Nicholas Lezard

Nicholas Lezard is a recently-married freelance journalist who lives in London.

Facing it

Nicholas Lezard, 23 September 1993

In The Wasted Years, Caryl Phillips’s 1984 radio play, the young Solly Daniels writes a note to a girl asking her out: ‘Dear Jenny, I know that I don’t know you very well so please forgive me for just writing to you like this.’ ‘Where,’ asks the girl, ‘did he learn to write like that?’ That question resonates. The first joke it contains is that he learnt to write like that at the same school where the girl – who has not learnt to write like that – studies; the second joke, which isn’t a joke at all, is that she is surprised because Solly Daniels is black. And black people are not supposed to be articulate, and especially not fancy with it. They do not ‘write like that’.’

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