Reading Isn’t Believing

Last year, during lockdown, I wrote a short novel. Since then, I’ve been trying to find a publisher for it. I’m still trying. Writing (I mean the creative sort) has been my main ambition and motivation for most of my life. I have written plays that have been performed in my home town without disaster. …

The Modernity of “Melincourt”

“How can I seriously call myself an enemy to slavery, while I indulge in in the luxuries that slavery acquires? How can the consumer of sugar pretend to throw on the grower of it the exclusive burden of their participated criminality?… If every individual in this kingdom, who is truly and conscientiously an enemy to …

All What Jazz: The Shostakovich Jazz Suite that Never Was

It’s just one of those extremely trivial things that nevertheless irritate me beyond all measure. As is well known, the great Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich wrote two Jazz Suites: the first in 1934 and the second in 1938. They became well known after Decca released a “Jazz Album” of this music in 1993, the Royal …

Cosima’s Birthday: An Episode in the Life of a Genius

(Inspired by the well-known story of the origins of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll.) COSIMA WAGNER IS IN BED ON CHRISTMAS DAY. ENTER THE GREAT WAGNER. WAGNER: My wife, I wish you a very happy birthday. COSIMA: That was yesterday. WAGNER: Was it? Ah, what do days matter? Yesterday, today, tomorrow, they are all the same in …

Ian Fenwick and Wodehouse

Sometimes, my interests lead me to strange places. A few weeks ago, I was tweeting about first edition covers to the works of P.G. Wodehouse, as you do, and I wondered if the cover of The Code of the Woosters was by the famous cartoonist Fougasse (Cyril Kenneth Bird). I don’t want to keep you …

The Man Who Found a Cat in His Hair

Gerald hadn’t meant his hair to grow so long. He’d had his chance in the summer when the salons reopened, at just the time when his hair, moving beyond the point of mere shagginess, was starting to become distinctly unusual. Nevertheless, and despite the regular occasions when he looked in the mirror and thought, “I …

Blott in the Age of Brexit

I’ve always said that the history of Brexit is being written by Tom Sharpe, that writer of brutal farces in which the most awful events escalate without mercy, British society is shown to be rotten through and through, and civilised values are not upheld with anything except the most perfunctory lip service. I have been …

Trumpets and Miracles: Sondheim’s “Anyone Can Whistle”

There are artists (usually writers) whose works I enjoy immensely while at the same time feeling an undercurrent of irritation at them. Stephen Sondheim is one of those artists. There is a fastidious rightness in his best work that I love, exemplified in the lines from A Little Night Music‘s “The Sun Won’t Set”, a …

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