Category Archives: letters

Francine du Plessix Gray, “Madame de Stael”

This is a physically adorable book: pink, with brown lettering and ornament; modestly sized, discreetly charming…. and apparently the exact opposite of its subject, who was loud, large, and anything but discreet. Still — Germaine de Staël cut a swathe … Continue reading

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Elif Batuman: “The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them”

Whooosh! That sound I hear is the flames taking hold as Elif Batuman burns her bridges, leaving academia behind — or so I thought. After writing The Possessed, with its hilarious accounts of graduate student cliques and academic conferences, how … Continue reading

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Siegfried Sassoon, “Memoirs of a Fox-hunting Man”

This book has been on my radar for decades, ever since my teenage horsey phase. I vaguely remember trying to read it, but grasping that it wasn’t really about horses. Then of course when I read Vera Brittain’s Testament of … Continue reading

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Deborah Devonshire & Patrick Leigh-Fermor, “In Tearing Haste”

I love that the Duchess of Devonshire is reduced to “Deborah Devonshire” in her capacity as an author.  It’s a kind of leveling perhaps — only not really.  One of the many, many pleasures in this volume is the grandeur … Continue reading

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