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Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Blair’s comedy turns, 7 September 2006

... When Barbara Castle told Harold Wilson that renegotiating Britain’s membership of Europe would end in ‘a messy middle-of-the-road muddle’, Wilson replied that he felt ‘at his best in a messy middle-of-the-road muddle’. This from Wilson’s official biographer, Philip Ziegler. Wilson had one or two good jokes, unlike Callaghan or poor Attlee, so often the butt of other people’s ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Embedded in Iraq, 29 November 2007

... Getting embedded in Iraq is less controversial than you’d think, to judge from the views of journalists who’ve worked there since the invasion. Our own man Patrick Cockburn believes it’s a ‘great mistake to go with American units and report on any Iraqi city’ because local people can’t talk frankly in front of the military. But Cockburn is clearly outnumbered by reporters who see embedding as useful ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: ‘Inside the Dream Palace’, 6 February 2014

... The only time I stayed at the Chelsea Hotel, a few years ago, I kept thinking about Gilbert Sorrentino’s Splendide-Hôtel (1973), a slim volume of meditations, 27 in all, organised from A to Z – a segment per letter, plus one for good measure. Sorrentino took his cue from a line in Rimbaud’s Illuminations: ‘And the Hôtel Splendide was built in the chaos of ice and polar night ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Basil Davidson, 5 August 2010

... Writing about Basil Davidson’s work for the LRB blog a few days after his death last month, I’d a sense that there was more to say. The record is magnificent: his sterling work in occupied Yugoslavia for the Special Operations Executive during the war, his books about this period, and then, famously, the histories of precolonial Africa and the writings on the anti-colonial liberation movements ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Ezra Pound in Italy, 23 October 2008

... Although the view over the bay is good, Rapallo has surely lost the charms it held for the celebrities of the past, including Ezra Pound and his friends. Drifting around it a few years ago, Roy Foster (LRB, 30 November 2000) thought Rapallo an ‘inescapably bourgeois’ place. He could find nothing to commemorate ‘the embarrassing Pound’ on the building in Via Marsala where EP and Dorothy took a top-floor apartment in 1925, but that’s because the handsome plaque is mounted on the other side, over a passageway from the street to the seafront ...

At the Allenby Bridge

Jeremy Harding: Crossing the Jordan, 25 June 2009

... After the defeat of the Arabs in June 1967, many Palestinians who’d been driven east over the Jordan River by the fighting tried desperately to return to their homes by slipping back across. The bridges, including the Allenby Bridge, had been damaged, but the patched-up remains were serviceable. The Allenby Bridge crossing was closely guarded, however, and used by the soldiers on Israel’s newest frontier to put people out, rather than allow them in ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Caliban’s Lunch, 24 June 2010

... My English teacher used to disparage Caroline Spurgeon. Shakespeare’s Imagery and What It Tells Us was too systematic for the honest amateur with dottle in his ashtray, the sort who took his pupils through Antony and Cleopatra in the morning and watched from his shooting stick as they toiled at sports in the afternoon. Still, you can make a case for treating Shakespeare as a force of nature and going about the plays as a natural scientist would, by instance and inventory ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: The French Foreign Legion, 26 March 2009

... The Foreign Legion is in the doghouse again, as it is from time to time in France. The scandal turns on a 25-year-old Slovakian, Jozef Svarusko, who died of heart failure in Djibouti last year, within a few months of enlisting, when he found himself on the business end of the Legion’s ‘test-your-limits’ philosophy: forced march, bad knee, permission to rest denied, water also denied, blows to the head from a junior officer and so on ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: David Jones’s War, 19 March 2015

... Last year​ – year one of the Great War centenary – David Jones’s In Parenthesis, a long prose-and-verse evocation of his first months as a soldier, got a decent outing. The poet Owen Sheers drew on the text for his play Mametz at National Theatre Wales in the summer; Faber reissued the book with T.S. Eliot’s introduction in its series Poets of the Great War; and in Poetry of the First World War (2013), Tim Kendall chose a fine sequence of extracts – sticking to the verse where he could – even though he reckoned that Jones is ‘by far the most difficult [poet] to anthologise ...

At the RA

Jeremy Harding: Richard Diebenkorn, 7 May 2015

... Three years or so​ before his death, Richard Diebenkorn illustrated an elegant volume of Yeats’s poems from Arion Press in San Francisco, introduced by Helen Vendler. Vendler had already done an edition of Ashbery’s ‘Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror’ for Arion, printed on roundel pages – wheels of paper 18” in diameter – with work by several artists, including Willem de Kooning and Jim Dine, as well as a selection of Wallace Stevens with a frontispiece by Jasper Johns; 1992 saw an edition of Kaddish, White Shroud and Black Shroud with lithograph portraits by Kitaj ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: The Wyatt Continuum, 20 November 2014

... Robert Wyatt​ is one of the last survivors of the 1960s pop music scene in Britain. He has been recording for nearly half a century. He was said to be reckless and unfocused for most of his life, but he’s also the best sort of slow-burner moving along at his own pace. Having gone for it late in the day, he hung on to his ‘tankie’ party card – Communist Party of Great Britain – beyond the call of duty, but only because he’d steered his very own Centurion into a deep thicket, opened the hatch and taken a lengthy breather before deciding the game was up ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Who is François Hollande?, 13 September 2012

... Before he ran for the Socialist Party nomination in 2011 François Hollande was an identikit politician: son of a left-wing Catholic mother and avidly right-wing father, degree from Sciences-Po, brilliant énarque, father of four (with Ségolène Royal), bon viveur and party machine man, tracing a line from Mitterrand through Jacques Delors to Lionel Jospin ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: The French Election, 10 May 2012

... French voters in London were out in force on 22 April. At the new French school in Kentish Town – primary through lycée, fee-paying – there were four lines of blue and white tape running the length of the courtyard and hundreds of people moving towards the voting booths in a good-natured queue. Outside the gate a graphic designer in her thirties from Limousin said she’d voted left ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: ‘French Children Don’t Throw Food’, 22 March 2012

... There are plenty of reasons for parents to push their children about, or rally them when they seem to slump. But it’s important to listen to them too, unless they’re rehearsing the plot of a movie that’s just sent the nanny into a coma on the beanbag. Listening is one of the many things that Pamela Druckerman feels French parents get right. The source of this success, she tells us in French Children Don’t Throw Food (Doubleday, £15), is Françoise Dolto, one of the major figures of French parenting theory (the other, Druckerman says, is Rousseau ...

At the V&A

Jeremy Harding: 50 Years of ‘Private Eye’, 15 December 2011

... The main feature of Private Eye: The First Fifty Years, at the V&A until 8 January, is a large wall plastered with the magazine’s covers. A monumental celebration, on a grand scale, of a scruffy little rag whose production values, to this day, owe much to its memorable antecedent, the British Railways lavatory roll. It’s a good thing that only one of them has lived to tell the tale ...

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