Colin Burrow

14 October 2016

Bob Dylan’s 126th Dream

Buckets of rain were falling over the MacTweedledeedum links. There was silence apart from the distant drilling in the wall of the clubhouse. Big Jim McTweedle was building another extension to the bar. Bob’s heart was in the highlands but his mind was on the next hole. It was the awkward 15th, where only a lot of backspin could keep you out of the bunker.

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28 November 2012

To choose or not to choose

Tragedy. Groan groan. It’s a bummer, isn’t it? It’s all just so... inevitable. You read, weeping, as Anna Karenina goes for the train, as Lear enters with Cordelia dead in his arms. No choice: just turn the pages, sit back and grieve. And it’s the same old story every time. The train is never late. Cordelia never pops up and says: ‘Hi dad, I could murder a pizza.’ It’s all so unmodern, so uncool, just so friggin’ Greek. We moderns have moved on. We’re all free agents. We make choices. Choices are what make us. So give me tragedy with choice and give it to me now. Instead of just blubbing and crying out ‘NOoooo’ while what you don’t want to happen happens, why not just turn to page 394 and get a new ending? Cool. Indeed, totally friggin’ awesome.

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18 September 2012

Richard Redivivus

The news that archaeologists had found, or thought they’d found, the body of Richard III under a council car park in Leicester ought to have been cause for celebration. He (or presumed he) is exactly where he ought to have been according to historical sources. He had an arrow in his back and his head had been bashed in. There could be no clearer physical proof of the complete ruthlessness of Henry Tudor. Apparently the body has curvature of the spine, so Thomas More and Shakespeare weren’t too far off when they called Richard crook-backed. History seemed to have been vindicated. But somehow I just didn’t feel good about it. Partly it was the solemn University of Leicester press conference, where men in suits tried to hold in sober academical check their triumph at a great historical find. They had discovered, after more than 500 years, a body that had been killed in a very nasty way, then dumped with the minimum of decorum required to avoid a public outcry. I wondered how archaeologists in the future might reveal that they had discovered the bones of bin Laden.

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18 January 2012

Our Revels now are ended

It was all set to be grand night out. A special preview of Coriolanus at the Phoenix Picturehouse in Oxford, to be followed by a Q&A with the film’s director and star, Ralph Fiennes. But he failed to show up. Fortunately I had brought a bag of Revels with me. They kept me going for the first ten minutes, during which Coriolanus, set in modern war-torn somewhere, is unrelentingly khaki.

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23 April 2010

Son of York

I’m a bit of a snob. I’ve never looked inside a volume of York Notes. Are they the ones that used to have those waspish yellow and black bands on the covers, that I used to sneer at when I was an Olympian teen, doing A-Levels like a real grown-up by reading the actual books? Or were those Mr Brodie’s rival notes? Never knew. Never knew who Brodie was either. Didn’t want to. Both series seem now to have had glossy makeovers so I will never know.

Probably I ought to find out what teenagers are told they should know about Othello and To Kill a Mockingbird and stuff, though somehow I feel that not reading York Notes is among the least bad of my bad habits of a lifetime. Curiously (I’m obviously behind the times) the bestselling York Notes Intermediate Volume is on Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. An Amazon review of this no doubt admirable volume says: ‘i bought this book for myu english gcse course, it is very helpful and must have one if you want to do well in your exam.’ This isn’t signed ‘Molesworth’, but I suppose by now he has grandchildren who can txt like that while taking out the civilians in Call of Duty 6 with an uzi.

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25 March 2010


Shakespeare in the news. It’s always stuff that isn’t Shakespeare or stuff that Shakespeare isn’t, isn’t it? Shakespeare not by Shakespeare. What a bore. Shakespeare a Catholic. What a bore. Poems that Shakespeare didn’t write. Stylometric fingerprinting suggests to boffin and Dan Brown readers that a scholarly conspiracy has occluded The Truth, which is to be found by the chosen ones who can decipher the acrostics scribbled in the gents in the Middle Temple crypt. What a bore.

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24 December 2009

The Impactometer™

1. Concern has been expressed about the proposal to deploy research ‘impact’ as a criterion for allocating resources to UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) under the new Research Excellent Framework. A small group of disaffected scholars with limited understanding of knowledge-capital markets have claimed that ‘impact’ will be impossible to assess objectively and will disadvantage some disciplines and institutions. 2. We regard impact as a visionary concept, essential to fair and transparent funding-distribution within a modern HE environment, and would urge that it become the sole criterion for the Research Excellence Framework. 3. An interdisciplinary team here at the University of Southern Comforts has developed a modest proposal to develop an Impactometer™,

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24 November 2009

Bob's Bad Hair Day

Deep in our collective memories are those 1970s album covers, you know the ones: a dwarf in one corner, a strong man in eyeshadow in another, and somewhere in the middle of it all, but still in the shadows and probably in a leotard, is the artist formerly known as Bob, George, or whoever it was. Their spirit lives on in Bob Dylan’s Christmas video. Bob, well he’s always been a cussed so-and-so, and part of the game of being Bob is to do whatever your fans really don’t want, and then watch them twisting themselves around so that they can still love you in spite of it all.

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