Friday, December 16, 2022
Monday, September 19, 2022
In 1977, the English poet Philip Larkin was commissioned to write a short poem to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee. Larkin wrote:
In times when nothing stood
But worsened, or grew strange,
There was one constant good:
She did not change.
The penultimate line was the result of a late alteration. Originally Larkin had written, “We had one constant good.” At the last moment he crossed out “We had” and wrote “There was" ... [read more]
Thursday, August 18, 2022
Tuesday, August 9, 2022
Sunday, June 26, 2022
Sunday, May 29, 2022
I can’t claim to know everything there is to know about the Depp v. Heard case. But I know enough to know that I wish I knew less. When you stopped watching it long enough to start thinking about it, the trial was a terribly sad affair. Johnny Depp and Amber Heard might be glamorous movie stars, but they’re also real human beings. In court, they were obliged to revisit some of the most painful and exquisitely private moments of their lives.
Given that there was a lawsuit in progress, these private matters were undoubtedly the jury’s business. My news feed kept telling me they were my business too. They weren’t, but my news feed was insistent ... [READ MORE]
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
Let’s begin with some clarifications. When I say Bob Dylan is over-rated, I’m not saying he’s no good at all. That would be an absurd claim. I’m not even saying I dislike his work. Some of my favourite songs are Dylan songs.
Nor do I doubt that Dylan’s influence has been profound. From Joni Mitchell to Bruce Springsteen, all the great singer-songwriters have hailed him as a pioneer.
If people were content to praise Dylan for his actual merits, I’d have no beef. What irks me is that Dylan stands at the epicentre of a tenacious mass delusion, which causes its victims to see qualities in his work that aren’t really there ... [READ MORE]
Monday, April 18, 2022
It was a dark day for literature when David Foster Wallace took his own life in 2008, at the age of 46. Wallace was hands-down the most talented American writer of his generation. Arguably he was one of the most striking and original prose stylists of the past century. And yet he’s never really been a household name, unless you live in an unusually highbrow household. He had enormous gifts, but an equally enormous propensity to get in his own way. Maybe that’s why America’s Wallace industry has been busier since his death than it was during his life. The man himself is no longer around to impose his artistic standards, which were both fanatically strict and strangely self-sabotaging ... [READ MORE]
Thursday, April 7, 2022
Monday, February 28, 2022
The advance word about Matt Reeves’s The Batman suggested the world was in for a pretty odd reboot. The film’s running time would be three hours. The hero would be played by the lugubrious Englishman Robert Pattinson, who revealed, in an interview, that The Batman was “a sad movie”, and that his character was “kind of a weirdo”, whom the writers had partly modelled on Kurt Cobain.
As it turns out, Reeves’s movie is indeed odd. But it’s odd in an unsettling and haunting way. If American democracy continues its slide into decadence, future historians may well point to this film as a kind of watershed or omen: an ailing bat in the coal mine. After four years of Trump and two of Covid, even Batman seems ready to throw in the sponge. Surely a culture must be in terminal strife, when even its fictional superheroes can barely see the point of going on ... [READ MORE]