Paul Keegan

Paul Keegan has edited Gigantic Cinema: A Weather Anthology with Alice Oswald. It is published by Cape this month.

When​ T.S. Eliot asked John Hayward in February 1938 to act as his literary executor (‘in case some unexpected calamity cuts me down like a flower’), he told him to prevent publication of his literary remains – including ‘any letters at all of any intimacy to anybody’. ‘In fact,’ he added, ‘I have a mania for posthumous privacy.’ Eliot...

Mulishness: David Jones removes himself

Paul Keegan, 7 November 2019

Jones’s dedication to what he called ‘the contactual’ derived from this maternal Pool of London world, so vivid and particular. The yielding of wood and sail to steel and steam informed his sense of personal identity as a loyalty to lost causes (‘almost always the right’ ones), giving its character to his paradoxical modernism. When he read The Waste Land in the mid-1920s, the line ‘C.i.f. London: documents at sight’ was as a stone dropped down a well, echoing with riverside workshops, bills of lading, sight-drafts, brokerage, bonded goods and harbour dues. The odd relatives and elders who came to tea in Brockley were salts, nautical types plucked from the Victorian treasure chest and date-stamped (Dilworth remarks that they were both Dickensian and Dickensians). Their idioms prepared the boy’s ear for idiosyncrasy: the rooming-house world of his later years, stocked with splintery solitaries, was familiar from childhood.

At the Whitney: Andy Warhol

Paul Keegan, 7 March 2019

In​ The Dream Colony, a memoir published posthumously in 2017, the gallerist and curator Walter Hopps mentions his first meeting with Andy Warhol, in New York in 1961, when Warhol was a successful commercial artist looking for a way out. ‘We agreed to keep in touch and see what came along. And what came along … were the 32 original Campbell’s Soup Cans.’ Hopps...

In​ ‘Some Remarks on a Case of Obsessive-Compulsive Neurosis’, Freud’s case history of the Rat Man (real name: Ernst Lanzer), there is an account of Lanzer’s attempts to repay a debt, or rather his attempt to describe his attempts to do so. While a reserve officer on military exercises, he loses his pince-nez and sends a telegram to his optician in Vienna. The...

Any life of A.E. Housman is an assemblage of the already known and the well documented. Housman’s stage-management of his reputation was as controlled as his quatrains, and the mask of reserve – assumed directly after he inexplicably failed his finals in Greats at Oxford – became a perfected gesture, a way of being in the world structured as a renunciation. Most versions of the story prefer a Housman who was ‘suicided’ by society – as Artaud said of Van Gogh – or, worse, a Housman who was his own natural victim, repressed and mined from within.

Against Whales

Paul Keegan, 20 July 1995

For Sir Thomas Browne it was a commonplace that ‘the number of the dead long exceedeth all that shall live.’ But this is no longer necessarily true, as has been pointed out in these pages before now: there may be more people living now than all the people who have ever died. With over 5.4 billion of us alive today, on course to become 8.5 billion by 2025, we must think of the outnumbering dead as outnumbered – at least until population slows (at perhaps ten billion, perhaps 15 billion) some sixty years hence.’


On David Jones

7 November 2019

Thomas Dilworth doubts my use of the phrase ‘those years’ in connection with David Jones’s participation in the First World War, as represented in the poem In Parenthesis (Letters, 21 November). I was referring to Jones’s active service, his long war, all of it held in the poem’s mirror, even if the narrated time of In Parenthesis is limited to the seven months culminating...

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