'The Bible is a familiar model of history,' Frank Kermode wrote in The Sense of an Ending: It begins at the beginning ('In the beginning…') and ends with a vision of the end ('Even so, come, Lord Jesus'); the first book is Genesis, the last Apocalypse. Ideally, it is a wholly concordant structure, the end is in harmony with the beginning, the middle with beginning and end. The end, Apocalypse, is traditionally held to resume the whole structure, which it can do only by figures predictive of that part of it which has not been historically revealed. The Book of Revelation made its way only slowly into the canon – it is still unacceptable to Greek Orthodoxy – perhaps because of learned mistrust of over-literal interpretation of the figures. But once established it showed, and continues to show, a vitality and resource that suggest its consonance with our more naive requirements of fiction.
In the introduction to an anthology of LRB pieces published in 2004, Frank Kermode wrote of the paper's origins: The Times and its satellites, most relevantly the TLS, had disappeared months beforehand – might, for all we knew, have ceased to exist – but time went by and nobody perceived its absence as an opportunity to replace it... The notion that a new journal might occupy the gap left by the TLS finally took hold. He didn't mention that the notion was first put forward in a piece he wrote for the Observer in June 1979, reproduced here.