Professor Dame Hermione Lee grew up in London
and was educated at Oxford. She began her academic career as a
lecturer in Williamsburg, Virginia (Instructor, 1970-1971) and
at Liverpool University (Lecturer, 1971-1977). She taught at the
University of York from 1977, where over twenty years she was
Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, and Professor of English Literature.
From 1998-2008 she was the Goldsmiths' Chair of English Literature
and Fellow of New College at the University of Oxford. In 2008
Lee was elected President of Wolfson College, University of Oxford.
Lee is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature,
a Fellow of the British Academy and of the American Academy of
Arts and Sciences, and an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda's and St
Cross Colleges, Oxford. She has Honorary Doctorates from Liverpool
and York Universities.
The Collected Stories: Collected Early Stories,
Collected Later Stories
by John Updike, edited by Christopher Carduff
Library of America, two volumes, 1,949 pp., $75.00
From the Essay:
When John Updike was a small boy living at
117 Philadelphia Avenue, Shillington, Berks County, Pennsylvania,
with his parents and his maternal grandparents, he would stand
on a chair every day after lunch to reach up and get at the
little metal Recipes box, with floral decorations and
a red lid, which stood on top of the zinc-lined, wooden
icebox in the kitchen, and which held the familys cash.
He would take six cents from ita nickel and a pennyso
he could buy a Tastykake at Kieffers on the way back to
his elementary school. This ritual is recorded, with minuscule
variations, in his 1989 memoir, Self-Consciousness, and in several
of the stories about his childhood.
It may have been a particularly tender memory
because it was associated with a growing unease about where
the meagre supply of cash was coming from and the
realization that his father was borrowing it from
the sports day receipts of the school where he taught: My
Father on the Verge of Disgrace is one of the stories
in which the anecdote appears. But the essence of the memory
is pleasure: the pleasure of the treat, of eating the Tastykake
as he is walking along the street instead of sitting down
and being told to have good manners. Like many of Updikes
childhood details, it shines with a sense of security and realness.
If there was a meaning to existence, I was closest to
it here. It is a part of his Proustian memory hoard.
Lecture on Virginia Woolf
(Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, 25 January
Annual Virginia Woolf Birthday Lecture: 'To pin
down the moment with date and season'
by Professor Dame Hermione Lee
The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain is
a non-profit organisation which aims to raise the profile of Virginia
Woolf and promote the reading and discussion of her works. Formed
in August 1998 the Society is supported by an Executive Council
of elected volunteers. An Editorial Committee produces the Virginia
Woolf Bulletin three times a year (January, May and September),
as well as a number of other publications. Woolf-related events
and talks are held throughout the year.
Penelope Fitzgerald (19162000) was a
great English writer, who would never have described herself
in such grand terms. Her novels were short, spare masterpieces,
self-concealing, oblique and subtle. She won the Booker Prize
for her novel Offshore in 1979, and her last work, The Blue
Flower, was acclaimed as a work of genius. The early novels
drew on her own experiences a boat on the Thames in the
1960s; the BBC in war time; a failing bookshop in Suffolk; an
eccentric stage-school. The later ones opened out to encompass
historical worlds which, magically, she seemed to possess entirely:
Russia before the Revolution; post-war Italy; Germany in the
time of the Romantic writer Novalis.
Fitzgeralds life is as various and as
cryptic as her fiction. It spans most of the twentieth century,
and moves from a Bishops Palace to a sinking barge, from
a demanding intellectual family to hardship and poverty, from
a life of teaching and obscurity to a blaze of renown. She was
first published at sixty and became famous at eighty. This is
a story of lateness, patience and persistence: a private form
Loved and admired, and increasingly recognised
as one of the outstanding novelists of her time, she remains,
also, mysterious and intriguing. She liked to mislead people
with a good imitation of an absent-minded old lady, but under
that scatty front were a steel-sharp brain and an imagination
of wonderful reach. This brilliant account by a biographer
whom Fitzgerald herself admired pursues her life, her
writing, and her secret self, with fascinated interest.
Hermione Lee on Penelope Fitzgerald:
Fitzgerald: Staying Afloat." The Guardian, 25
October 2013. [Hermione Lee looks back at Fitzgerald's free
yet fraught way of life on the Thames in the 60s that would
inform her Booker prize-winning novel, Offshore.]
Hensher, Philip. The
Guardian, 1 November 2013. From the Review: "Hermione
Lee has done a superb job, capturing the novelist's elusive
personality and telling a complex, sometimes harrowing story."
Wullschlager, Jackie. "Penelope Fitzgerald
by Hermione Lee." Financial Times, 1 November
2013. From the Review: "Lee elucidates the depth
of [Fitzgerald's] achievement, and ties it enthrallingly to
a life and personality more complex and difficult than anyone
imagined. Julian Barnes once pinpointed Fitzgeralds
courteous, elusive self-presentation as a jam-making
grandmother who scarcely knew her way in the world.
In a perfect literary biography, Lee plumbs the creative mind
beneath that persona, tracing the metamorphosis of messy experience
into crystalline art."
Townshend, Emma. The
Independent, 3 November 2013. From the Review:
"This book will hold insights and treats for any
admirer of her fiction, and recruit converts to this reticent,
witty, ferocious champion of the utterly downtrodden."
Shakespeare, Nicholas. The Telegraph,
5 November 2013. From the Review: "[Lee] is excellent
on the tensions of living at close quarters with an ineffectual
partner, and on the bread and butter of a writers existence,
at the mercy of publishers who underpay and undervalue."
Roberts, Michèle. The
Independent, 8 November 2013. From the Review:
"Penelope protected herself by pretending to be a
gentle, old-fashioned, absent-minded eccentric. From underneath
this woolly disguise she could shoot razor-sharp barbs when
necessary. She also wrote penetrating literary criticism,
deploying quiet scholarship, wry humour, wisdom and generosity.
Lee mirrors her lovingly, and does her lucid justice."
McCrum, Robert. The
Guardian, 16 November 2013. From the Review: "Thanks
to this sympathetic biography, her afterlife shows signs of
becoming finally blessed with understanding, admiration and