A new edition of Boris Johnson: The Beast of Brexit is published today. The late Heathcote Williams composed his ‘study in depravity’ more than three years ago, when Johnson was still mayor of London: before the 2016 EU referendum, before Johnson’s careless talk condemned Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to an Iranian jail cell, before the police were called to a domestic dispute at his girlfriend’s flat, before he said his hobby was making model buses out of old wine boxes, before he became prime minister. But Williams’s portrait is as true a likeness of its subject now as it was then.
We announced the start of this year’s #readeverywhere photo contest with the opening paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities, somewhat butchered; so to crown the winners, we’d better subject its closing paragraph to the same miserable treatment:
‘It is probably best not to take advice direct and unfiltered from the animal kingdom,’ Katherine Rundell wrote recently in the LRB – ‘but lemurs may be an exception.’ And so may rats, dogs, snakes, primates, wolves, sheep, pigs, cows, crows, ravens, double-crested cormorants, salmon, sharks and octopuses, according to the contributors to our second app-only special edition of the London Review (the 15 pieces are drawn from the paper’s archive), published to fill the four-week summer break between issues, and give those who’ve signed up to our sale of two cities (with the Paris Review) something to read, right away.
The LRB spent the weekend at Wilderness Festival. The Talking Politics podcast was there too. On Friday, Kate Devlin, who teaches at Goldsmiths, tweeted: ‘Gotta say, calling the festival Wilderness is a bit of a misnomer. It’s essentially Borough Market in a field.’ Gavin Francis, on Sunday afternoon, talked about the body as a wild place, and what it might take to map it. He quoted some of Kathleen Jamie’s reflections on nature writing and the cult of the wild.
William Davies, 8 March 2018: The political weather in Westminster has been made over the past two years by Boris Johnson, a man whose only apparent goal is to make the political weather.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, last summer was so far like the present period, inasmuch as our #readeverywhere photo contest is back, that some of its noisiest entries deserve to be re-shared, to introduce our new competition categories for 2018, in the superlative degree of inspiration only.
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.
Philip Roth died yesterday at the age of 85. The LRB published nearly twenty pieces on his work, from Michael Mason on The Ghost Writer in 1979 to Tim Parks on Nemesis in 2010, and Roth himself made four contributions to the paper in the mid-1980s. Nicholas Spice on Everyman (2006): Reading Roth, when he is in the groove, is exhilarating because of the way one feels caught up in the swing and drive of the prose as it sweeps forward into the future of the text. His great interest has been in states of extreme mental and emotional excitation – notably rage and lust – and his writing has found a way to embody these states, whether in impassioned speech or wild interior monologue, with an intensity unrivalled in modern fiction.