Archive footage of Alan Bennett and the late Jonathan Miller in their early careers as Oxford philosophers:
Archive footage of Alan Bennett and the late Jonathan Miller in their early careers as Oxford philosophers:
In the latest episode of the Talking Politics podcast, David Runciman, Charles Arthur and Jennifer Cobbe talk about the impact of different online platforms on the general election campaign, from Twitter and Facebook to WhatsApp and TikTok. Is micro-targeting getting more sophisticated? Is viral messaging getting more important? Or are traditional electioneering techniques still driving voter engagement? They also ask if there's any scope left for a 'December surprise'.
In the latest episode of the Talking Politics podcast, David Runciman, Charles Arthur and Jennifer Cobbe talk about the impact of different online platforms on the general election campaign, from Twitter and Facebook to WhatsApp and TikTok. Is micro-targeting getting more sophisticated? Is viral messaging getting more important? Or are traditional electioneering techniques still driving voter engagement? They also ask if there's any scope left for a 'December surprise'.
In the latest episode of the Talking Politics podcast, David Runciman, Helen Thompson, Chris Brooke and Peter Sloman look back to the February and October general elections of 1974. A lot of 2019 politics started back then, from the rise of the SNP to the Liberals getting squeezed by the electoral system. But it was different, too: they have stories of campaigning by landline and hovercraft, MPs on acid, naked civil servants and experts being taken seriously. They also discuss the way the 1974 elections led to the rise of Thatcherism and changed British politics for ever.
In the latest episode of the Talking Politics podcast, David Runciman, Helen Thompson, Chris Bickerton and Mike Kenny ask if this is one election or many. Do national vote shares mean much any more, given all the regional variations? How is the Remain Alliance meant to work? Is this a Brexit election? And is 2015 or 2017 (or neither) a better guide to 2019? They also discuss the recent election in Spain and explore parallels between gridlock there and possible gridlock here.
In the latest episode of the Talking Politics podcast, David Runciman and Helen Thompson talk to the Nobel Prize-winning economist Esther Duflo about better ways to do economics. From investing in left-behind places to helping people adapt to change, they discuss good and bad economic ideas about some of the biggest challenges we face, and how it all connects back to politics. They also talk about what some of the world‘s richest countries can learn from some of the poorest.
In the latest episode of the Talking Politics podcast, David Runciman, Helen Thompson, Catherine Barnard and Chris Brooke discuss where we might be heading. Does Boris Johnson have enough to persuade the wavering MPs he needs to get his Brexit deal over the line? Do his opponents have enough to stop him? Can European leaders still force the issue? If there is an election, does it all change again? What's actually in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill? And what does it all mean for the future of the Union?
In the latest episode of the Talking Politics podcast, David Runciman, Gary Gerstle and Helen Thompson discuss the state of the Trump presidency, from impeachment and cover-ups to Syria and Ukraine. They ask what it would take for Republican senators to desert him and what the collateral damage is likely to be for the Democratic presidential candidates.
A book to mark the LRB’s 40th anniversary, compiled by Sam Kinchin-Smith, is published today by Faber. More scrapbook than festschrift, it traces an incomplete history of the paper through reproductions of letters, drawings, postcards, fieldnotes, typescripts and covers from the last four decades, introduced and contextualised by writers, editors and designers from the LRB’s past and present. To keep the book under two kilos, we could only include a couple of pages from most of the manuscripts. But there’s no weight limit online, so here are all 29 pages of Oliver Sacks’s typescript for ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat’.
In the latest episode of the Talking Politics podcast, David Runciman and Helen Thompson take a step back to unpick the tortuous history of how we got to the Brexit referendum in the first place. Does the justification that David Cameron offers in his memoirs stack up? What was he trying to achieve? And why did we end up with an in/out vote when the political risks were so great? A conversation linked to Runciman’s review of Cameron's book in the 40th anniversary issue of the LRB.
In the latest episode of the Talking Politics podcast, David Runciman catches up with Catherine Barnard on the Supreme Court's unanimous decision against prorogation, and discusses what's going on in Italian politics with Lucia Rubinelli and Chris Bickerton. They also explore the similarities and differences between the situations in the two countries, from fears of an election to the role played by president and monarch.
A new edition of Boris Johnson: The Beast of Brexit is published today. The late Heathcote Williams composed his ‘study in depravity’ more than three years ago, when Johnson was still mayor of London: before the 2016 EU referendum, before Johnson’s careless talk condemned Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to an Iranian jail cell, before the police were called to a domestic dispute at his girlfriend’s flat, before he said his hobby was making model buses out of old wine boxes, before he became prime minister. But Williams’s portrait is as true a likeness of its subject now as it was then.
‘It is probably best not to take advice direct and unfiltered from the animal kingdom,’ Katherine Rundell wrote recently in the LRB – ‘but lemurs may be an exception.’ And so may rats, dogs, snakes, primates, wolves, sheep, pigs, cows, crows, ravens, double-crested cormorants, salmon, sharks and octopuses, according to the contributors to our second app-only special edition of the London Review (the 15 pieces are drawn from the paper’s archive), published to fill the four-week summer break between issues, and give those who’ve signed up to our sale of two cities (with the Paris Review) something to read, right away.
The LRB spent the weekend at Wilderness Festival. The Talking Politics podcast was there too. On Friday, Kate Devlin, who teaches at Goldsmiths, tweeted: ‘Gotta say, calling the festival Wilderness is a bit of a misnomer. It’s essentially Borough Market in a field.’ Gavin Francis, on Sunday afternoon, talked about the body as a wild place, and what it might take to map it. He quoted some of Kathleen Jamie’s reflections on nature writing and the cult of the wild.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, last summer was so far like the present period, inasmuch as our #readeverywhere photo contest is back, that some of its noisiest entries deserve to be re-shared, to introduce our new competition categories for 2018, in the superlative degree of inspiration only.
The philosopher Stanley Cavell, who died yesterday at the age of 91, wrote a piece on the Marx Brothers for the LRB in 1993: Movies magnify, so when pictures began talking they magnified words. Somehow, as in the case of opera’s magnification of words, this made their words mostly ignorable, like the ground, as if the industrialised human species had been looking for a good excuse to get away from its words, or looking for an explanation of the fact that we do get away, even must.
Philip Roth died yesterday at the age of 85. The LRB published nearly twenty pieces on his work, from Michael Mason on The Ghost Writer in 1979 to Tim Parks on Nemesis in 2010, and Roth himself made four contributions to the paper in the mid-1980s. Nicholas Spice on Everyman (2006): Reading Roth, when he is in the groove, is exhilarating because of the way one feels caught up in the swing and drive of the prose as it sweeps forward into the future of the text. His great interest has been in states of extreme mental and emotional excitation – notably rage and lust – and his writing has found a way to embody these states, whether in impassioned speech or wild interior monologue, with an intensity unrivalled in modern fiction.
On his doctor's advice, Robert Louis Stevenson spent two winters in Davos. He finished Treasure Island there, but didn't like the place:
'Shut in a kind of damned Hotel,/Discountenanced by God and man; /The food? – Sir, you would do as well/ To fill your belly full of bran./The company? Alas the day/That I should toil with such a crew,/With devil anything to say,/Nor anyone to say it to.' 'So,' according to E.S. Turner, 'RLS took to tobogganing, alone and at night, which he found strangely exalting.'
Jerry Fodor, who died yesterday, wrote thirty pieces for the LRB. The first was on Colin McGinn's Problem of Consciousness in 1991, the last on Hilary Putnam's Philosophy in an Age of Science in 2013. Many of them were on philosophy of mind (and, more often than not, lucidly explaining how the books under review had got it all wrong), though he also wrote on Wagner, Puccini, and Elton John and Tim Rice's reworking of Aida: 'I haven’t been to a musical play in maybe forty years. I know nonetheless (a priori, as philosophers say) that I do not like them.'
James Comey has confirmed that he's the man who's been calling himself Reinhold Niebuhr on Twitter. David Bromwich wrote about Niebuhr (1892-1971) and his book The Irony of American History in the LRB in 2008: Irony can turn into tragedy, and Niebuhr addressed that possibility in the last sentence of his book: ‘If we should perish, the ruthlessness of the foe would be only the secondary cause of the disaster. The primary cause would be that the strength of a giant nation was directed by eyes too blind to see all the hazards of the struggle; and the blindness would be induced not by some accident of nature or history but by hatred and vainglory.’
Mike Davis on California burning (LRB, 15 November 2007): The loss of more than 90 per cent of Southern California’s agricultural buffer zone is the principal if seldom mentioned reason wildfires increasingly incinerate such spectacular swathes of luxury real estate. It’s true that other ingredients – La Niña droughts, fire suppression (which sponsors the accumulation of fuel), bark beetle infestations and probably global warming – contribute to the annual infernos that have become as predictable as Guy Fawkes bonfires. But what makes us most vulnerable is the abruptness of what is called the ‘wildland-urban interface’, where real estate collides with fire ecology. And castles without their glacises are not very defensible.
Kazuo Ishiguro, who has won the Nobel Prize in Literature, wrote in the London Review of Books in 1985: 'The British and the Japanese may not be particularly alike, but the two races are exceedingly comparable. The British must actually believe this, for why else would they be displaying such a curious desperation to deny it? No doubt, they sense that to look at Japanese culture too closely would threaten a long-cherished complacency about their own.'
'Part of John Ashbery’s charm,' Mark Ford wrote in the LRB in 1989, 'is his self-deprecating uncertainty about the whole business: "Some certified nut/Will try to tell you it’s poetry."’ The LRB published more than fifty poems by him, the first of them in 1995 (a late start for us, nearly forty years after his first collection and twenty after Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror).
Short fiction isn’t really something that the LRB publishes, except when it does. In the latest issue, for example, there’s a 274-word work by Diane Williams, the 99th item that we’ve tagged in our online archive as a story, though it could just as well be categorised as prose poetry. The same goes for Anne Carson’s ‘Euripides to the Audience’ (2002). In 1980 we carried an extract from an unpublished play by Noël Coward.
Perhaps we have only ourselves to blame. By awarding last year’s top prize to an underwater entry, and then publishing a watery cover one week into the contest, we were asking for it. There have been an unprecedented number of entries to this year’s #readeverywhere competition that feature pools, streams, rivers, lakes and seas. These readers seem to be forgetting something important: the London Review of Books isn’t waterproof.
It’s July, which means #readeverywhere is back. Enter our annual photo contest by taking a picture of yourself, or somebody else, reading the London Review of Books or the Paris Review in a scenic/dramatic/eccentric/perilous etc. setting, to be in with a chance of winning one of 30 expensive-smelling prizes from Aesop. Post your photograph on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook before the end of August, using the #readeverywhere hashtag (and don't forget to tag us). We’ll be reposting our favourite entries throughout the summer, as well as reminders of the real point of #readeverywhere, which is that for two months only, you can subscribe to both the LRB and the Paris Review for one low price, anywhere in the world. (The offer unfortunately isn't available to existing subscribers. We're really sorry.)
'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.
Tam Dalyell, who served as the Labour MP for West Lothian (later Linlithgow) from 1962 to 2005, died yesterday. In 1982 he resigned as Michael Foot's science spokesman over the Falklands War. He wrote a number of pieces for the LRB, the first of them 'A Falklands Polemic' in May 1982: 'Never underestimate the importance of fortuitous timing in the development of events. Governments and nations can get onto a motorway, and then find to their alarm that they are on a journey on which they never intended to travel, but from which there is no acceptable exit. We are faced with a shooting war in the South Atlantic that few British politicians thought could, should or would occur.'
Derek Parfit died on 1 January. Bernard Williams reviewedReasons and Persons when it came out in 1984: 'Derek Parfit has written a brilliantly clever and imaginative book which treats in a very original way a wide range of ethical questions. It spends virtually no time on meta-ethics (perhaps too little), but it avoids many of the deformations that sometimes afflict first-order ethical philosophy.'
John Berger died yesterday. Reviewing his selected essays in the LRB in 2002, Peter Wollen wrote: Berger, despite his concentrated seriousness, is quite capable of breaking out of the box, seeing things in unexpected new ways, becoming excited by the unusual and the perverse and the eccentric, bringing a pungent subjectivity to the most delicate of judgments.
'All intelligence agencies, no matter what controls they appear to work under,' Phillip Knightley once wrote in the LRB, 'are a danger to democracy.' Knightley, who died yesterday, wrote a handful of excellent pieces for the paper in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including a withering assessment of James Jesus Angleton, head of CIA counter-intelligence, and a first-hand account of how the KGB monetised its archive when the Cold War ended:
Ian Gilmour on the horrors of Heathrow, the last time they were proposing to expand the airport (LRB, 19 March 1998): Heathrow is the worst-sited major airport in the world. Probably no other country would be crazy enough to place its principal airport at a spot which, when the prevailing wind is blowing, requires all aircraft coming in to land to fly first over its capital, one of the world’s most heavily populated cities. And I am pretty sure that if any other country had committed such a blunder, it would not magnify it by building another airport next door to the original mistake.
The first LRB Diary – A.J.P. Taylor on nuclear disarmament – was published on 4 March 1982. It ‘inaugurates a regular feature of the paper', Taylor's contributor's note explained. 'The Diaries will be by various hands. Clive James’s will scan.’ Since then there have been more than 800 Diaries on close to 800 subjects, many of them reporting from different parts of the world (few have scanned). Clicking on the image above will take you to an interactive map on which you can explore 100 of them.
We’ve reached the halfway point of our #readeverywhere photo contest (with the Paris Review), and as far as we’re aware everybody’s still in one piece. But in response to a couple of recent entries we feel compelled to remind entrants to take care. Here are five tips to help you #readeverywhere safely:
Edward Said writing on the Iraq war in April 2003: This is the most reckless war in modern times. It is all about imperial arrogance unschooled in worldliness, unfettered either by competence or experience, undeterred by history or human complexity, unrepentant in its violence and the cruelty of its technology. What winning, or for that matter losing, such a war will ultimately entail is unthinkable. But pity the Iraqi civilians who must still suffer a great deal more before they are finally ‘liberated’. Since the 2003 invasion, more than 160,000 Iraqi civilians have died violent deaths.
Julian Stallabrass wrote about selfies in the LRB in June 2014: It would be easy to slip into seeing the instantly shared photographic self-portrait, along with snaps of things bought and consumed, as a register of a complete surrender to commercial image culture:
From Hot Milk by Deborah Levy: I stood up and took my place behind the wheelchair, lifted up the brake, which was difficult because my espadrilles were flopping off my feet and began to push my mother down the dust road, dodging the potholes and dog shit, past the handbags and purses, the sweating cheeses and gnarled salamis, the jamón ibérico from Salamanca, the strings of chorizo, plastic tablecloths and mobile-phone covers, the chickens turning on a stainless-steel spit, the cherries, bruised apples, oranges and peppers, the couscous and turmeric heaped in baskets, the jars of harissa and preserved lemons, the torches, spanners, hammers, while Rose swatted the flies landing on her feet with a rolled-up copy of the London Review of Books.
Uri Avnery on Israel's new police chief and the wave of rejuvenated religion being ridden by Netanyahu: The Israeli Police needed a new commander ... When Binyamin Netanyahu announced his choice, everybody was amazed. Roni Alsheikh? Where the hell did he come from? He does not look like a policeman, except for his mustache. He never had the slightest connection with police work. He was, actually, the secret deputy chief of the Shin Bet....He is the first police chief to wear a kippah. Also the first who was once a settler. So we were all waiting for his first significant utterance. It came this week and concerned mothers mourning their sons. Bereavement, Alsheikh asserted, is really a Jewish feeling. Jewish mothers mourn their children. Arab mothers don't.
Andrew O'Hagan in the LRB, 30 July 2015: I’ve always had a soft spot for To Kill A Mockingbird. I like its prose and am easily persuaded by its gently nostalgic tone, its depiction of a sleepy Southern town and its nightly routines, neighbours who know one another, a parent who can make a richness of a child’s moral sense. The novel glows with soft light – too soft, some would say – but it yields a hard lesson. Time passes and bad things happen but decency and empathy draw you back. It’s a children’s story, really, not unlike The Railway Children and other daddy-obsessed narratives, but Mockingbird gains power by seeming so deeply hitched, as it might or might not have been, to a social upheaval and a time of change. Atticus Finch was the right everyman for the right time and Gregory Peck was his ideal embodiment.
Chris Lehmann on Ted Cruz (LRB, 18 June 2015): Most of the Republican frontrunners are perhaps grudging converts to the gospel of failure, having at least made a show of trying and trying again. The Texas senator and Tea Party darling Ted Cruz, though, is an ardent evangelist for the sacred mission of screwing things up for ideology’s sake.
‘This is Britain,’ David Cameron said in his speech to the Conservative Party Conference. ‘We don’t duck fights. We get stuck in. We fix problems.’ The thing on his mind presses upwards through the words at every point. Duck, stuck, fix... pigs?
Janette Taylor, a subscriber who makes paper beads, made this necklace out of the LRB.
There’s a new website of Peter Campbell’s work. You can see some of his more-than-400 LRB cover pictures there, along with many other illustrations, paintings and designs. The thematic galleries include ‘On Wheels’ (cars, trains, trams, vans and prams, although he never learned to drive) and ‘On the Menu’, flowers and birds, sketches of the smart set and more everyday characters: waiters, gardeners, barmaids and nurses at work and in their off-moments. The archive will continue to grow.
Uri Avnery on 'the face of a boy': It is not yet clear which are more effective in the long run: the bullets or the photos. A test case is a short clip taken recently in a remote West Bank village called al-Nabi Saleh. Every Israeli has seen this footage many times by now. It has been shown again and again by all Israeli TV stations. Many millions around the world have seen it on their local TV. It is making the rounds in the social media. The clip shows an incident that occurred near the village on Friday, two weeks ago. Nothing very special. Nothing terrible. Just a routine event.
From Larissa MacFarquhar's Strangers Drowning: Voyages to the Brink of Moral Extremity: She and Aaron had been rigorously vegan for years – and now Jen ate cheese. She went to Paris and gorged herself on cheese. She went shopping for clothes that were new. She drank alcohol for the first time in her life. She smoked pot and loved it. She revised her views on Israel. She worked as a dominatrix for foot fetishists. She stopped recycling.
Wherever you happen to find yourself this summer – in the middle of a saltmarsh or at the bottom of a kitchen garden or on the top of a bus – get someone to take a picture of you reading the LRB or the Paris Review, post it on social media with the hashtag #readeverywhere, and you'll have a chance to win an Astrohaus Freewrite smart typewriter, among other fabulous prizes. While you're waiting, take out a joint subscription to both magazines. No prizes for spotting literary allusions in blogposts though.
Uri Avnery on the myths and realities of the 1948 war: According to the Arab version, the Jews came from nowhere, attacked a peace-loving people and drove them out of their country. According to the Zionist version, the Jews had accepted the United Nations compromise plan, but the Arabs had rejected it and started a bloody war, during which they were convinced by the Arab states to leave their homes in order to return with the victorious Arab armies. Both these versions are utter nonsense - a mixture of propaganda, legend and hidden guilt feelings. During the war I was a member of a mobile commando unit that was active all over the southern front. I was an eye-witness to what happened....
Uri Avnery on Binyamin Netanyahu's marching in Paris: I have been in many demonstrations in my time, maybe more than 500, but always against the powers that be. I have never participated in a demonstration called by the government, even when the purpose was good. They remind me too much of the late Soviet Union, Fascist Italy and worse. Not for me, thank you. But this particular demonstration was also counterproductive. Not only did it prove that terrorism is effective, not only did it invite copycat attacks, but it also hurt the real fight against the fanatics.
Judith Butler in the LRB, 21 August 2003: It will not do to equate Jews with Zionists or Jewishness with Zionism. There were debates among Jews throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries as to whether Zionism ought to become the basis of a state, whether the Jews had any right to lay claim to land inhabited by Palestinians for centuries, and as to the future for a Jewish political project based on a violent expropriation of land.
There's a poem in the new issue of the LRB by August Kleinzahler, 'A History of Western Music: Chapter 74’. In 2007, in a Paris Review interview, he was asked what prompted the series: I was in Ireland and everywhere I went they were playing the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth. It seemed so odd in that context of airports and supermarkets. Then I went to London and in every pub there was Frank Sinatra. There was a special on Sinatra on TV and they were running Tony Rome on TV late at night for a week. So I began writing about Ireland and London through the filter of Mahler and Sinatra.
Edward Said writing in the LRB in April 2003 on the US-led invasion of Iraq: With countries like Syria and Iran involved, their shaky regimes shaken even further, and general Arab outrage inflamed to boiling point, one cannot imagine that victory in Iraq will resemble any of the simple-minded myths posited by Bush and his entourage... This is the most reckless war in modern times. It is all about imperial arrogance unschooled in worldliness, unfettered either by competence or experience, undeterred by history or human complexity, unrepentant in its violence and the cruelty of its technology. What winning, or for that matter losing, such a war will ultimately entail is unthinkable.
Lawrence Hogben on forecasting the weather for D-Day (LRB, 26 May 1994): At the beginning of June, forecasting became more difficult when a steady Azores anti-cyclone started to misbehave, and a series of depressions threatened to run across the North Atlantic, with associated fronts menacing a hitherto sheltered Channel. Up to Friday, 2 June, it was still peaceful, but we suspected the calm was near its end. Then began the forecasters’ and the Supreme Commander’s nightmare: a calm period ending – to be replaced when, and by what?
Peter Campbell on Adrian Mole (LRB, 5 December 1985): Children take to the books partly, I gather, because the disgusting details of Adrian’s spots, the mention of his wet dreams and of his regular measuring of his ‘thing’, break taboos. But more because – despite his hypochondria, his naff intellectual ambitions, his deeply untrendy tastes – he is a hero who suffers as they suffer.
Paul Foot on Tony Benn (LRB, 22 February 1990): For nearly a century, Labour MPs have been going to Parliament to change the world, but have ended up changing only themselves. Tony Benn is unique. He went to Parliament to change himself, but has ended up determined only to change the world. This extraordinary conversion has taken place not on the backbenches, where a young socialist’s revolutionary determination is often toughened by being passed over for high office, but in high office itself. Indeed, the higher the office Tony Benn occupied, the more his eyes were opened to the horror of capitalist society, and to the impotence of socialists in high office to change it.
Trotsky on 'The Ukrainian Question' in Socialist Appeal, 22 April 1939 (via Counterpunch): The Ukrainian question, which many governments and many “socialists” and even “communists” have tried to forget or to relegate to the deep strongbox of history, has once again been placed on the order of the day and this time with redoubled force...
From Mavis Gallant’s Paris Notebooks: 10 May 1968. The bridges are guarded by CRS (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité)... They must know they are hated now. They may wonder why. One fastening the other's helmet chin strap, as if going to a party. I mistake their grenade throwers for guns, and I think: if they have these guns they must intend to use them. Place Saint-Michel. I am part of a stupid, respectable-looking small crowd staring – just dumbly staring – at the spectacle of massed power on the bridge. Up the Boul' Mich'. Crowds, feeling of tension... Side streets leading to Sorbonne and Latin Quarter blocked by more police, and I have that feeling of helpless anger I had earlier today.
From Daniel Defoe's The Storm: or, a Collection of the Most Remarkable Casualties and Disasters Which Happen'd in the Late Dreadful Tempest, both by Sea and Land (1704): We have reckoned, including the City of London, about 123 People kill'd; besides such as we have had no account of; the Number of People drowned are not easily Guest; but by all the Calculations I have made and seen made, we are within compass, if we reckon 8000 Men lost, including what were lost on the Coast of Holland, what in Ships blown away, and never heard of, and what were drowned in the Flood of the Severn, and in the River of Thames.
From the beginning of the last chapter of The Mill on the Floss: In the counties higher up the Floss, the rains had been continuous, and the completion of the harvest had been arrested. And now, for the last two days, the rains on this lower course of the river had been incessant, so that the old men had shaken their heads and talked of sixty years ago, when the same sort of weather, happening about the equinox, brought on the great floods, which swept the bridge away, and reduced the town to great misery.
Doris Lessing in the LRB on 'unwritten novels', 11 January 1990: I first began to brood about unwritten novels in the late Fifties, after the Twentieth Congress. (Everyone over a certain age will know what I mean: youngsters, even the politically minded, ask, what was that?) I knew I had lived through an extraordinary time, but now it was over. What had ended was a political atmosphere – and this is always impossible to describe to later people, who are living in a different, equally compelling atmosphere, nearly always inimical to the first. (In the last few weeks we have seen a similar sudden change, one that no one foresaw, and the way we all thought so recently will rapidly seem improbable.
In his recent piece for the LRB on university privatisation, Stefan Collini mentioned that the UK Border Agency sees 'universities and colleges as an easy target in its efforts to cut immigration'. The ancient historian Josephine Quinn describes on her blog this week some of the often insurmountable hurdles facing academics from other countries invited to conferences in the UK. To get a visa, they have to 'demonstrate' they are not going to stay in the country, which means providing: full bank statements for the last six months with explanations of any unusual deposits; a letter from their bank confirming the balance and the date the account was opened; documentation of the origin of any money paid into the account; payslips for the last six months; recent tax returns; and evidence of income from any property or land, including property deeds, mortgage statements, tenancy agreements, land registration documents and crop receipts.
From Zoë Heller's 1998 review of Bridget Jones' Diary (and two other novels in the same mould): Over the last ten years, in Britain and America, there has been a significant proliferation of a certain kind of feminine first-person narrative. The author is almost always a young(ish), single, middle-class woman, and the narrative a jaunty record of a frisky personal life... The feminine first-person narrative is unabashedly self-involved. It is knowing and urbane, but it is also showily neurotic and self-derogatory... Judging by the grim sameness of these three novels, the FFPN has already hardened into a new literary orthodoxy, a new correctness.
Two poems by Seamus Heaney were published in the first issue of the LRB. A couple of dozen followed over the years, the most recent of them, versions of Rilke, in 2005. Two years ago Andrew O'Hagan wrote about travelling through England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales with Heaney and Karl Miller: Karl always imagines, in the Edinburgh style, that a beer means a half pint, but Seamus is a proper drinker and you see pints when he’s around.
Among the flotsam that drifts about the internet, coming to surfers' occasional notice, is Arthur C. Fifield's mocking rejection letter to Gertrude Stein of 19 April 1912: 'Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.' It received a flurry of attention in February 2011, and again a few weeks ago. Time perhaps for it to be joined by a note T.S. Eliot sent to Stein 15 years later, on 8 September 1927: I am very sorry to return these chapters, but in any case I should not be able to use them for a very long time...
From 'The Love Song of T.S. Eliot's Secretary: A Memoir', by Brigid O'Donovan, published in the Fall/Winter issue of Confrontation (1975): Every morning a large pile of contributions would arrive, many of them from agencies which were, and remained for years, household words in the literary world. These contributions were without exception complete rubbish: stories about dogs and cats; holiday adventure; poetry by total amateurs. All a tribute I imagine to the tiny salaries and low postage rates of the 1930s, which enabled firms to carry on from year to year without looking closely, if at all, into The Criterion corner. (A tremendous bonus was the equally extraordinary selection of books sent for review, many of them first class in fields The Criterion never covered for review. TSE took first choice of the books, I had second, and the remainder were sold by the firm.)
Reading Charles Lamb in Penguin's new edition, we were struck by this expression of frustration in ‘Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading’ (1822): What an eternal time that gentleman in black, at Nando’s, keeps the paper! I am sick of hearing the waiter bawling out incessantly, ‘the Chronicle is in hand, Sir.’ Lamb’s fondness for chicken – ‘those tame villatic fowl’ – is well-documented (though he preferred roast pork), as is his reluctance to sit through grace when a sumptuous me
Michael Dobson in the LRB, 17 January 1999: Every year, on a Saturday morning in April, the miscellaneous participants in the most improbably charming event in the official national calendar gather for a cup of tea in the Georgian town hall of a small market town in the West Midlands. There is a great deal of scarlet in evidence, in the robes of the assembled Council and of sundry invited academics, white in the vestments of the local clergy, and a respectable quantity of gold in the mayoral chains of office; there are any number of sombre grey suits on visiting diplomats and corporate sponsors; and outside the sunshine, if there is any, glints from the brass instruments and buttons of a military band.
Some recent blurbs: 'We know him as the Renaissance genius.
From Chimamanda Adichie's review of There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra by Chinua Achebe (LRB, 11 October 2012): He began to write Things Fall Apart after a British lecturer told him an earlier story he had written lacked ‘form’, but was then unable to explain to him what form meant.
Last week we asked the Wu Ming Foundation to write a piece on Beppe Grillo and the Movimento 5 Stelle. Unhappy with the way we edited it, they withdrew it (with regrets on both sides but no bad feeling on either) and published it on their blog. You can read 'Grillismo: Yet another right-wing cult coming out of Italy' here.
Richard Gott on meeting Hugo Chávez a year after he came to power (LRB, 17 February 2000): When I was first taken to meet him last month at La Casona, the Presidential residence in Caracas that his troops had once tried and failed to seize, he was standing in the garden with his back to me, gazing out towards the small forest of bamboos and palms fringing the far end of the lawn.
There's an exhibition of Peter Campbell's watercolours at City Gallery Wellington until 16 April. 'The exhibition brings together 36 paintings... acknowledging their other life – as images that exist before and beyond the relatively brief currency of the fortnightly review.'
Michael Wood on Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln (LRB, 20 December 2012): The film would be worth seeing for this performance alone. All the apparatus of a Lincoln portrait is in place, as it would have to be: the beard, the stoop, the hat, the long coat. It’s a bit like putting together a kit for dressing up as Groucho Marx.
The first issue of the New York Review of Books was published 50 years ago today, with contributions from F.W. Dupee, Robert Lowell, Dwight Macdonald, Marcy McCarthy, Philip Rahv, Edgar Z. Friedenberg, John Berryman, Elizabeth Hardwick, Oscar Gass, W.H. Auden, James R. Newman, Nicola Chiaromonte, Lionel Abel, Steven Marcus, Robert Penn Warren, Irving Howe, Susan Sontag, Alfred Kazin, John Maddocks, R.W. Flint, William Meredith, Adrienne Rich, Paul Goodman, Jonathan Miller, Barbara Probst Solomon, Lewis A. Coser, John Hollander, William Phillips, John Thompson, Robert Jay Lifton, Midge Decter, David T. Bazelon, Marius Bewley, Dennis H. Wrong, Norman Mailer, James Ackerman, Richard Poirier, Jason Epstein, Nathan P. Glazer, William Styron and Gore Vidal.
David Runciman on Lance Armstrong in the LRB, 22 November 2012: Blood-doping was what gave Armstrong a shot at becoming one of the legends of the sport. But it is clear that in his own mind what made the difference was how he doped: he simply did it better than anyone else, more creatively, more ruthlessly, more fearlessly. He exploited the same opportunities that were available to everyone. For Armstrong, drugs added an extra element of competition to the sport: the competition to be the person who made best use of the drugs.
Bruce Whitehouse in the LRB, 30 August 2012: What does Mali’s spectacular slide from celebrated democratic model to failed state augur for the rest of Africa? The number of electoral democracies on the continent has fallen from 24 to 19 in the last seven years. It may be that Mali is a portent of state collapse to come, as the façade of democracy erodes, exposing the informal government mechanisms that really run the show. What if, as the historian Stephen Ellis has argued, the increasing fragility of African states is ‘an early sign of a wider problem with the system of international governance’ built after World War Two? Western powers are discovering that in Africa, as in Afghanistan, there are limits to their ability to impose or even reform state systems.
The New York Times is reporting the death of Jean S. Harris, 'Killer of Scarsdale Diet Doctor'. Anita Brookner wrote about 'Mrs Harris' in the LRB of 6 May 1982: Mrs Jean Harris, a trim widow of 56, was a woman who had reason to congratulate herself on making a success of her life. She had risen from undistinguished but respectable suburban beginnings to the position of headmistress of the select Madeira School for girls, in McLean, Virginia. She had married young and had two fine sons. She had kept her looks, and, apart from the occasional bout of depression or fatigue, her health.
Wendy Doniger in the LRB, 16 December 1993: Even within a single traditional family, Christmas is problematic, precisely because it is not supposed to be problematic. In England, the Samaritans receive approximately eight thousand calls of anguish on each of the three main Christmas days (as compared with five thousand at other times of the year). The Swiss even have a word for it: Weihnachtscholer (‘Christmas unhappiness’). In Trinidad, Daniel Miller notes, a popular play begins Fargo was in ah bad mood. It was Christmas Eve, an’ he hated Christmas Eve. Because dat was one time ah year he used to feel like nobody eh like he.
Barbara Newman in the LRB, 22 March: The Latinate framers of the US constitution employed an ablative absolute in the Second Amendment: ‘A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.’ An interpreter who favoured regimen would argue that the ablative clause determines the sense of the main clause; hence, the state has the right to maintain an army. Those who favour the absolute, as American courts have done, bracket the militia clause and take the main clause to mean that citizens may own as many firearms as they choose. The difference between constructions amounts to roughly 12,000 murders a year.
Uri Avnery's latest: “Palestine, from the Jordan to the Sea, belongs to us!” declared Khaled Meshal last week at the huge victory rally in Gaza. “Eretz Israel, from the sea to the Jordan, belongs to us!” declare right-wing Israelis on every occasion. The two statements seem to be the same, with only the name of the country changed. But if you read them again carefully, there is a slight difference. The direction.
Next Tuesday (4 December) there will be an evening Celebrating Christopher Logue at the Southbank Centre's Purcell Room, featuring Craig Raine, John Hegley, Kate Dimbleby singing songs from Peter Cook’s Establishment Club, an extract from The Devils (in which Logue played Cardinal Richelieu, shown here), scenes from the 1965 poetry r
Stephen W. Smith in the LRB, 17 March 2011: We are hypnotised by the 1994 genocide, and oblivious to the atrocities of a regime we regard as exemplary. Aid, we say, must be conditional on good governance – but post-genocide government is an exception. La Francophonie is at best ridiculous and at worst a vector of France’s influence, but the Commonwealth is honourable as it embraces a dictator who favours English over French. Democracy is a precondition of peace – but not in a post-genocidal state. Justice, truth and reconciliation heal – but not the wounds of exterminatory hatred. The invasion and plunder of eastern Congo are criminal – but not when they’re carried out by genocide survivors. Hutu power is bad, but Tutsi chauvinism is acceptable.
Colin Burrow on Bring Up the Bodies in the LRB, 7 June 2012: The word 'haunting' is much abused, but is absolutely, almost literally, right for this book... At one time or another almost every character (except plain, prosaic Jane Seymour) sees something like a spectre.
Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that 'the union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.' Writing in the LRB five years ago, Perry Anderson observed: The integration of the East into the Union is the major achievement to which admirers of the new Europe can legitimately point. Of course, as with the standard encomia of the record of EU as a whole, there is a gap between ideology and reality in the claims made for it.
Eric Hobsbawm died early this morning at the age of 95. Reviewing his essay collection How to Change the World: Marx and Marxism 1840-2011 in the LRB last year, Terry Eagleton wrote: 'Its author has lived through so much of the political turbulence he portrays that it is easy to fantasise that History itself is speaking here, in its wry, all-seeing, dispassionate wisdom.' In 1994, Edward Said wrote: A powerful and unsettling book, Eric Hobsbawm’s Age of Extremes brings to a close the series of historical studies he began in 1962 with The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789-1848, and followed in 1975 and 1987 respectively with The Age of Capital, 1848-1875 and The Age of Empire, 1875-1914. It is difficult to imagine that anyone other than Hobsbawm could have approached – much less achieved – the consistently high level of these volumes: taken together, they represent one of the summits of historical writing in the postwar period.
Today, apparently, is Roald Dahl Day (were he alive it would be his 96th birthday). Here's Michael Irwin in the LRB on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (from a review of George's Marvellous Medicine, 1 October 1981): There are several things that Roald Dahl has got emphatically right, the most important being his appreciation of the passion children feel for sweets in general and perhaps for chocolate in particular. For pre-pubertal Westerners, sweets fill the vacuum later to be occupied by sex. It is unnerving to watch an otherwise decent child being temporarily demoralised (in the literal sense of being morally corrupted) by a desire for sweets as an otherwise decent adult may be by sexual need.
Jenny Turner on Paul Ryan’s lodestar, Ayn Rand (LRB, 1 December 2005): ...But really, storytelling was Rand’s talent, and it is in her novels that her vision takes its truest shape. In Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, power, greed, life’s grandeur flow hot and red in thrilling descriptions of urban and industrial landscapes, all ‘girders, cranes and trusses’ and ‘glowing cylinders’ and ‘fountains of sparks’ and ‘black coils of steam’. She’s good at sublimes, in other words, physical and elemental, the awe and terror as great as in any Romantic view of rocks and hills. But Rand is not interested in natural beauty, or even in the industrialised and modern sort of sublimity Marshall Berman found in Marx.
From James Hamilton-Paterson's review of Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination and the Birth of a World by Oliver Morton (LRB, 22 August 2002): Morton’s account of the mapping of Mars and his history of the scientific imagination and effort that has been expended trying to understand Martian geology – crucial to assessing the likelihood of life there – would itself have been enough to carry this book. He finds something old-fashioned about the mapping, despite the dazzling technology that makes it possible, because it is politically disinterested in a way that has never been possible when mapping Earth. Yet we also know, without needing it to be spelled out, that in some sense Mars has already become an American planet.
In the next issue of the LRB, Iain Sinclair will be writing about Olympic fallout. Here he is in 2008, on the razing of East London to make way for the park: The scam of scams was always the Olympics: Berlin in 1936 to Beijing in 2008. Engines of regeneration. Orgies of lachrymose nationalism. War by other means. Warrior-athletes watched, from behind dark glasses, by men in suits and uniforms. The pharmaceutical frontline.
The Man Booker Prize (or as the press release for The Yips – review forthcoming in the LRB – has it, Man Boozer Prize) longlist, with a few links to the LRB archive:
The late Alexander Cockburn in the LRB of 7 February 1991 on the perceived essential 'non-goodness' (Nixon) or 'non-badness' (Carter, Reagan, Bush) of American presidents, and the time he pulled Reagan's hair:
Uri Avnery on protests in Israel and the West Bank: At the end of [last] summer, the mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai, nominally a member of the Labor Party, sent his “inspectors” to demolish the hundred tents in the Boulevard. The protest went into prolonged hibernation over the winter and good old “security” pushed “social justice” off the agenda. Everyone expected the protest, like the sleeping beauty, to come to life again this summer. The question was: how? NOW IT is happening. With the official beginning of summer, June 21, the protest started again.
Tomorrow night (Tuesday, 12 June) from 7 till midnight there will be a tribute to Christopher Logue at the Wreck, 65 Camberwell Church Street SE5, with poetry readings and music. Tickets £5.
The LRB on the late Maurice Sendak:
Coup de tête is one of the works in Adel Abdessemed’s exhibition at the David Zwirner gallery in New York. Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf ‘brings together recent works that revolve around the themes of war, violence, and spectatorship’. Coup de tête depicts the most famous moment from the 2006 World Cup. It’s not the first time Zinédine Zidane has been made the subject of an artwork. Paul Myerscough wrote about Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno’s film Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait in October 2006:
Neal Ascherson will give the first of the LRB Winter Lectures at the British Museum on Friday 2 March, on 'Europe': Europe is a monster (monstro simile, as they said of the Holy Roman Empire) and a mutant, a creature in its substance unlike the kingdoms and empires and states which preceded it. It's a sponge, indeterminate in outline, soft in texture, absorbing incomers and diffusing wealth and culture. How can it survive? You can book tickets here.
A message from the editorial board of Özgür Gündem, Turkey's main Kurdish newspaper: The police forces raided the building of our newspaper, Ozgur Gundem, two days ago, on 20 December 2011. They copied all our hard discs and took all the information in the computers. They prevented us to work, the publication of the newspaper was literally blocked for more than 20 hours. Our newspaper has been published with the solidarity of other dissident newspapers. We published a newspaper comprised of 4 pages yesterday. In the past, we also had to publish our newspaper comprised of 4 pages once, on 3 December 1994. It was the day after when our newspaper was bombed. From the beginning until today, 76 journalists, writers, distributors, editors of our newspaper, Ozgur Gundem, have been killed.
From the age of Jabotinsky to the age of Sharon, the Israeli right has dreamed of driving the Palestinians into the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan, calling it Palestine, and declaring the Palestinian problem solved. The vision of Jordan as Palestine, the so-called Jordanian option, is the dream that never died, a vital corollary of a Greater Israel. It's also Jordan's biggest nightmare. Uri Avnery explains why.
In a piece on Italy's 'invertebrate left', published in the LRB in 2009, Perry Anderson wrote: From the mid-1960s onwards, Italian Communism had another strand, neither official nor operaista, that remained more authentically Gramscian than anything its leadership could offer, or ultimately tolerate. Expelled in 1969, the Manifesto group around Lucio Magri, Rossana Rossanda and Luciana Castellina went on to create the newspaper of that name that continues to this day, the one genuinely radical daily in Europe.
Saturday 26 November at 10 a.m.Venue: Edmond J Safra Lecture Theatre, King's College London The Research Assessment Exercise, corporate sponsorship, ‘impact’, the Browne Report, a 200 per cent increase in tuition fees, the introduction of private universities, budget cuts: we are living through a period of rapid and sweeping change in higher education. Where will the changes leave us, and what higher education come to look like? What do the changes mean for our idea of the university?
Peter Campbell, the LRB’s resident designer and art critic, who wrote more than 300 pieces for the paper since almost its very first issue and painted or designed the covers, died this afternoon. His review of Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century by Sabine Rewald will appear in the issue just gone to press.
As Wynne Godley observed in the LRB nearly twenty years ago, the current crisis in the EU, and governments' inability to deal with it, were inevitable given the terms of the Maastricht Treaty (yes, we've linked to the piece before, and may well link to it again): The incredible lacuna in the Maastricht programme is that, while it contains a blueprint for the establishment and modus operandi of an independent central bank, there is no blueprint whatever of the analogue, in Community terms, of a central government.
The company secretary of the Russell Group, Glynne Stanfield, has told Times Higher Education that 'universities could be in private hands in six months':
Mr Stanfield said private equity firms or "trade buyers" (established private higher education providers) could buy out a university in its entirety and thus gain its degree-awarding powers...
A private equity firm or trade buyer could buy a stake in a university, providing the institution with working capital in return for using its degree-awarding powers overseas, for example.
Uri Avnery on divisions in the tent protests in Tel Aviv: Something very strange – or perhaps not so strange – happened to the media on this occasion. All three major TV stations covered the event live and at length. Itzik’s speech was carried in its entirety by all three. But in the middle of Daphne’s speech, as if on orders from above, all three stations cut off her voice and started broadcasting “comments” by the same tired old gang of government spokesmen, “analysts” and “experts".
From Christopher Hitchens's review of Andy Beckett's Pinochet in Piccadilly, published in the LRB in July 2002: For many people including myself, 11 September has long been a date of mourning and rage. On that day in 1973, lethal aircraft flew low over a major city and destroyed a great symbolic building: the presidential palace in Santiago, known (because it had once been a mint) as La Moneda. Its constitutional occupant, Salvador Allende, could perhaps have bargained to save his own life, but elected not to do so.
General Vo Nguyen Giap, who led the Vietminh against France and the People's Army of Vietnam against the United States, is 100 today. 'It has always been hard to see in the colourless Ho Chi Minh and his bookish general Vo Nguyen Giap the towering military geniuses of their reputations,' Murray Sayle wrote in the LRB in 2002, 'but there is no doubt about their patriotism.' Here's an extract from Sayle's account of the battle of Dien Bien Phu:
On Jadaliyya, an anonymous eyewitness account of the violent dispersal of a protest outside the Syrian Embassy in Beirut on Tuesday night: The Lebanese security detail disappeared, and the now larger group of counter-protestors began to push towards us, clearly trying to intimidate us into leaving.
Syed Talha Ahsan was arrested in London on 19 July 2006 in response to an extradition request from the United States. He has been detained without trial for five years. Tomorrow evening, the Islamic Human Rights Commission is holding an event to mark the anniversary of his arrest at its bookshop in Wembley. One of the speakers will be Gareth Peirce, who mentioned Ahsan's case in a piece for the LRB last year, outlining the case against extraditing suspects to the US: A number of individuals, arrested in the UK, were astonished to learn that activities they had undertaken years before offended against US law.
From Alan Bennett's diary for last year: I give my details, and my address and phone number, to a constable who, when I get back home, duly rings with the incident number. Ten minutes later, less than an hour after it has occurred, the doorbell rings and on the doorstep is a rather demure girl: ‘My name is Amy. I’m from the Daily Mail. We’ve just heard about your unfortunate experience.’
Professional opposition to the government's higher education policies is growing. Tomorrow afternoon, academics at Oxford will be debating and voting on a motion of no confidence in the minister for universities and science, David Willetts. A similar vote may be going ahead in Cambridge, and petitions have been started at Warwick and Goldsmiths. Philip Pullman's account of going to Oxford for interview gives a sense of what's at stake.
The writer Arnošt Lustig died on Saturday. Born in Prague in 1926, Lustig was sent to Theresienstadt in 1942. He was later transported to Auschwitz and Buchenwald, but in 1945 escaped from a train taking him to Dachau when it was bombed by an American plane. He returned to Prague in time for the May uprising against the Nazis. His novels include Night and Hope (1957), Dita Saxová (1962), and A Prayer For Katerina Horowitzowa (1974). In 1989, the LRB ran a poem dedicated to Lustig by Rodney Pybus, called 'Ciao, Fighter!', later included in his collection Flying Blues.
In the latest issue of the LRB, Peter Pomerantsev describes 'the most expensive documentary ever shown on Russian television': Plesen (‘Mould’) argued that mould was taking over the earth, an invisible but omnipresent enemy whose evil spores were invading our lives, causing death and disease. When the film ended large numbers of fearful people went out and bought the ‘mould-cleaning machines’ that had been advertised in the film – its manufacturers had been among the producers. Now you too can watch it (no need to buy a mould-cleaning machine, however):
What happens when you forget to tell the jacket designer you've changed your subtitle? A proof copy of Jonathan Glancey's Nagaland, which Faber will be publishing in April, arrived in the office this morning, with an erratum sticker on the cover.
An advance proof of Linda Grant's new novel arrived at the LRB this week. It's actual title is We Had It So Good. Is it so good? We'll keep you posted (possibly).
Theo Padnos in the LRB of 28 January 2010 on Anwat Awlaki, a 'prime suspect' in the cargo plane bomb plot and the only US citizen known to be on the CIA's assassination list: Awlaki is not a firebrand, his sermonising is not especially original and slightly stuffy – not ‘silver-tongued’, or seductive. Yet he inspires passionate responses from a band of devout, very ready-to-be-deployed young men (they are men) from all over the world. Many of them say they can’t speak Arabic. Many others are still having trouble with English grammar.
From the LRB archive: Jeremy Harding on John Lennon, who would have been 70 today. John Lennon gave his famous interview to Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine at the end of 1970, a few days before the release of the most important solo-Beatle record, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Rolling Stone published the interview early the following year, with the album already in the shops. Between them, the record and the interview seemed to round off the 1960s nicely – or nastily, come to that. Many things seemed to do the same, of course, but in this case the dating was pretty precise.
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.
Tony Judt was one of the speakers in the debate that followed the publication of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's piece on the Israel lobby in the LRB in 2006. You can (re)watch 'The Israel Lobby: Does it Have Too Much Influence on US Foreign Policy?' here.
We have had a number of complaints about a post on the LRB blog on 6 July on the grounds that it was racist. The LRB does not condone racism, nor does the author of the post, R.W. Johnson. We recognise that the post was susceptible of that interpretation and that it was therefore an error of judgment on our part to publish it. We're sorry. We have since taken the post down.
In a 2003 piece for theLRBon Piero della Francesca, Nicholas Penny wrote: A fine example of their combined influence can be found in the entrance hall of London’s Middlesex Hospital, where the four large canvases of The Acts of Mercy by the now almost entirely forgotten Frederick Cayley Robinson are preserved beside the usual brash modern signage.
It has become clear from the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that oil companies tend to underestimate both the size of newly discovered reserves and the difficulty of the conditions they will face when drilling for them. There's nothing new about this. Here are two passages from a review by R.W. Johnson of Christopher Harvie's Fool's Gold: The Story of North Sea Oil (1995):
Does anyone know where the line ‘When Dido went Aeneas-ing’ comes from and how it goes on?
Wynne Godley, who died last week, wrote half a dozen pieces for the LRB. 'Saving Masud Khan', published in 2001, was 'the story of a disastrous encounter with psychoanalysis which severely blemished my middle years'. A year earlier, he wrote a piece about the fragility of the US economy in which he observed: It seems fair to conclude, at a minimum, that the high level of debt now poses a risk. And in 1992, he wrote presciently about the flaws in the Maastricht Treaty:
Click to enlarge.
Last Thursday John Mearsheimer gave a talk at the Palestine Center in Washington, DC, entitled 'The Future of Palestine: Righteous Jews v. the New Afrikaners': The story I will tell is straightforward. Contrary to the wishes of the Obama administration and most Americans – to include many American Jews – Israel is not going to allow the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own in Gaza and the West Bank. Regrettably, the two-state solution is now a fantasy. Instead, those territories will be incorporated into a “Greater Israel,” which will be an apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa.
From Christopher Ricks's forthcoming book True Friendship: Geoffrey Hill, Anthony Hecht, and Robert Lowell Under the Sign of Eliot and Pound, about 'A Certain Slant': This is finely 'Etched', at the edge of the first line, with 'Edged' likewise at the second line. In its precise finesse, in its unembarrassed self-consciousness, the effect is echt Hecht. (I know, I know, but our poet did advocate 'mens sana in men's sauna', and he metamorphosed Horace's 'Pyrrha' into 'piranha', as well as Wallace Stevens's 'Le Monocle de Mon Oncle' into 'Le Masseur de Ma Soeur'. And he is the justly proud author of Civilisation and Its Discothèques.)
Not as dramatic as a production of King Lear in which the actor actually goes mad, but a nice instance of life taking over from art, or vice versa, when the Lithuanian tenor Edgaras Montvidas took over from John Tessier at the last minute in Jonathan Miller’s beguiling production of The Elixir of Love at the Coliseum last week. (The understudy was also unavailable.) Montvidas knows the part of the forlorn Nemorino in Italian: his rival, the bumptious sergeant Belcore, the object of his desire, Adina, and everyone else was singing in English. Poor Nemorino, sitting alone in his corner, as the entire neighbourhood bounced and swayed around him, had every reason to feel misunderstood. He didn’t even speak the same language as his inamorata.
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