What we are most
easily seduced by must
tell us something
about ourselves, but what
if it tells us only
about everyone else?
If you want to get
to know someone (tweets
the prolific Kelly
Oxford) argue with him,
and I considered
that wisdom, considering
my recent disagreements with you
there reading this.
Let me here drop too
a word on Arthur Conan Doyle’s
surrender to the disciples
of Madame Blavatsky,
or some cognate matter
acting as foothold.
Let me be the last,
in other words,
if you can arrange it,
the last of the last
to plead the colourless
autonomy of language
houses a will as acquisitive
as ours, if not more so,
gripped by daydreams
of description, unmitigated
description even unto
argument, argument
so humourless it teeters
back into the realm of description
and drops its mask
and spits in every dinner plate.
The last, I said. For who
would call that seduction?


Thinking of Benedict
Cumberbatch and his mind
(stay with me), I resolved
on the importance
of character, specifically
as a function of the celebrity
interview: that it’s not his face
propelled him into the skin
of a matinée idol but
his quips and winning
earnest wish to answer
every question,
and be very very nice.
Just so
the novelists will not
hazard any but the finest
manners in their prose, no
they won’t, they won’t,
they’ve shown
they won’t for two
maybe three generations,
those maestros of exposition,
and that may be what’s driven
the poets to this bluff
of severely impartial
I was thinking this walking
home in the dark, the too-early
dark of November, shivering,
towards my apartment
on a promontory,
fingers stiff
hauling staples,
wondering if it was the kind
of thing that, were I the second-
last person at a party
with Benedict Cumberbatch,
he’d find worth debating,
call a very good question,
before proposing we spare
each other the embarrassment
of being the last
to leave and leave in unison.
Goodness that shows
every sign of being also
resourceful has always been so
difficult to refuse.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN


Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences