Skip to content

Index: The Fortnightly Review of Books

What are perversions?

Anthony Howell: ‘The text is appropriately supplied with examples from films, and Benvenuto makes interesting points about our propensity to seek out and happily identify with the perverse vicariously via fiction – drama and film enabling a catharsis similar to a positive outcome from analysis, though it appears that analysis has no obligation to come to a conclusion: one can go on seeing one’s analyst as one might any confessor. The devil ensures that temptation is an ongoing affair.’

Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Alan Wall: ‘Although many of the pieces published in these two impressive volumes would be known already to Wittgensteinians, many more would not. Unless you have not only bought anthologies like Rush Rees’s Recollections of Wittgenstein, but also followed such publications as Guy’s Hospital Reports and the Irish Medical Times, or Hermathena, then some of these essays will be new to you. Together they present a composite image of the man which is hugely impressive. Perhaps each century can produce one man like Wittgenstein; certainly not many more. ‘

Basil Bunting.

Anthony Howell: ‘Gone are the mannerisms of Bunting’s apprenticeship: the phrases reminiscent of the way Pound might conclude a snide portrait in Personae, the fusions of word with word that works for Gerald Manley Hopkins but not for the aspiring Northumbrian. Bunting denigrates form in the poem – harking back to an earlier versification crying/before the rules made poetry a pedant’s game – but his poem is nevertheless very finely crafted. The stone-mason’s chisel is a leitmotif accentuating this; indeed, the work, which Bunting describes as an autobiography, continually contrasts a sense of crafting with the sweetness of love-making. ‘

Lorenzo Calogero and other poets in translation.

Peter Riley: ‘By 1945 Calogero had got himself into a fairly dreadful state of hopelessness and was comforted only by his distance from the demands and rewards of urban centrality, in a pastoral location which to him was more real than the university or the state.’

Two Dominican poets.

 Selections from  El HOMBRECITO Two Dominican Poets: Frank Báez and Homero Pumarol Selected, Translated, and Introduced by Hoyt Rogers. FRANK BÁEZ AND Homero Pumarol might both be described as homegrown versions of Junot Diaz: native Dominican authors rather than a son of the diaspora like Diaz, but with the same hip originality and with-it verve. […]

Who is Bruce Springsteen?

Peter Knobler: ‘Senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry says, “There’s an authenticity about Bruce that’s just incontrovertible…I think it’s because he’s so true to who he is, and people know it.” But who is he? Is he the egalitarian liberal who sang the radical anti-private-property verse of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” at President Barack Obama’s first inaugural, or is he the guy who allowed his band to be low-balled when offered contracts for a highly anticipated and financially rewarding “reunion tour”?’

Our closet imperialists.

Michael Blackburn: ‘It’s telling, of course, that neither Colley nor Naughton admit the imperial dimension of the EU itself, a dimension openly acknowledged by the Commission’s oily president, Mr Barroso. That would rather spoil their argument.’

Trollope and Self-Help.

Rebeca Richardson: ‘I read Trollope’s Autobiography as a self-help story featuring an ambitious protagonist who utilizes self-deprecation in a bid for readerly sympathy, and who depicts ambition not as a quality that threatens others, but rather, as the drive behind self-competition.’

The ‘infinitely expandable’ minimalism of Anthony Barnett.

Peter Riley: ‘Anthony Barnett’s is a very distinct brand of poetry, only tenuously connected to the work of his contemporaries, and to very few of them. To him the works of British and American poets at large, especially those gaining big sales and official endorsement, are simply contemptible – “lies”. They are lies because they are untrue to the nature of written language as a multiple instrument where sense includes silence and every item of meaning carries a load of echoes and exceptions, and they are untrue to their materials in experience and the world.’

The god of Athens.

Thomas Conlon: ‘Christians are panentheists in the very limited sense that they believe that 2000 years ago God became man for a short period. Any wider identification of God with any part of nature weakens the force and radicalness of the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity. Although some of his best friends may be panentheists Cooper, the biblical Christian, is not about to join them.’

F.T. Prince and other mavericks.

Anthony Howell: “Prince was a Catholic, but his commitment as a writer was primarily to literature. Having been invited to chair the English department of Kingston University in Jamaica, he grew exasperated when students handed him manuscripts avowing their religious zeal. He said to me once, ‘Literature allows one to become emancipated from oneself.’”

Metaphor and poetic mendacity.

Roden Noel: When…we attribute to nature a sympathy with our moods, whether of joy or sorrow, we are not under an amiable delusion; the intuition is true, although the shape it assumes may not always be scientifically correct. Nature, like man, has her bright, rich, joyous, and her desolate, decaying phases; in joy we feel the former most, in sorrow we feel and discern more especially the latter. We may indulge these feelings to a morbid degree and see things too brightly or too gloomily; but the sense of a sympathy in nature has its basis in fact.

The Janus Face of Metaphor.

Alan Wall: Rid language of metaphor and it falls apart. In fact, it is impossible to speak without metaphor. Even if we trained ourselves to avoid figures of speech altogether, catachresis inhabits the lexicon: our etymologies constitute a riot of metaphoric transfer.

Joseph de Maistre’s ‘different sort of progress’.

Anthony O’Hear: There is one respect in which Maistre might himself be too much a figure of his own age: he is as much a believer in progress as his Enlightenment opponents. It is just a different sort of progress.

Ruin, the collector, and ‘sad mortality’.

Alan Wall: The collection exists in order to hold ruin at bay, so there is an acute poignancy to the ruin of any collection. Particle meets anti-particle; annihilation ensues. Alfred Russel Wallace spent years putting together his collection of animals and plants from the Amazon. The brig on to which they were loaded for return to England caught fire, and almost everything was destroyed.