The late 1990s and early 2000s were a difficult time to be a Prince fan, not just because he was still in the creative gulf separating 1996’s botched Emancipation from his return to the mainstream with Musicology in 2004, but because I wasn’t even a teenager yet. I’d been given The Hits for my tenth birthday (My Dad was a fan); I played the first track – ‘Soft and Wet’, from his first album, For You (1978), sung in a joyful, sexy squeal – and then played it again and again. Who wouldn’t want to listen to Prince? More »
I went with my girlfriend to see Prince play Madison Square Garden in 2010, a day or two before New Year’s Eve, on our last day in New York before moving out to the West Coast. I remember a snowstorm – the cabs wouldn’t take us back to Queens afterwards – but it was so worth it. Thanks to miraculous strokes of good fortune, we had excellent seats, directly in front of James McNew and his bandmates – who seemed a bit miffed, to be honest. But: there was Prince! He played for a long time and at some point my friend went to the bathroom. Just then, Prince started locking-and-popping – which wasn’t something I’d have thought Prince even did. More »
Sweden’s relationship with the EU is almost as problematic as Britain’s. It only joined in 1995 – 25 years after the UK – and on the basis of a pretty narrow popular vote. At the same time, Norway voted to stay out. Like the UK, Sweden has spurned the euro. The bigger political parties are all pro-Europe. Sweden used to have a party like Ukip, known as Junilistan (‘June List’), which won 15 per cent of the vote in the 2004 European elections, but has withered away since. A recent opinion poll put its support at 0.3 per cent. There’s also a Folkrörelse (‘People’s Movement’) opposed to EU membership on mainly socialist grounds. The Vänsterpartiet (‘Left Party’, ex-communist) is anti-Europe. The right-wing Sverigedemokraten’s policy is to renegotiate the terms of Sweden’s membership, rather than to leave. The Greens are swithering. More »
Long-lived monarchs need long memories, so they can remember what needs to be forgotten. John Aubrey recounts the disastrous gaffe by the 17th Earl of Oxford – famous as one of the people who didn’t write Shakespeare’s plays – while ‘making obeisance’ at court to Elizabeth I. After it, Aubrey says, the disgraced earl escaped by going on his travels, to return to the royal presence seven years later. ‘My Lord,’ Elizabeth greeted him, ‘I had forgott the Fart.’ More »
After last night’s defeat in New York it will be next to impossible for Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination. But he has transformed the complexion of US politics. He has described the movement behind him as a ‘political revolution’, and while it can be framed historically – Sanders often invokes both Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln – his radicalism is unprecedented for a potential nominee in recent times. More »
The base of the statue of Marianne in place de la République
The bank windows had been smashed. On a surviving pane, held with a star of white masking tape, there was an image of a girl in a white T-shirt and jeans shouting ‘Rêve Générale’ into a loudhailer, a new interpretation of the old call for a ‘Grève Générale’. Instead of a general strike, or as well as one, a communal dream.
Every evening since 31 March, when there was a protest against proposed labour law reforms, there have been gatherings at place de la République in Paris to discuss new ways of doing politics, or at least of resisting the old ways. More »
‘I sometimes argue with my friend Heathcote Williams about his use of pornography as a means of attacking his political enemies,’ Francis Wyndham wrote in the first issue of the LRB (25 October 1979):
It seems to me an irrelevant weapon in any context, and in the hands of a man with Heathcote’s anarchistic, optimistic, nearly utopian convictions it becomes puzzlingly inconsistent. His polemical essays have been appearing, often unsigned, in the underground press over the past decade … They abound in fantastic, and often very funny, descriptions of the people he disapproves of (such as Mrs Thatcher, Enoch Powell, Ian Paisley, the Royal Family and Jesus Christ) engaged in eccentric forms of sexual intercourse.
Williams’s unsigned pamphlets still appear, forty years on, though there’s less eccentric sex in them than there used to be. His latest is Boris Johnson: The Blond Beast of Brexit – A Study in Depravity. More »
Two weeks ago, a group of several hundred refugees, most of them Syrian, fled a crowded detention camp on Chios, where violence had broken out between Afghans and Syrians. ‘I woke up with a rock coming through my window,’ a young Syrian man told me. ‘They were shouting “Syri! Syri!” They hit people with sticks. An old man has cuts all over his head. So the next day we left.’ Five hundred Syrian and Pakistani refugees broke through the camp’s flimsy fence, walked to Chios town and set up camp in the port, hoping to get on a boat to Athens.
Last Thursday, a crowd of angry locals gathered around the port. More »
From Hot Milk by Deborah Levy:
I stood up and took my place behind the wheelchair, lifted up the brake, which was difficult because my espadrilles were flopping off my feet and began to push my mother down the dust road, dodging the potholes and dog shit, past the handbags and purses, the sweating cheeses and gnarled salamis, the jamón ibérico from Salamanca, the strings of chorizo, plastic tablecloths and mobile-phone covers, the chickens turning on a stainless-steel spit, the cherries, bruised apples, oranges and peppers, the couscous and turmeric heaped in baskets, the jars of harissa and preserved lemons, the torches, spanners, hammers, while Rose swatted the flies landing on her feet with a rolled-up copy of the London Review of Books.
Plutarch describes Anacharsis’ mockery of the Athenian lawgiver Solon, whose laws, ‘like cobwebs, snag the frail and puny; but the rich and mighty punch through them.’ As in sixth-century BC Athens, so now in the global sport of tax avoidance. The ‘Panama Papers’ disclosed this week by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Guardian and others contain some 2.6 terabytes of data leaked by a whistleblower in the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. In their files, the usual telly faces, Tory party donors, oligarchs, sportspeople and surplus royals wash up; they’re all in it together. So was David Cameron’s late father, via the still-trading investment fund Blairmore Holdings Inc., which avoided UK tax entirely for a thirty year stretch. More »