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Index: Notes & Comment

Two innovative plays in London.

By ANTHONY HOWELL. Third Person Theatre Company Directed by Mark Phoenix with Mark Gray, Lesley Ambler, Aliona Ladus, Samantha Wright and Afro Ghignoni at Bread and Roses Sunday 7 April 2019 IT’S BEEN A good week for me, on the fringes of theatre-land. Last Sunday, I went to the Bread and Roses pub near Clapham […]

Satire for the Millennium.

By ANTHONY HOWELL. Twas a blith Prince exchang’d five hundred Crowns For a fair Turnip; Dig, dig on, O clowns! —Richard Lovelace (“On Sanazar’s being honoured…”) A definition of satire: Heinsius, in his dissertations on Horace, makes it for me, in these words; “Satire is a kind of poetry, without a series of action, invented […]

Pictures and words.

Peter O’BNrien: ‘The Cubists and Futurists, and Joyce and Beckett changed the way we look at images and the way we string words together. The linearity can be disrupted, the sequencing can be scrambled. Lacunae. Knots. Repetitions. Noughts. Everything is possible, and perhaps to be desired. And new connections are made between the ways the mind works and how it makes sense (or non-sense) of what it catches and absorbs.’

What good are you?

Anthony O’Hear: ‘Aristotle, who wrote as well about virtue as anyone, insists on the way that virtue depends on habits, and very largely on habits acquired in one’s upbringing, before one can begin to reason. If one is brought up rightly, then one’s love of the virtues, along with an appropriate sense of honour and its countervailing shame, will enable one to reason well about morality. Otherwise, if one is not already attracted to virtue, in moral matters one is in danger of reasoning cleverly, but badly, and also of acting badly and without shame. ‘

Underground fiction.

Michael Hampton: ‘A Ficto-Historical Theory of the London Underground is neither a fiction nor a history (though it borrows traits from both) but a courageous, if odd, hybrid. In 1776 Dr Johson remarked of the digressive novel Tristram Shandy, that “Nothing odd will do long”, underestimating its innovative features. It would be easy to make the same mistake again, ignoring the way Jobst as “amateur-scholar” has defamiliarized the experience of riding “the Tubes”. ‘

Back in the building.

Ian Seed: ‘Things went downhill for Elvis with tragic momentum after 1974. I have to admit that for a few years I didn’t listen much to his music anymore. I couldn’t tie in my discovery of poets such as T.S. Eliot with my admiration for Elvis. ‘

Gospel of honour.

Christopher Landrum: ‘Sommers asks important questions about the limits of honor in terms of quantity (or what he calls “escalation”) as well as quality (“moral content”) within an honor group. These limits are needed to balance a “well contained honor framework.” Still, it often seems as if Sommers wants this framework to be all-encompassing, and therefore, too disproportionate for my rural sensibility. He writes how “honor’s emphasis on reputation is crucial for building a cohesive and responsible community.” But there are times when he doesn’t seem to realize that what benefits a single town may not be beneficial for an entire country. ‘

Typesetters’ delight.

Simon Collings: ‘So what might be some of the factors which have contributed to recent changes in British prose poetry? One important element, as David Caddy points out in his overview chapter, is that since the 1960s there has been an active community of poets working in prose formats, their practice influenced by developments in American and European poetry. ‘

Ian Seed’s ‘true surrealist attentiveness’.

A Fortnightly Review. New York Hotel by Ian Seed Shearsman Books | 90 pp | £9.95 $17.00 By JEREMY OVER. THERE’S AN OLD Chic Murray joke that goes, ‘I was out walking the other evening. This fellow accosted me, and asked if that was the moon up there in the sky. I replied that I […]

Posthuman and categorically nebulous art writing.

Michael Hampton: ‘Ultimately though the first half of TWSD is a vehicle that launches the second’s deep probe, a journey away from the failed industrial project that was Planet Earth, where “all is lost”, into boundless space and “towards” a Theory of Everything. This involves facing “the insoluble problem of turbulence in the dynamics of non-solid media” whilst recognising how human intelligence is co-evolutionary, embedded in the universe as a means of its progressive destiny through endless cycles of intentional destruction.’

The ‘extravagant mystery’ of a mother.

Peter O’Brien; ‘As is evident from Paulette’s multivalent name, and the subtitle of this book, this is a tale of two languages and two cultures. There is a funny story of Paulette having to prepare two separate menus, one French and one English, and her English-born children drifting over to the French table to scrounge some of what they considered to be the superior dish.’

‘Love’s Victory’ at Penshurst.

Anthony Howell: ‘Love’s Victory is in effect a poetic oratorio, interspersed with song, wonderfully rendered by the cast, accompanied on viols and arch-lutes by attendant musicians in full costume. For me, it was a delight to hear the arch-lute played in the Baronial Hall at Penshurst, knowing that in the gallery upstairs there’s a wonderful portrait of Mary Wroth, holding an arch-lute as tall as she is herself.’

On Simon Blackburn’s Truth.

Anthony O’Hear: ‘ In Blackburn’s book, short as it is, there are what among intellectuals and the like are the now ritual swipes at the election of President Trump, at Brexit, and even at the second Iraq war. No doubt it is good to get such things off one’s chest, but given that in the first two cases anyway electoral majorities went one way rather than the other, one wonders what has happened to the commonality of our common pursuit. Who are the “we” here?’

Augustus Young’s ‘Heavy Years’.

Marianne Mays: ‘A book about the NHS could hardly be more timely or relevant than in this year of that institution’s seventieth birthday. The story covers the last decades of the twentieth century, tracing the inexorable growth of bureaucracy, with its proliferating superstructures and substructures, its conflicting interest groups and its tangled politics. ‘

Somewhere else.

Simon Collings: ‘Basildon, or ‘Baz’ as it’s referred to by locals, wasn’t meant to be like this. The vision for Britain’s post-war ‘New Towns’ described prosperous and happy communities – places of architectural and natural beauty which would, it was hoped, create a better type of person. The gap between the political vision, and the reality as recounted by local residents, is huge. This is the focus of New Town Utopia, a new documentary feature by Christopher Ian Smith. ‘