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Cluster index: Michelene Wandor

The last Mantegna.

Michelene Wandor: ‘In her will, Mrs van Hopper left me her library. As I went through the books, deciding what to keep and what to give away, I accidentally dropped a copy of Petrarch. Out of it fell a typed letter, addressed to a Count Alessandro Rietti. Three words were underlined in red: the names Isabella and Andrea, and the word “pearl”. The letter referred to a lost painting by Andrea Mantegna, a portrait of Isabella d’Este, the beautiful and powerful wife to one of the Gonzaga Dukes of Mantua.’

The marital subtext.

A Fortnightly Review. State of the Union by Nick Hornby. Directed by Stephen Frears. Cast: Rosamond Pike and Chris O’Dowd. Ten ten-minute episodes. First broadcast on Sundance TV in May 2019, then available on BBC iplayer and again on BBC2 HD. By MICHELENE WANDOR.  

Rankine’s uncomfortable citizenship.

Michelene Wandor: ‘This book does not make for comfortable reading; it may be cathartic for some, because of its passion. It may challenge others to think about their own ethnic place in their world. Some may find it too uncomfortable to confront. One reviewer called it ‘an unsettled hybrid’. It is also unsettling.’

Sequence, consequence and the random.

Michelene Wandor: ‘This collection…deserves to be read over time, starting at whatever page, or defying the publishers and reading the first (last) collection first, and the first (last) last. The idea of sequence has consequences and the random cannot solve the conundrum of how to read.’

Michelene Wandor: Two new poems.

From ‘burning sage’:

sage brushes blue-grey leaves

once soft leaves, staining my hands moth-wing grey
now waiting, furled, rigid, waiting to flare
into nothing

Mrs Dalloway. Episode two.

It is so nice to be out in the air. If I stand quite still, I can be a poplar tree in early dawn. Hyacinths, fawns. Running water and garden lilies. London is so dreary, compared with being in the country with my father and the dogs. I am a pirate, reckless, unscrupulous, riding on the omnibus up Whitehall, all sails spread. I am free…’

Mrs Dalloway. Episode one.

You have such a command of language. You can put things as editors like them to be put. If you, Richard, advise me, and Hugh writes for me, I am sure of getting it right. I already have a selection of choice phrases use – such ‘we are of the opinion that the times are ripe’. Something about ‘the superfluous youth of our ever-increasing population’. A phrase about ‘what we owe to the dead’. That sort of thing.

Dramatising Mrs Dalloway.

Michelene Wandor: One must engage with the rhythms and the style of the original, so that the dramatising process remains faithful to these, as well as to the more obvious issues of story, etc. The consummate dramatiser is also a consummate critical reader, for whom part of the dramatisation is the challenge of including not only elements within the prose, but also, in a sense, re-reading the imperfections, the contradictions, the lacunae, even, in the text. This is essential because, of course, one is reading from the present, with one’s critical insights, whatever they are.

Can Creative Writing really be taught in British universities?

Michelene Wandor: Writer-teachers are not being paid to write, but, rather, to teach. Their imaginative output (poetry, drama, prose) is now called ‘research’, within the academy, while still being deemed ‘literature’ outside it. It’s an issue which CW avoids

‘Private Eye at 50’, surrounded by elderly gents in greatcoats.

Michelene Wandor: This laid-back exhibition of images from its first fifty years, nestles in two interconnecting rooms at the V & A, conveniently on the route to the wonderful café. Lining one high wall are covers, each of which catches a chilling moment in recent political history. There is a young Tony Blair, dark hair waving over his head, visiting an elderly person in hospital. Blair has a huge grin, reassuring the patient that ‘there’ll be a spin-doctor along in a minute’.

≡ Prêt à poetry in the Surgeons’ Hall.

Michelene Wandor: This has been a rare moment of public protest among atomised artists, as all writers are.

· Talent’s got Britain. Cowell’s got the world.

Michele Wandor: Cowell reminded us that, along with the £100,000 and a spot at the Royal Variety Performance, the winner’s career is assured. We know this from other talent shows, but the performing dog is now well out of the bag after Susan Boyle.

· Benjamin Britten’s Midsummer Camp.

Michelene Wandor: The end of the first half culminates in Shorty pulling himself on his stomach, across the front of the stage, to end with his head in Gangly’s lap. Perhaps this is true happiness. Perhaps not.

The Wedding: Good, old-fashioned Royal Family (production) values.

Michelene Wandor: On Friday, April 29, 2011, our couple are friends. They have lived together – as one royal biographer said, without mentioning the word ‘sex’: ‘This is a woman who knows exactly what to do.’ And yet, a guest agony aunt on TV, asked for her advice to the bride said: ‘Have a son quickly, and don’t take any lovers.’ Plus ca change?

New York in the ’70s: the pioneers head downtown.

Michelene Wandor: From the very beginning there is a stark contrast between materials, form and content: the process which makes art history is ironically very visible. Videos and sound, recreation, give a flavour of the original chaos and vigour, out of which a genuinely new ‘found’ and ‘made’ series of artistic experiments developed.