Lorna Sage - Reader and Journalist

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A selection of Lorna's work spanning 1972-2001, when she wrote for the London and New York literary papers and journals

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How pre-war women writers invented themselves as authors in the face of rigid conceptions of feminine creativity


Voracious doesn’t convey the energy and urgency with which Lorna read: Her reading when growing up, seemed to segue seamlessly into her reading as a student, an academic, a journalist and a writer:

‘…although I read indiscriminately I edited out prosaic or realistic stuff, I didn’t want to meet lifelike characters, I preferred characters who carried off their unreality with conviction… Not that I was very interested in who wrote what’. (Bad Blood, 2000)

Everything stemmed from her reading in the most creative sense. She embodied the idea that it’s not the text that holds the meaning, it’s what you bring to it that counts:

‘…She was able to rapidly read one book after another, without pauses for assimilation, ritual movements or changes of place. Her attention was absolute. She did not appear to digest books at all. She read like this late into the night and began again early in the morning: She simply picked up the next volume, whether it was the Corpus Hermeticum or Tarzan of the Apes, propped in front of her, her thin, long-nailed thumb creasing down the top three inches as she turned the page, and sped away…When laid aside, paperbacks, in particular, always had a subtly pot-bellied aspect, as if somehow they had more in them…They looked as if they had been filled with reading.’ (Good As Her Word, 2004)


In 1998, Lorna published an essay in a collection called Grub Street and the Ivory Tower edited by Jeremy Treglown and Bridget Bennett. She was reflecting on reviewing, and thinking about the relationship between reading, writing, reviewing and academe:

‘Regular reviewers of new novels …are part of the daily life of letters, they write on the run, in the present tense, they have to live writing – read (say) ten new novels every fortnight and write about two or three of them – in order to partly live on it. You swap your words for money, you reprocess reading into writing and commentary. You describe, paraphrase, quote, reperform, ‘place’ and help sell (or not) the books you’re reviewing. Reviewing is in an important sense reading out loud, rather like not being able to read without moving your lips…’ (Grub Street and the Ivory Tower, 1998)

I have memories of our house, where we moved when I was thirteen, as peopled by books. Stacks of books seemed to make up the furniture and populate every room. This was the outer sign of the ‘living on writing’ Lorna describes, when it seemed that every day held a deadline:

‘When reviewing a book, Lorna would usually read the rest of the author’s works, and whatever she could find (often whatever there was) of biography and criticism…Before starting to stab, hunched and one-fingered, at the old Olivetti, or later, the little Toshiba, whose keyboard was transformed into rows of letterless cups by the furious battering it had taken, she liked to make sure she had an intimate grasp of the text’. (Good As Her Word, 2004)

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Reader and Journalist