Diverted Traffic

Diverted Traffic has made it past 100, and survived the first wave – thanks for sticking with us! In August and beyond, we’ll continue to send our anti-news newsletter, but there will be some changes (let’s call it the new normal): the frequency will be reduced, to three times a week; references to plagues, pandemics and quarantine might be permitted, from time to time; and not every article will be brought in front of the paywall, though at least half of them still will be. Sign up here and please continue to send thoughts and suggestions for pieces you would like to see featured to: 

Diary: On the NHS

E.P. Thompson, 7 May 1987

One is not supposed to say anything good about British things these days, and writing all this down makes me feel old. I have to say that I find the NHS to be both decent and humanely socialist, but I dare say it won’t last much longer. Every tree we planted in those almost-democratic years is coming under the axe.

Who Owns Kafka?

Judith Butler, 3 March 2011

The very question of where Kafka belongs is already something of a scandal given the fact that the writing charts the vicissitudes of non-belonging, or of belonging too much. Remember: he broke every engagement he ever had, he never owned an apartment, and he asked his literary executor to destroy his papers, after which that contractual relation was to have ended.

Diary: Tamagotchi Love

Sherry Turkle, 20 April 2006

How will interacting with relational artefacts affect people’s way of thinking about what, if anything, makes people special? The sight of children and the elderly exchanging tendernesses with robotic pets brings science fiction into everyday life and techno-philosophy down to earth.

If It Weren’t for Charlotte: The Brontës

Alice Spawls, 16 November 2017

I should make the first of what I hope need be only a few confessions. We are in the business of history, but also of opinion, of trying to read the characters of the dead. I am not a 19th-century scholar, a Brontë expert, a Brontë fan even.

Forms and Inspirations

Vikram Seth, 29 September 1988

I find the possibilities of different genres attract me – I would be bored if I were confined to one, and this boredom would show in what I wrote; on the other hand, versatility has always raised natural suspicions of dilettantism, of ‘not yet having found one’s voice’. Perhaps one really should stick to one’s strongest genre, as Henry James found out when he was hissed off the stage as a playwright.

Story: ‘Story: ‘Cat-Brushing’’

Jane Campbell, 2 November 2017

Sometimes I watch her washing herself. She licks and licks and I wonder what it feels like. I wish I could lick myself. It was P. who was best at that.

Sounding Auden

Seamus Heaney, 4 June 1987

Hard-bitten, aggressively up-to-date in the way it took cognisance of the fallen contemporary landscape, yet susceptible also to the pristine scenery of an imaginary Anglo-Saxon England, Auden’s original voice could not have been predicted and was utterly timely.

The Divine Miss P.

Elaine Showalter, 11 February 1993

Who is hotter than Mary McCarthy? Smarter than Susan Sontag? Funnier than Harold Bloom? Well, if you take her word for it, it’s Camille Paglia, come to set the world straight on the burning issues of our time: tenured radicals, date rape, the aesthetic evolution of Madonna.

What children know – as opposed to feel – about their parents, is likely to be a function of objective constraints that vary more systematically: tradition, place, lifespan. Is there an unalterable core, of pudeur or incomprehension, even here? That is less clear.

The Strange Case of John Bampfylde

Roger Lonsdale, 3 March 1988

To probe the few available facts about a man who vanished from sight in his mid-twenties is to discover that the Reynolds portrait, the poetry and the story of ill-fated love are inextricably woven together. Eventually, the young poet confronts us, as he did his embarrassed contemporaries, with disconcerting immediacy.

Diary: On Being Stalked

Helen DeWitt, 21 August 2014

Someone who indefatigably comes to your house when you have crawled away in exhaustion is a social monstrosity but also, quite possibly, simply caught in a wrinkle in time.

Tseeping: Alain de Botton goes on a trip

Christopher Tayler, 22 August 2002

Cleaning staff intimidate him. In Madrid he’s too shy to enter a restaurant, and in Barbados he worries about the price of lunch. Leaving a ‘gathering’ in London he feels ‘envious and worried’; he imagines that in summer he might ‘feel as much at home in the world as in my own bedroom’, but knows that this is probably an illusion.

Bad Books: The Trial of Edith Thompson

Susannah Clapp, 4 August 1988

On Tuesday 8 August, five months before she died, Edith Thompson was approached by a man in the lobby of the Waldorf Hotel. He was looking for a woman with whom he had had a lonely hearts exchange, a woman wearing a lace hat and a black frock with roses. Alighting by mistake on Mrs Thompson, he asked her: ‘Are you Romance?’

Diary: In the Day of the Postman

Rebecca Solnit, 29 August 2013

When I think about, say, 1995, or whenever the last moment was before most of us were on the internet and had mobile phones, it seems like a hundred years ago. Letters came once a day, predictably, in the hands of the postal carrier. News came in three flavours – radio, television, print – and at appointed hours. Some of us even had a newspaper delivered every morning.

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