“Call it peace, if you like. But when I say peace I don’t mean absence of war, I mean peace, a feeling in your guts. And it’s gone for ever if the rubber-truncheon boys get hold of us.” What moves us about this passage? It is not particularly difficult to know which literary world we are in, which part of history we are being exposed to, and even which author is speaking […]
In his masterpiece, Enemies of Promise (1938), Cyril Connolly distinguishes between two different styles of writing, which he terms as the ‘Mandarin’ and the ‘Vernacular’. In the former group: Edward Gibbon, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce; among the latter: William Hazlitt, George Orwell, and Christopher Isherwood. Fyodor Dostoevsky is a writer of neither groups […]
In 2016, Roisin O’Donnell published an article in The Irish Times which addressed the curious fact that so few Irish writers wrote in the magic realist mode. Putting in a plea for magic realism, she argued that “Ireland, with its healthy litany of bread-crusts-make-your-hair-go-curly superstitions, along with its hand-me-down myths […]
One of the hallmarks of a great artist is their often lugubrious disdain for their own work. The reclusive French composer Paul Dukas was self-critical to the degree that he only allowed fifteen of his works to be published. Needless to say, they have become much loved […]
At the Conservative Party Conference in 2016, shortly after the Brexit vote, the new Prime Minister Theresa May gave a speech in which she said these words: ‘If you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere’. She made this point while trying to address the concerns of those who voted for Brexit because of immigration […]
If I were to open by describing my setting as a desk piled high with old issues of The London Magazine, the wine red May 1960 issue face down on top, rust-brown rimmed teacup marking the narrow No Man’s Land between the pile and my laptop, you would assume I were telling the truth. If I were to add that the red reminded me of blood spilled last week in rage and the brown rimmed cup of the plughole down which that blood spiraled, you would assume I was either lying or mad.