February 2013


28 February 2013

Corporate Poetry

Thomas Jones

Just in, some promotional material for Poetry for Now: A Collection of Verse from the Heart of Modern Britain:

This book is rather unorthodox in that it contains poems exclusively written by people who work within Britain’s corporate sector. This includes surgeons, dentists, CEOs, solicitors and bankers. Some of these professions are unpopular with the media and are not often associated with the creative arts. Even so, during the past few years there has been a small but growing community of professional workers who are expressing themselves via the medium of ‘corporate poetry’.


27 February 2013

Narco-Jihadis

Belén Fernández

At the end of last year, Israel’s Ynet News ran an article headlined ‘Hezbollah's cocaine Jihad’. Eldad Beck, reporting from Mexico, described Chiapas as ‘a hub of radical Islamist activity’. The piece was quickly taken up by Pamela Geller and other like-minded commentators.


26 February 2013

Thirty Years of İletişim

Kaya Genç

The Turkish publishing house İletişim (the name means 'communication') celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. It was founded in 1983 by Murat Belge, who had taught English literature at Istanbul University until he was forced out after the 1980 coup because of his socialist views. İletişim’s first publishing venture was the quarterly magazine Yeni Gündem (‘The New Agenda’), which reached out to people whose voices had been silenced, and campaigned for a return to democracy and parliamentary politics. It ran interviews with politicians whose parties had been shut down as well as with writers and artists who dared criticise the generals.


26 February 2013

At City Gallery Wellington

The Editors

There's an exhibition of Peter Campbell's watercolours at City Gallery Wellington until 16 April. 'The exhibition brings together 36 paintings... acknowledging their other life – as images that exist before and beyond the relatively brief currency of the fortnightly review.'


25 February 2013

At the Movies

The Editors

Michael Wood on Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln (LRB, 20 December 2012): The film would be worth seeing for this performance alone. All the apparatus of a Lincoln portrait is in place, as it would have to be: the beard, the stoop, the hat, the long coat. It’s a bit like putting together a kit for dressing up as Groucho Marx.


25 February 2013

In Hackney

Jon Day

It’s less than two years since what have come to be known as the ‘London riots’, but already they’ve been mythologised. In Hackney, the riots are spoken about in strangely fond terms, as a time when residents pulled together to clear up the broken glass, burnt-out cars and brick dust of the night before. The riots were a thrill, and they gave way to a Blitz-spirit nostalgia which is increasingly being used to remind us all to keep calm and carry on. The commercialisation of such sentiment has followed close behind.


22 February 2013

A Letter from Berlusconi

Thomas Jones

One of Mario Monti's least popular reforms among Italian property owners is the introduction of a new property-based council tax (IMU) to replace the one that Silvio Berlusconi scrapped in 2008. On Wednesday, everyone on the electoral register was sent a letter with 'Avviso Importante: Rimborso IMU 2012’ printed on the envelope. The two closely printed sides of A4 inside explained how people could get last year's council tax refunded, either by bank transfer or in person at the post office. The letter was signed by Berlusconi: all people have to do to qualify for the rebate is vote for him in next week's elections. But not everyone read that far; apparently hopeful queues formed at post offices within hours. They'd have done better to mob Mediaset's headquarters.


21 February 2013

At the Estorick Collection

Alice Spawls · Morandi

Small pictures, especially works on paper, sit more comfortably in the intimate proportions of a house than in a lofty gallery hangar, and the exhibition of watercolours and etchings by Giorgio Morandi at the Estorick Collection (until 7 April) is a well-turned example of what can be done with such an arrangement: the pictures are allowed to speak for themselves.


21 February 2013

Immoral Holiday

Nick Holdstock

On 13 February a documentary entitled Immoral Holiday was broadcast on state TV in Uzbekistan. The problem with Valentine's Day, apparently, isn't the crass commercialism or anodyne sentimentality – how could it be, when president Karimov's daughter makes pop videos like these – but that it promotes terrorism. Olloyor Bobonov, the head of the Uzbek Republican Spirituality and Enlightenment Centre, said that the aim of Valentine’s Day is to make young people 'slaves of their sexual pleasures', which makes their minds easy to control. 'In just one day they can easily be taken to central squares to topple governments. Their acts of terrorism or extremism are terrifying.


20 February 2013

Save Preston Bus Station

Gillian Darley

One night in early 1961 Tom Driberg stood up in the House of Commons to appeal against the imminent demolition of the listed London Coal Exchange. An early Victorian Pantheon in iron and glass, it stood in the path of the proposed Lower Thames Street:


19 February 2013

Against the Bedroom Tax

John Perry

From 1 April something like 660,000 people who have spare bedrooms are going to be taxed if they don’t take in a lodger or move to a smaller house. This might sound like a selflessly even-handed if drastic move on the part of the welfare minister Lord Freud, given that his own house has eight bedrooms, some of which are presumably spare. But the tax applies only to those in social housing who receive housing benefit, not to owner-occupiers or people with two homes. It doesn’t apply to pensioners, unless they are foolish enough to have a younger partner. The government is trying to sell it as a sensible measure that simply requires some of us to shove up a bit and make room for someone else. ‘What we can’t continue to do,’ Grant Shapps says, ‘is pay for a million empty rooms whilst we’ve got… so many people in desperate need of a house at all.’


18 February 2013

The Magic Mincer

Hugh Pennington

The British aversion to eating horse is strong and longstanding. ‘Horse-Eating’, the lead piece in Charles Dicken’s Household Words for 19 April 1856, explains why: Prejudice, and nothing else! the same prejudice which makes the English refuse to taste frogs and escargots, though both are esteemed and expensive dishes on the continent; which makes the Orientals reject the flesh of the hog, though here we know how good it is; which causes, in short, nearly one-half the world to loathe nutriment which is greedily consumed by the other half; which has given rise to the true, but unreasonable fact, that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. The problem isn’t taste. On his last march, Captain Scott’s diary entry for 18 February 1913 read: ‘Temp -5.50. At Shambles Camp.’ Captain Oates’s ponies had been shot there on the way to the Pole. ‘Here with plenty of horsemeat we have had a fine supper... new life seems to come with greater food immediately.’ On the next day: ‘To-night we had a sort of stew fry of pemmican and horseflesh, and voted it the best hoosh we ever had on a sledge journey.’


15 February 2013

In Cairo

Ursula Lindsey

The street lamps on the Kasr El Nil bridge are out. The Semiramis hotel is battered and shuttered: during the latest round of clashes the hotel was looted by a well-armed mob that showed up one night at 2 a.m. The staff called the army and the police, in vain. As our taxi turns the corner by the Semiramis – on the edge of Tahrir Square, a few minutes from the American Embassy – there’s a crowd of young men in the street in front of us. A boy with a keffiyeh wrapped around his mouth winds up his arm and lets loose, aiming squarely at our windscreen – but his hand is empty, he’s just joking. Another boy waves us through. The first boy comes running over and, hanging on the open window, yells at the driver. I’m too flustered to catch what he says, but it’s clear we won’t be let through. We head back to the bridge, back across the Nile, up the other side and home by a different bridge.


14 February 2013

Spartan Myths

Yannis Hamilakis

In the early hours of Thursday 17 January, 26-year-old Shehzad Luqman rode his bicycle from the Peristeri suburb of Athens to the farmers’ market (or bakery, according to other reports) in Petralona, not far from the Acropolis, where he’d been working for several months. He was paid 20 euros a day, most of which he sent back to his family in Pakistan. He’d been in Greece for six years, and now had a ‘pink card’, granting him temporary residence. Not far from the market, he was knifed to death by two young Greek men on a motorbike. They then unscrewed their number plate, put it under the seat and drove calmly towards Syntagma Square.


14 February 2013

Walking to Ottawa

Anakana Schofield

This photograph was taken on 16 January by Rachel Kawapit, a member of the Whapmagoostui First Nation, who live in Northern Quebec on the shores of Hudson Bay. It shows David Kawapit, Stanley George Jr, Geordie Rupert, Travis George, Johnny Abraham and Raymond Kawapit, aged between 16 and 19, with their guide Isaac Kawapit (47), setting off to walk a thousand miles from Whapmagoostui-Kuujjuaraapik to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, through temperatures lower than -30ºC, as part of the Idle No More movement, protesting against the violation of Aboriginal Treaty Rights.


13 February 2013

The Man Who Would Be Pope

Robert Hanks

As everyone knows by now, it’s 600 years since a pope last resigned. It’s even longer than that since the pope was an Englishman: Hadrian IV (1154-59) is the only one there’s been so far, and it seems unlikely there’ll be another any time soon, despite the aspirations of the Twitter account @tonyforpope: 'Tony Blair. Regular guy, former PM, saviour of Western civilisation, next pope.' Hadrian IV has had a few fictional successors, though. Hadrian the Seventh (1904) is a brilliant fantasy self-portrait by Frederick Rolfe, Baron Corvo.


13 February 2013

Libya v. the ICC

Oliver Miles

The Libyan government has appealed against the International Criminal Court’s order to hand over Gaddafi’s longtime intelligence and security chief (and brother-in-law) Abdullah al-Sanusi for trial in The Hague. His lawyer, Ben Emmerson QC, said last week: ‘Libya's rebel authorities need to understand that the days of show trials and summary executions are over.’ Sanusi is regarded in Libya as bearing the prime responsibility after Gaddafi for such crimes as the 1996 Abu Salim prison massacre, in which 1200 people died, as well as Lockerbie, the bombing of a French airliner, the murder of Yvonne Fletcher, the disappearance of the Lebanese Shia leader Imam Musa Sadr and the supply of arms to the IRA. Were Sanusi handed over to the ICC, he could never be tried for these crimes.


11 February 2013

Exterminating Angels

Mike Davis · Christopher Dorner

Racism, as readers of Richard Wright and Chester Himes know, sometimes drives its victims homicidally mad, as in the cases of Bigger Thomas in Native Son or the anonymous sniper in Himes’s extraordinary short story ‘Prediction'. But then again, ‘mad’ may be a cowardly liberal euphemism for a radical defiance that would rather kill and die than submit to further lies and humiliation. Both stories are so unsettling because they leave the reader to divide justice by horror and then ponder the terrifying quotient. Christopher Dorner’s 'Manifesto', the product, we’re told, of the unendurable depression that descended on the author after his dismissal from the LAPD, veers between bipolar extremes. In one section, Dorner taunts his former comrades in sneering acronyms that boast his expertise: 'Your APC are defunct... My POA is always POI.' But the rant is followed by sentimental acknowledgments to friends and several pages of fan notes to eclectic heroes who include Hillary Clinton (his first choice for president in 2016), Chris Christie (his second choice), Dave Brubeck, General Petraeus and Ellen DeGeneres. He’s also a passionate advocate (and argument for) gun control.


11 February 2013

Among the Flutterers

The Editors

Colm Tóibín in the LRB (19 August 2010) on Ratzinger's election and pontificate:


8 February 2013

On the Learning High Street

Oscar Webb

It emerged last month that the GP surgery on University College London’s Bloomsbury campus is to be closed. ‘UCL has informed us that it has no plans to renew our lease when it expires in 2014,’ Dr Clare Elliot, a partner at the Gower Place Practice, told me. ‘It does not wish to provide a space for the NHS practice on the UCL campus.’ The closure is part of the £500m ‘Bloomsbury Masterplan’, approved by UCL Council in July 2011, which will transform the central London campus over the next decade. (There's an abridged version online.) The provost of UCL, Malcolm Grant, describes the plan as a ‘coherent vision’ to ‘enable institutional growth’.


7 February 2013

Fireproof Cartoons

Anna Aslanyan

The Freedom Press bookshop in Whitechapel was firebombed in the early hours of last Friday morning. The ground floor of the premises of the anarchist publisher, founded in 1886 by Charlotte Wilson and Peter Kropotkin, appeared to be in for a long, costly refurbishment. There was an emergency meeting in a nearby pub, and a clean-up scheduled for the next day.


7 February 2013

One Hard Bastard

The Editors

Just in from Cape, an advance proof copy of The Twelve Children of Paris, the second part of Tim Willocks's Mattias Tannhauser trilogy (out in May). The novel opens on St Bartholomew's Eve 1572. We especially look forward to reading about the 'de-limbings'.


6 February 2013

Careless Talk

Jenny Diski

We should all use language carefully. That is an obligation on the literate. But carefully doesn’t mean fearfully. There is a danger that concern about insensitive use of language can be cynically used to muddy reasonable debate about political issues, and close down criticism. The Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East, David Ward, has been under pressure and finally apologised for saying at a Holocaust Day ceremony: I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza. Ward failed to specify that the Jews he was talking about are those who agree with destroying the livelihoods of Palestinians, building Israeli settlements on much-reduced Palestinian land, and with Israel retaliating incommensurately against Palestinian provocations, rather than considering and dealing with the reasons for them. Ward’s statement doesn't seem to me to refer to me or anyone else who is Jewish and does not support Israeli policies in Palestine. He was wrong; he shouldn’t have conflated ‘the Jews’ with ‘Israel and its supporters’ – or, to put it another way, me with Netanyahu. But that doesn't mean he didn't have a legitimate (if naive) point, that the memory of what the Jews went through ought to give Israeli politicians pause for thought before subjecting other groups to persecution. As a Jew I've thought so with great sadness myself, while understanding that the argument about Israel must be a political one.


5 February 2013

Milton’s lust, and other marginalia

Adam Smyth

Browsing in a second-hand bookshop on Charing Cross Road in the spring of 2004, I came across a copy of History and the Early English Novel by Robert Mayer. I opened it up and loose papers tumbled out. Turning the book’s pages, I saw hundreds of annotations pencilled in the margins: shaky lines and ringed numbers and then, across the endleaves and inside back cover, a thick scrawl of largely illegible notes: page numbers, cross-references, summaries, words circled furiously or underlined – ‘21. Facts’; ‘135. Origins of novel’; ‘143-4. Cromwell, Defoe’. What looks like ‘48-9. Milton’s lust’ is probably ‘Milton’s hist[ory]’. The inside cover has an elegantly looping signature: ‘Christopher Hill/1997/7’. I put the loose papers back and handed over £15. Then I put the book on my bookshelf and forgot about it for nine years.


5 February 2013

Horse and Beans

Inigo Thomas

Yesterday it was reported that 75 per cent of beef products exported to Ireland from Poland may not be beef but horse. The Food Standards Agency in the UK promises to make public from now on the results of its investigations into the meat (and horse) trade. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Auguste Escoffier was draughted into the army as a cook and stationed at Metz. He wrote about horse meat in his autobiography. Food at first was plentiful; then, as the war carried on, it wasn't: Around 15 September the lack of food supplies began to be felt and I had to attack my reserves.


4 February 2013

Sweden's 'Centre' Party

Bernard Porter

A couple of years ago, Swedish politics were shaken up by the fresh-faced young Jimmy Åkesson’s Sverigedemokraten getting 5.7 per cent of the parliamentary vote on an anti-immigrant ticket. Now Centerpartiet – traditionally the party of the countryside – has been taken over by another fresh face, Annie Lööf (pronounced ‘lurve’), advocating unlimited immigration. Both are considered to be of the right, but totally opposite rights: the Sweden Democrats nationalistic and chauvinist, the Centre Party just about as ‘new liberal’ as you can get. (This kind of contradiction isn’t unique to the right. The left has its state socialists at one end of the spectrum and anarcho-socialists at the other.)


1 February 2013

Concerto for Birdsong and Turntable

Adam Shatz

I'm on a train from Washington DC to New York, listening to 'The Long Goodbye', a brash, shimmering piece for vibraphone, reeds and electric guitar by the cornetist and composer Lawrence D. 'Butch' Morris, who just died of cancer, at 65. 'The Long Goodbye' appears on his record Dust to Dust, a series of pieces that Morris composed and conducted. Or rather, pieces that he composed in real time while conducting improvising musicians. He called them 'conductions'.


1 February 2013

Happy Birthday, New York Review

The Editors

The first issue of the New York Review of Books was published 50 years ago today, with contributions from F.W. Dupee, Robert Lowell, Dwight Macdonald, Marcy McCarthy, Philip Rahv, Edgar Z. Friedenberg, John Berryman, Elizabeth Hardwick, Oscar Gass, W.H. Auden, James R. Newman, Nicola Chiaromonte, Lionel Abel, Steven Marcus, Robert Penn Warren, Irving Howe, Susan Sontag, Alfred Kazin, John Maddocks, R.W. Flint, William Meredith, Adrienne Rich, Paul Goodman, Jonathan Miller, Barbara Probst Solomon, Lewis A. Coser, John Hollander, William Phillips, John Thompson, Robert Jay Lifton, Midge Decter, David T. Bazelon, Marius Bewley, Dennis H. Wrong, Norman Mailer, James Ackerman, Richard Poirier, Jason Epstein, Nathan P. Glazer, William Styron and Gore Vidal.