blurb, author bio, translator’s afterword and other such paratextual trimmings had all been removed. Such a reader, blinkered against the novel’s context, might well find it a strange and unnerving and hypnotic read, but it would, in an important sense, be a very different experience to the one that awaits every other person who picks up Levé’s final work. Ten days after he submitted the manuscript of Suicide to his editor at the age of 42, the author killed himself. And this fact, which is presented to us on the back cover (and also, naturally enough, in everything that has since been written about the book), isn’t something we can choose not to take with us into the fiction. During his life, Levé was best known in his native France as an artist and conceptual photographer. What became of her?

Against Reviews The office of a reviewer is, in a republic of letters, as beneficial and necessary, though as odious and unpleasant, as that of an executioner in a civil state. —Editorial in the Monthly Anthology, 1807 Before the “general audience” ascended to power, aristocratic benefactors ruled the art world. For centuries, authors subsisted outside the open market. Why I am asking Boris Johnson to marry me It was certainly my belief for most of my adult life that I had received a world-class education by virtue of attending university. Over the course of my time studying at three universities and teaching at three more, that has often seemed, indeed, to be the point of the exercise. My mother in particular was very supportive of my education. A working-class woman she had been denied one, though not through lack of brains, as anyone foolish enough to pick an argument with her rosy-cheeked, now septuagenarian self could attest, at least onwards from the moment when their ego stops haemorrhaging.

The Future This is an oracle like any other oracle, like the I Ching or astrology or Tarot cards - a technique for divining your future. The only real difference is that those are very old methods and this one is very new. But there was a first day for Tarot cards too, and the best friend of the person who invented them felt just like you do, suuuuper skeptical. (Especially since the Tarot card inventor kept saying things like “Oh, that card's not quite done yet” and “I'm gonna change that part”.)

Emily Dickinson, Erotic Grief Counselor Most people know that Emily Dickinson was a great poet, but it takes a deep plunge into her collected poems to realize just how staggeringly great she was. Usually represented in classrooms by a handful of brilliant but overfamiliar lyrics (“ Because I could not stop for Death ,” “ There’s a certain Slant of light ,” etc.), she in fact wrote hundreds of poems of comparable quality, most of them within the span of just three or four years. During the years 1861–64 she produced, on average, a poem every two days, turning out masterpieces the way some people turn out diary entries. This output is as much a neurological mystery as a literary feat, and I think it deserves an anniversary celebration. One hundred and fifty years ago, Emily Dickinson caught fire, and no poet—not even Rimbaud a decade later or Rilke in 1922 or Plath in the autumn before suicide—has reached quite the same degree of “ White Heat ” since.

Women Should Pay More for Health Care The Obama Administration is about to spend $684 million on a public relations and enrollment campaign to persuade young, uninsured Americans to buy government-approved Obamacare plans. In order to be successful, it needs to persuade young men in particular to enroll, but Obamacare requires insurers to charge men the same for their premiums as women in 2014. This attempt at fairness is anything but. If fairness were really the guiding principle, it would be quite simple: women would pay more for health insurance because women consume more health care. First, let’s address the obvious. Women carry and deliver babies.

from "The Times Literary Supplement" by blakelylaw Aug 7