Thomas Jones

Thomas Jones edits the LRB blog and presents the paper’s podcast.


Sonic Boom

16 July 1998

An article by Martin Amis in the Guardian earlier this year touches on John Sturrock’s review of Sokal and Bricmont (LRB, 16 July). After observing the relationship between the speed of a car and the damage inflicted on a body struck by that car, Amis claims that he ‘finally understood’ E=mc2. His remarkable failure to understand Einstein’s equation and apparent ignorance of the considerably...

Thought-Quenching: Q and China Miéville

Thomas Jones, 7 January 1999

Leaping around in a warehouse to the rhythms of repetitive beats and thumping basslines is a simple pleasure, though not, of course, to everyone’s taste. At the same time it is a tremendously difficult sensation to convey in writing, partly because it is so simple: the most basic feelings, experienced at a pre-verbal level, are by their nature the hardest to verbalise. The primary difficulty facing anyone who wishes to write creatively (rather than critically) about dance music is how to translate music into language: to evoke, rather than merely describe, the experience of the dancer. Browning, a master of this kind of translation between art forms, wrote to Ruskin in 1855 about the problem of articulating pre-verbal ideas: ‘I know that I don’t make out my conception by my language … You would have me paint it all out, which can’t be; but by various artifices I try to make shift with touches and bits and outlines which succeed if they bear the conception from me to you.’ The idiom of the record sleeve is one option open to writers of club fiction: China Miéville concludes his acknowledgments in King Rat with ‘awe and gratitude especially to A Guy Called Gerald for the sublime Gloc: old, now, but still the most terrifying slab of guerrilla bass ever committed to vinyl. Rewind.’ In the central club episode of Deadmeat, Q writes of a DJ’s music that it is not ‘a tight cosy rinse, but an intense traumatic soak that ripped through the senses … a hybrid of dancehall drum’n’bass and abstract sounds that kicked at over 160 beats per minute on a transglobal vibe’. Fine for the initiate, but not much good for anyone else; like all jargon, it is exclusive. Fortunately, both writers use it sparingly.‘

On Top of Everything: Byron

Thomas Jones, 16 September 1999

Once more upon the waters! yet once more! And the waves bound beneath me as a steed That knows his rider.

swete lavender: Molesworth

Thomas Jones, 17 February 2000

Perhaps, in order to find Molesworth utterly hilarious, it is necessary to have read it as a child. Wendy Cope claims to ‘hav been reading this stuff and roaring with larffter since i was 11 yrs old’ (which, if nothing else, endorses Philip Hensher’s assertion in the introduction to this edition that those who attempt to imitate Molesworth’s style always ‘come a cropper’). Hensher, too, at ‘inexplicable moments’, has had to ‘lay down Down with Skool! and cry with laughter’, and he first read it when he was ‘probably no more than ten or eleven’. So I suppose I ought to say at this point that I didn’t read it when I was at school, and reading it now I don’t find it hilarious, though it is sometimes funny. People who did read it at school probably think I’m missing the point, and of course I am – in fact, I can’t fail to, because I didn’t read it at school – but I’d say that those who, like Hensher, think Molesworth is ‘sublime’ are missing a different point: and they’re bound to, because they did read it at school.’‘

Speaking British

Thomas Jones, 30 March 2000

Graham Greene converted to Catholicism in 1926, after coming down from Oxford, allegedly on ‘intellectual’ grounds, though it also conveniently meant he was eligible to marry Vivien Dayrell-Browning, whom he had met as an undergraduate when she was working in Blackwell’s bookshop. His adoptive faith didn’t begin to manifest itself very strongly in his writings, however, for another dozen years. In 1938, after Brighton Rock was published, Greene went to Mexico as a journalist to report on the religious persecution there, an experience out of which came both The Lawless Roads (1939) and The Power and the Glory (1940). It was also at this time that he began his relationship with Dorothy Glover. Faith and sex are inextricable in Greene’s work – the whisky priest in The Power and the Glory is a father in more sense than one; Scobie in The Heart of the Matter (1948) is driven to suicide by his faith and his unwillingness to repent of his adultery – but the entanglement is knottiest in The End of the Affair (1951).’‘

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