I set my bag down at my feet, and looked back at the way I’d come, sweating, breathing hard. The path was narrow and shaped by switchbacks that snaked up the hill. It disappeared behind a bend adorned with a clump of morning glories that made the climb look bucolic and gentle. This was a lie. They hadn’t told me about the hills, the uneven quality of the roads. They’d told me to hire a cart to bring me up to the house, but I wasn’t in the habit of ordering carts. [...]
I had been reading Foucault – and not understanding it properly; I was too distracted to concentrate. But I got the gist of it, at least what I thought was the important stuff, what he was saying about madness and how it has been civilised out of us, how back in the day it used to be that sane people and mad people all lived together and there wasn’t so much of a difference. And ‘mad’ people were often seen as visionaries with special access to God. It was only when people [...]
There has arguably never been a better time for reading, and we at The London Magazine have plunged ourselves into books of all shapes...
"I discovered Martial’s poetry by searching for the number 104 for an unrelated reason, which was recorded on Wikipedia as being the year he probably died. I trust this kind of chance occurrence, and it led me to reading some of the epigrams, which I imagine I had vaguely heard of before. I responded immediately to their playfulness, sarcasm, brevity, devotion to social commentary, and general refusal of seriousness – especially things like Martial’s own admission that his poems aren’t even that good, a lot of the time." [...]
'The discomfort of boredom is never something human beings have liked, but reality and nature and the lack of technology, and the rudimentary qualities of technology, pushed back on us. The friction that we want to eradicate is defined by boredom and old age and sickness and death, and we need these things to be human, and we need these things to have interesting, vital arts and letters as well.'
Jack SollowaySinéad Gleeson on solidarity in sickness, isolation and empathy With the UK government currently advising ‘social distancing’ and the country expecting further preventative measures...
As England’s oldest literary periodical, The London Magazine has an illustrious history dating back to 1732. To celebrate our heritage, we delved into the archives to discover what was in the magazine exactly 250 years ago this month, in March 1770. A selection of fascinating excerpts is presented below. Many of the writers’ concerns seem strange or even quaint to us now, but several topics of discussion seem to be of enduring relevance [...]
What do we even want from coming of age? Do we want to be wise, mature people, or do we just care about ticking off a list of pre-agreed markers: homeowning, or a long-term relationship, or whatever it is? Ultimately, you can be a child, you can be the most immature and undeveloped human, and have achieved all those things. So obviously it’s a problematic term. Obviously, Catcher in the Rye is the ultimate touchstone for literary coming-of-age for most people [...]
‘...Some were to say, “At last, a Christian play!” but I soon came to the conviction that for Beckett it was a mockery. I didn’t want to press the symbolic side. I didn’t bother the actors by saying, “Look, careful, this is very important, it means something other than it seems”. I wanted them to discover it for themselves; through the rehearsals they should give something surpassing the everyday realism of tramps — who finally are not tramps but you and me.’ [...]
When we were splattered with freckles and tied up in pigtails, we picked sharp rocks from the garden and pushed them into each other’s wrists, our flesh tender and white like peeled crabs. I remember the way our wounds looked, mushy and filled with pieces of grit. ‘Now we are blood brothers,’ I said. She looked at me from behind her nose. 'Blood sisters,’ she pouted. We got changed on the back seat of the car every Wednesday night as my mam drove us from school [...]
Set in Ireland in 1858, seven years after the potato famine, The Wonder tells the story of an English nurse who is hired to spend two weeks observing an eleven-year old girl, who, her parents claim, has not eaten for months. Based on the almost fifty cases of ‘fasting girls’ - of women who claimed to be surviving without food for months on end in Europe and North America between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries - Donoghue’s novel anticipates the invention of anorexia [...]
'It’s dark in here and forest green: Britannica, sixteen oak trees in a London living room, / the little girl, my mother, in the bookcase glass. / Italy, Ithaca, Izmail, Japan, each page a mainsail, / turning, HMS Discovery – none of the rivers of southern Italy is of any great importance.' - Jane Draycott, ‘Italy to Lord’. British poet Jane Draycott is interested in sound poetry and collaboration. Her translation of the Middle English poem Pearl won the Stephen Spender Prize [...]
Want to feel young? Fitzcarraldo Editions – whose small roster of authors includes two of the last five Nobel laureates for literature – is less than five years old. Its first book, Matthias Enard’s Zone, was published in August of 2015, which makes the independent publishing house exactly three months younger than Mad Max: Fury Road [...]
She enters. She is roused by anger and reproach. She bursts onto the right of the image as if it were a backdrop masked with curtains. One hand clutches a knife against her waist, which gleams obliquely across her belly. Her face is cold, her mouth thin, lips tight, eyebrows knit, her gaze is clear and hard, her hair is slicked into two little severely parted plaits. The knife, whose handle disappears into her balled fist, vibrates at the very center, nearly absent from it [...]
The following text is an extract from the story “Smack”, taken from Julia Armfield’s debut collection Salt Slow, published by Picador: 'The jellyfish come with the morning – a great beaching, bodies black on sand. The ocean empties, a thousand dead and dying invertebrates, jungled tentacles and fine, fragile membranes blanketing the shore two miles in each direction. They are translucent, almost spectral, as though the sea has exorcised its ghosts [...]'
I had made her so unhappy that she had developed a sense of humor, which she certainly didn’t have when I married her . . . This line from Bluebeard’s narrator remarks on another kind of humor, the black humor Vonnegut is best known for. Its source is helplessness and despair. He explains: Laughter or crying is what a human being does when there’s nothing else he can do [...]
Best known for his illustrations of Roald Dahl’s books — including Fantastic Mr Fox, Matilda, The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory amongst others — Quentin Blake's latest exhibition, Anthology of Readers, turns his eye to book-lovers [...]
Marcel Proust and his oeuvre are at once overexposed and mysterious. Entire books and studies have explored the minute details of his personal life and literary work. There is a book about what cures and medications he took specifically for his insomnia. There is a hundred-page academic study dedicated solely to the eight-word first sentence [...]
Chris McCabe is the National Poetry Librarian. In 2013 he was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award and his works include numerous poetry collections, including Speculatrix (2014) and The Triumph of Cancer (2018). His new poetry anthology Poems from the Edge of Extinction, published by Chambers this year, collects poems from endangered languages [...]
Caoilinn HughesOn winning the Collyer Bristow PrizeFirst thanks go to my peers—Sophie Mackintosh, Danny Denton, Samuel Fisher and Katherine Kilalea—for writing such good books...
The recently-launched Rough Trade Books imprint has been releasing pamphlets at a prolific rate since the summer of last year, bringing us highly collectable...
As it's Halloween, The London Magazine team have been discussing the nature of horror in fiction, and why we are so attracted to reading it....
London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if...
Staff picks for the month of August at The London Magazine! Here's what we've been reading recently: Steven O'Brien - Editor The Music of Chance -...
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