I am incredibly tickled to feature so prominently in Nicholas Royle’s introductory essay for Salt’s Best British Stories 2016. I have never met Nicholas, nor read his work and don’t know much about him, but his prissy comments about my role as editor of The London Magazine are a sheer delight. A public attack of such sherbet vehemence seems quaintly old fashioned. It is a lavender literary pose, redolent of the catty cliques of the 1950s. I love the way in which he sets himself up as the arbiter of cool and etiquette. He is certainly big with himself, and I admire that in a man. I really do.
The best part of his hissy spittle is this – ‘We’ve all seen the endless photographs online (haven’t we? I’m surely not alone in spending my evenings poring over them) of London Magazine’s glittering champagne receptions.’ Oh the cunning stab of Nicholas’ sarcastic stiletto! Yet of course this is a knife of two blades for Nicholas, since how could he know about the photographs unless he had himself been ‘poring’ over them? As I’ve never met him I cast him in my mind as a funny little imp, sitting up late and surfing The London Magazine’s website in fingerless gloves – a kind of cross between Albert Steptoe and Kenneth Williams – salivating in lonely scandal and outrage at the enjoyment of others.
Nevertheless, The London Magazine is rightly flattered by Royle’s popinjay attention, even if we wonder why he devoted such a large amount of space in his essay to us. What I will say is that those who think they know what ‘cool’ is are rarely cool themselves. Also, we shall continue to run our magazine in the manner in which we see fit and will take no lessons in etiquette from Nicholas Royle, whoever he may be. I hope we get a mention next year’s essay. It’s always good to be talked about. And of course I wish Nicholas Royle well.
By Steven O’Brien, Editor of The London Magazine