Thursday 14 October 2010

In the London Review of Books

A colleague sufficiently eminent to be offered such things very kindly passed on to me a free year's subscription to the London Review of Books.  I'm enjoying it a lot.  It's probably the only mainstream British periodical with the very long articles characteristic of some US journals, in this case mostly book reviews. I can't say I read every word, but every printed issue has at least a couple of features of great interest and quite unlike anything I'd be likely to read elsewhere. Impressive contributors: many regulars, a mixture of academics, journalists, novelists. My subscription also gives online access to the whole issue and to the almost bottomless riches of thirty years' archives, while only a few pieces from each issue are available on line to non-subscribers.

Then there's the LRB's cover artist and regular art critic, Peter Campbell, a wonderful writer whose artistic taste is often close mine and never less than interesting. I was moved to buy his very lovely recent compilation book, exquisitely designed and laid out by himself and wonderfully entitled At... (every week's review being headed At [wherever it is] ). 

The 7 October issue of LRB had a great review of Tony Blair's new memoir, by David Runciman:

" He faced two serious and determined enemies during his time in Downing Street: al-Qaida and Gordon Brown. One, he concluded, represented a force so strong and rooted that it had to be uprooted and destroyed, since confrontation was inevitable; the only question was when and how. The other had to be contained, because stepping over the line would have been crazy and made war inevitable. But why on earth did he think that al-Qaida was an example of the first, and Gordon Brown of the second, rather than the other way round? "
" Less than three weeks after the [9/11] attacks, Blair delivered his famous speech to the Labour Party Conference in which he said: ‘The kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us reorder this world around us.’ It was, in his own words, a ‘visionary’ speech, and he wrote it all himself in the study overlooking the Rose Garden at Chequers, a single draft composed with little hesitation and no agonising. While he wrote it, he picked up from the desk a silver and gold inkstand given to Chamberlain in 1937, with an inscription that reads: ‘To stand on the ancient ways, to see which is the right and the good way, and in that to walk.’ (Really someone should go around removing these objects from Chequers before the more impressionable prime ministers move in.) "

Read the rest on line - this one can be read by non-subscribers. This is the nearest I'll be going to the book, since I am one of those who think it should be shelved in the Crime section of bookshops.  Please don't buy it!

The same issue of LRB also has a very interesting and perceptive review by Michael Wood of Certified Copy - by coincidence also one of the pieces selected for free availability on line.  I found this fascinating because everything he so articulately pinpoints resonates with my experience of the film, but I clearly enjoyed it much more than he did. Perhaps that is because I so frequently see the interactions around me as jerky, embarrassing and pretentious, just as presented in the film - and maybe Kiarostami does too.

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