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Diverted Traffic

Diverted Traffic is a new(ish) LRB newsletter, featuring a different piece from the archive each day – chosen for its compulsive, immersive and escapist qualities, and also for a complete absence of references to plague, pandemics or quarantine. Every day (at least five times a week, anyway) at noon (BST), we’ll bring a new article out from behind the paywall for 24 hours, which you can then share with anyone you want to share it with. Sign up at lrb.co.uk/newsletters and please let us know your thoughts and any suggestions for pieces you would like to see. Send them to: skinchinsmith@lrb.co.uk 

In bed with the Surrealists

David Sylvester, 6 January 1994

The fifth discussion, held on an indeterminate date in February 1928, had 11 taking part, three of them for the first time: Max Ernst, Maxime Alexandre and Georges Sadoul. It was not a very fruitful session. Perhaps the most interesting thing said is Ernst’s avowal that he believes simultaneous orgasm occurs only once in 2000 times.

Diary: A Writer’s Life

Anne Enright, 28 May 2009

Back home, I pause at the door to arrange my conference face: ‘My goodness I am tired, and I certainly had no fun, and I worked so much and drank so little, my goodness it is just such a relief to be back with you all.’

Unwritten Novels

Doris Lessing, 11 January 1990

There are some subjects it is almost impossible to believe have never found a novelist. How about Marx’s household? It was a composite of Victorian dramatic stereotypes.

Jack in the Belfry

Terry Eagleton, 8 September 2016

The third Earl of Portsmouth liked his manservant to rap the pig-tail of his wig against his neck like a knocker, shouting: ‘Is anybody at home?’ It was a pertinent inquiry.

What’s it like to be an octopus?

Amia Srinivasan, 7 September 2017

Their intelligence is like ours, and utterly unlike ours. Octopuses are the closest we can come, on earth, to knowing what it might be like to encounter intelligent aliens.

Diary: On the Booker

Julian Barnes, 12 November 1987

The only sensible attitude to the Booker is to treat it as posh bingo. It is El Gordo, the Fat One, the sudden jackpot that enriches some plodding Andalusian muleteer.

Poem: ‘The Albertine Workout’

Anne Carson, 5 June 2014

8. The problems of Albertine are (from the narrator’s point of view) a) lying b) lesbianism, and (from Albertine’s point of view) a) being imprisoned in the narrator’s house.

Admirable Urquhart

Denton Fox, 20 September 1984

It would be wrong and unkind to call him a liar, as he has been called: he simply stated his own truths.

The Cult of the Wild

Kathleen Jamie, 6 March 2008

What’s that coming over the hill? A white, middle-class Englishman! A Lone Enraptured Male! From Cambridge! Here to boldly go, ‘discovering’, then quelling our harsh and lovely and sometimes difficult land with his civilised lyrical words.

Well, duh

Dale Peck, 18 July 1996

I would, in fact, go so far as to say that Infinite Jest is one of the very few novels for which the phrase ‘not worth the paper it’s written on’ has real meaning in at least an ecological sense; but to resort to such hyperbole would be to fall into the rut that characterises many reviews of this novel.

I am the fifth dimension!

Bee Wilson, 27 July 2017

‘He does not feed like a mongoose,’ James Irving said of the talking mongoose that had taken up residence – or so it was said – in his remote Isle of Man farmhouse in the early 1930s.

Diary: Working Methods

Keith Thomas, 10 June 2010

It is possible to take too many notes; the task of sorting, filing and assimilating them can take for ever, so that nothing gets written. The awful warning is Lord Acton, whose enormous learning never resulted in the great work the world expected of him.

Joan Didion’s Pointillism

Patricia Lockwood, 4 January 2018

She sounds, at times, as if a huge crow is about to land on her right shoulder. She breathes the Santa Ana instead of the air. It would be possible to write a parody of her novels called Desert Abortion – in a Car. Possible, but why? The best joke you could make wouldn’t touch her. Not the solidity of what she has done, which can be leaned against like John Wayne.

Musical Ears

Oliver Sacks, 3 May 1984

At this point another notion occurred to Mrs O’C.: ‘What sort of radio-station,’ she reasoned to herself, ‘would play Irish songs, deafeningly, in the middle of the night? Songs, just songs, without introduction or comment? And only songs that I know. What radio station would play my songs, and nothing else?’ At this point she wondered: ‘Is the radio in my head?’

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