Cavafy wrote a poem over a century ago with a title from which my heading is taken. Continue reading
Review – The Raqqa Diaries: Escape from ‘Islamic State’ by Samer
The Syrian war has produced a great deal of writing, but little of real permanence. Most of its derivative works are journalistic accounts and dry geopolitical analyses. It has yet to produce a new novelist, poet, or memoirist of note, rather than simply providing new material for old hands. Some day, a great book about the Syrian civil war will be written – something that draws deeply from the conflict and sets the tone for a changed nation, region, and world. Such an era-defining conflict will have that effect. Continue reading
Review – The Prose Factory: Literary Life in England Since 1918 by D. J. Taylor
Is there such thing as a presiding literary culture today? Such is the implicit question of the final chapters of D. J. Taylor’s The Prose Factory, a history of literary life in this country since the end of the Great War. Surveying the ruins of the contemporary publishing industry, where technology has aided the self-publisher and self-publicist and little else, he concludes that there is not. Instead, there could soon be two competing literary cultures – one distinctly and deliberately highbrow, a culture of expensive hardbacks and fashionably small circulations, and the other a culture of genre fiction, ghost-written autobiographies and discounted bestsellers. Continue reading
Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extoll the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.
Caesar’s double bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
Writes I DO NOT LIKE MY WORK
On a pink official form.
W. H. Auden, “The Fall of Rome”
Though the current trouble affecting the Conservative party in no way resembles the malaise affecting its Labour equivalent, there is certainly a sense – one which is reinforced by media coverage and the proclamations of opposition politicians – that the party is in trouble, even crisis, ahead of the upcoming referendum on the European Union. Continue reading