Not a word from Geoffrey

In August 1934 Samuel Beckett was at his mother’s house in the Dublin suburb of Foxrock. In a letter to his friend Thomas McGreevy, he commented on the psychoanalysis he had been undergoing in London with Wilfred Bion: ‘It is only now that I begin to realize what the analysis has done for me,’ he wrote.

And now I am obliged to accept the whole panic as psychoneurotic – which leaves me in a hurry to get back & get on. Had a long walk with Geoffrey Sunday to Enniskerry & got soaked. He likes you very much & hopes to be writing to you soon.

The ‘whole panic’ is the series of heart palpitations that drove Beckett to seek medical help. Geoffrey is Geoffrey Thompson, an old school and university friend, now a doctor, who consulted with him about his symptoms and advised him to move to London for psychoanalysis.

Geoffrey Thompson was my grandfather. More »

Stanley Cavell

The philosopher Stanley Cavell, who died yesterday at the age of 91, wrote a piece on the Marx Brothers for the LRB in 1993:

Movies magnify, so when pictures began talking they magnified words. Somehow, as in the case of opera’s magnification of words, this made their words mostly ignorable, like the ground, as if the industrialised human species had been looking for a good excuse to get away from its words, or looking for an explanation of the fact that we do get away, even must. More »

In Memoriam GSA

The images of the Glasgow School of Art going up in flames again were like a bad dream. The glowing orange inferno, caught on mobile phones, brought back memories of the fire four years ago which destroyed the most beautiful space in the building, the library, surely one of the most remarkable rooms in the history of architecture. But this time the damage has been more far reaching. It looks as if the entire interior has been gutted. The building was being restored but now seems to have been utterly destroyed. All that remains is the masonry shell which will have been dangerously damaged by the very high temperatures. More »

Who gets to tell Iraq’s history?

When Islamic State moved into Mosul in 2014, Omar Mohammed observed and documented everything he could, from public executions to the inner workings of the hospitals. And even though it put his life in danger, he posted many of his observations online using the handle ‘Mosul Eye’.

He is now concerned that the history of the city under IS could be compromised. After the 2016 operation to drive out the caliphate, the New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi took nearly 16,000 documents produced during IS rule – everything from birth certificates to judicial rulings – stuffed them into bin bags, and flew them back to New York.

In Mohammed’s view, the history of Iraq, and of Mosul in particular, has too often been told and controlled by outsiders. More »

In Belfast

On Sunday, 10 June, around midday, women gathered at the Titanic slipways in Belfast, a ‘regenerated’ area of former docks, to take part in the Processions, a march to celebrate 100 years of women’s suffrage, which was taking place in several cities across the UK. At the front of the procession, women walked quietly. At the back, there were banners, some men and loud chanting. Two weeks after the Republic of Ireland voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, women were demanding abortion rights in Northern Ireland.

In the morning I had travelled from Dublin to Belfast on a bus full of women who had canvassed before the referendum. More »

Tsoi lives!

On 30 May, when the Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, reported dead the day before, appeared at a press conference in Kyiv, the Russian-language internet responded with the meme ‘Tsoi lives’. The rock star Viktor Tsoi and his new wave band, Kino (‘cinema’, ‘film’) – with their simple but powerful lyrics, fresh tunes and the frontman’s low, casually drawn-out, artfully accented baritone – were hugely famous in the 1980s. A university friend of mine lost much of his street cred when, on hearing someone say, ‘Let’s put some Kino on,’ he replied: ‘What film?’ Tsoi died in a car crash in 1990, aged 28. ‘Tsoi walls’, covered in slogans and lyrics, have since sprung up in several cities, along with a number of sculptures, including one of Tsoi on a motorbike (he never rode one). More »

Remembering Anthony Bourdain

In the spring of 2009 I received a phone call from someone who worked for a programme on the Travel Channel called No Reservations, of which I had never heard. He told me they were planning to shoot an episode in San Francisco over the summer and would I be interested in appearing. As no one had ever asked me to be on television before (or since), I said: ‘Sure.’ I was told that the star, Anthony Bourdain, had borrowed a copy of my book of essays, Cutty, One Rock, on a long flight to Sri Lanka from one of his staff and liked it so much he wanted to have me on his show. ‘That’s nice,’ I thought to myself. More »

A New Standard for the Gulf States

Last November, the International Labour Organisation closed its case on a complaint about working conditions in Qatar. Reforms meant that some two million workers now enjoyed better protection. ‘Qatar has set a new standard for the Gulf States,’ the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation said, ‘and this must be followed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE where millions of migrant workers are trapped in modern slavery.’ In April, the ILO inaugurated its project office in Doha, its first in the Gulf, to support a programme on working conditions and labour rights in Qatar. More »

Swapsies and Shinies

Carlo Parola was born in Turin in September 1921. He won domestic titles with Juventus as both a player and a manager and was capped ten times for Italy. But he is famous for his mastery of the overhead (or bicycle) kick. He didn’t invent the move (a version of it is depicted in an engraving of the first international match, Scotland v. England in 1872) but he was synonymous with it in Italy, where he was known as ‘Signor Rovesciata’ (‘Mr Overhead Kick’). He once played in Scotland, too, for a European Select XI at Hampden Park, in front of 137,000 fans in 1947. Showing off his signature move on the wrong side of a 6-1 mauling by Great Britain, he insisted that, despite the score, he’d played well and enjoyed the atmosphere. The Italian press still called him the ‘Man of Glasgow’ when he died in 2000. More »

The Last Campaign

John Stewart and Buffy Ford warmed up the crowds for Robert Kennedy as he went on the stump in California. ‘Truly as the sun, truly as the rain,’ Stewart later sang, ‘Truly I believe, that it was the last campaign.’ Kennedy won the state’s Democratic primary, of course; and after making his victory speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, on 5 June 1968, he was assassinated.

In 1968 I was still four years away from voting age, but I was one of those young people who fuelled Eugene McCarthy’s challenge to Lyndon Johnson. We thought we heard the beginnings of a voice that would penetrate the political machine that was sending us off to die abroad, and resisting the end of apartheid at home. McCarthy didn’t win the New Hampshire primary, but his close second-place finish was enough to prompt Johnson not to seek a second term, and enough to prompt Bobby Kennedy into the race. More »

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    • adriennecox on Who gets to tell Iraq’s history?: Another note, not only did the NY Times benefit from the content, it formed the basis for special marleting offers - readers who subscribe got “ear...
    • requiemapache on Swapsies and Shinies: I'm not a football fan; haircuts, cab rides and casual bar conversation are a perennial ordeal of taut smiles and firm redirection. I also couldn'...
    • Dectora on Who gets to tell Iraq’s history?: This is a very important issue. Some years ago my husband, then teaching at the University of London, was asked to sit on a committee to decide whethe...
    • Ally on In Memoriam GSA: For the institutional context, it is worth reading not only the same author's 2014 "Architectural Review" article, linked in this article, but also Ei...
    • Stu Bry on A New Standard for the Gulf States: If the UK or any other western government was serious about this issue they would be sanctioning any company which is involved in labour abuses in the...

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