Dinah Birch reviews Brendan King’s biography Beryl Bainbridge: love by all sorts of means. I suggest to many writing clients that they read Bainbridge’s later novels, which are miracles of concision. I don’t suggest they emulate the smoking, drinking and shagging. Quote unquote:
Before the troubled attachment to Colin took over, she started “going out proper” with a married friend (“So there we were at one in the morning with a bottle of scotch with Clive running after me – begging me to put me clothes on … the exact desperation in his voice floating up Hampstead Heath – ‘Do please pull yourself together, I’m a respectable solicitor’”). […] Among the thought-provoking connections to emerge from this rewarding biography is the association between Bainbridge’s self‑dramatisation and the steady discipline of her creativity. Her wilful eccentricity would sometimes disrupt her writing, but it was also central to its distinction.
John Freeman is grilled by Poets & Writers about his new journal Freeman’s. Which is kind of like Granta was for the four years John edited it, but better. If ever you see a copy, grab it. Preferably pay for it. Quote unquote:
With the release of the second issue, have your aims for Freeman’s changed?I guess a little bit. I’m teaching a class on the journal at the New School and doing more about the history of the journal. In the United States in particular, the journal was attached to the growth of modernism. A lot of little journals published writers like H. D. and Hemingway first—Ezra Pound was basically everyone’s contributing editor—but they had a lot more power than they had readership. All of them were attached to salons, which were run by, or funded by, wealthy individuals. And I realized that by publishing Freeman’s this way [with each issue accompanied by many events and readings] I’m trying to invert that scenario. I want the journal to feel like a salon, but I also want to it also feel like an accessible salon for readers. That if they live in Sacramento, or Minneapolis, or Miami, or Barnes, Kansas, they can go and participate in an event. That the pieces in the journal rise up through their storytelling. And I think that’s an important step for literary journals—if not mine, then someone else’s—to take forward, because I think for too long they’ve been an elitist institution. Obviously they have small acceptance rates because they get lots of submissions, but I’m talking more about their interaction with culture at large and their readers and their assessment of who their readers are and can be.
The scandal about 1MDB has not been widely reported in the New Zealand media. Or in the Malaysian media, for rather different reasons. It was and continues to be appalling for those of us who love Malaysia and despair at its government. This tiny detail is trivial in the scale of the scandal, but is typical:
The funding for The Wolf of Wall Street, the US complaint alleges, can be directly traced to the billion dollars diverted from the PetroSaudi joint venture.
Here, via Open Culture, is 30 minutes of JRR Tolkien reading from The Hobbit, recorded in 1952. I had to read some of Lord of the Rings for work earlier this year – fact-checking questions for Mastermind. I loved the books when I was a kid but OMG the writing is terrible:
And here, also via Open Culture, is four minutes of James Joyce reading from Ulysses. If ever a novel was meant to be heard rather than read, etc. Not quite the accent I expected:
Tanya Gold on the Queen:
You cannot lick a woman’s head every time you mail a letter without believing that, in some small way, she cares for you.
A friend of mine works for her. The Queen, that is, not Tanya Gold. He reports that she is very nice, very funny, knows her stuff. I am not sure how he will get on with her eventual successor.
Neil Hannon, who trades as The Divine Comedy and is one of the cleverest lyricists in pop music and possibly the only son of a bishop in that industry, talks to the BBC about his excellent new album Foreverland. Quote unquote:
“I think when you put literary figures in pop songs it’s mostly because it’s fun. You get to use odd phraseology, to talk about Voltaire and Diderot. If you’re allowed to do it in novels, to talk about other figures in the arts, or even in politics or history, why not in songs? It’s not so much why do I do it, it’s more why can’t I? I think an awful lot of people who write pop songs do unnecessarily censor themselves.”
The Angry Chef is pro potatoes and anti fad diets:
Fad diets will proliferate if they have simple rules and pseudoscience justifications to help them stick in people’s minds, but examine them in detail and the logic falls apart. Take Paleo for instance, based on the premise that we are not ‘designed’ to eat certain foods. Newsflash genius, not sure if you missed the memo about Darwin and Wallace, but we are not ‘designed’ to do anything and neither is any part of the natural world. We evolved from a random sequence of evolutionary accidents, existing only because certain characteristics keep us marginally ahead in the arms race of existence. Nature is not pure and benign, it has no wisdom and it does not exist to nourish us and help us thrive. Nature is vicious, harmful and for thousands of years has been trying to fucking kill us. In the Palaeolithic period it was far better at doing this, with survival beyond thirty being extremely unlikely. Our ability to control the natural world, to process and store foods and to adapt our environment to meet our requirements is the one thing that has kept our head above the evolutionary waters and saved us from the miserable fate that befell every other hominid species in history.
Rob Hosking reflects on events of the week: let’s pass over Donald Trump to get to Paul Kelly on Leonard Cohen. Quote unquote:
I watched him and thought, that’s a way to be, that’s a way to act, there is a road to travel. To walk in gravity and lightness, to be serious but not take yourself seriously, to pay attention, to know that you shall reap what you sow.
Sartorial advice from Thomas Seal, who advises that brown shoes can ruin your career in London banking. Quote unquote:
“Bright working-class kids” lose out because they don’t know “arcane culture rules,” Alan Milburn, the commission chair and a former Labour lawmaker, said in an e-mailed statement. “Some investment bank managers still judge candidates on whether they wear brown shoes with a suit, rather than on their skills and potential.”
So here are Frank Zappa and the Mothers in 1967 with “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It”: