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Contributor’s Picks August/September 2018


Here are the latest Contributor’s Picks! Recommendations for the very best in arts, culture and literature from the writers for The London Magazine August/September 2018 issue. Read their writing in our latest issue, available now

Andrew Lambirth (Review: Artist and Bon Viveur)

Henry Lamb: Out of the Shadows – Salisbury Museum – until 30 September

Few people know the extent of Lamb’s achievement, but this show puts in context his best-known works (such as the famous portraits of Lytton Strachey and Evelyn Waugh), bringing his cityscapes and war paintings together with the later pictures. A powerful draughtsman and highly distinguished painter, sadly there’s no disguising the falling-off of his talents in the 1940s and 50s. 

Horatio Morpurgo (Essay: Б П Ц)

À Combat – Albert Camus

‘Ni victimes ni bourreaux’ (‘Neither victims nor executioners’) was a series of eight essays written in 1946 by Albert Camus, in which Europe’s crisis was situated in the context of rapid global change. ‘In ten years, in fifty years, it will be the pre-eminence of western civilisation that is called into question… The new order for which we are searching cannot be only national nor even continent-wide – above all not eastern or western. It has to be universal.’

Robert Wilton (Essay: The Women of Kosovo)

Bosnia in Limbo  – Borja Lasheras and Bullitt – Lalo Schifrin

I’m reading Bosnia in Limbo by Borja Lasheras, a powerful blending of personal experience and historical and cultural context, exploring how the world does remembrance and reconciliation – or fails to. I’m listening to Lalo Schifrin’s soundtrack to Bullitt, still ice cool on its 50th birthday.

Sharon Black (Poetry: Made the Small Way)

The Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell

A year in the life of Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop, this fascinating diary-style memoir taught me a whole lot about today’s book industry – and it wasn’t even all depressing. A real behind-the-scenes, often hilarious peek at how to (just about) survive in the book trade today and what’s said when the customer leaves the room.

Ellen Jones (Review: Twice-Written)

The Cemetery in Barnes – Gabriel Josipovici

A short, brilliant novel about a translator living alone in Paris. It begins gently, quietly, but morphs into something much darker and more disturbing.

Stuart Walton (Review: Throbbing Oneness)

Trees in Art – Charles Watkins

Charles Watkins’ Trees in Art is a sumptuous intellectual monument to the enchantment and symbolic history of the arboreal world, from sacred groves and mythological transformations to the conflicted status of depictions of nature today, gorgeously illustrated throughout.

Will Vigar (Poetry: Grímsbœ & Ursus Maritimus)

Too Darn Hot: Sweary Doggerel for Heliophobes – Si Spencer

I’m too hot to take anything seriously at the moment, so a delirious, psychedelic bloody-minded, Meldrewvian ejaculation of exasperation at the weather is almost exactly what I need. Better known for writing TV Soap Operas and Graphic Novels, Si assures us he is not a poet but has a go anyway. Most accurate title ever.

Contributor’s Picks – June/July 2018


Introducing Contributor’s Picks! Recommendations for the very best in arts, culture and literature from the writers for The London Magazine June/July 2018 issue. Read their writing in our latest issue, available now

Nicholas Summerfield (Essay: On the Road)
Thinks – David Lodge

This is a light-hearted comedy and, at the same time, a consideration of human consciousness itself.  An overlooked gem.


Maggie Butt (Poetry: Cycling the Appian Way)
Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders


The most extraordinary, original, memorable piece of fiction I’ve read for many years. I have a serious case of writer-envy.


Andrew Lambirth (Review: Public & Commercial: Degas and Patterns of Exhibiting)
Cedric Morris: Artist Plantsman – Garden Museum – Until July 22nd

Timely reappraisal of the painter and gardener who ran a private art school in Suffolk and taught Lucian Freud and Maggi Hambling, among many others. He’s clearly a forerunner of the School of London, and his beautiful flower paintings look as fresh and beguiling today as when they were painted 80 or 90 years ago.


Sharon Black (Poetry: Lucky Penny)
Paterson (2016)


A meditative, poetic journey through the streets of New Jersey via a bus driver and William Carlos Williams – I loved this film for its quiet quirkiness and its tentative stepping-into the centre of things.


Roisin Tierney (Poetry – Fiesta and Mock Orange)
The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in WWII – Svetlana Alexivich

I was really taken by The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich, in which the author interviews Soviet women -captains, tank drivers, snipers, pilots, nurses and doctors – who fought in the second world war.  It is a pitiless read, yet unputdownable and very illuminating. 


William Bedford (Fiction: Flying Lessons)
Vivre Sa Vie/My Life to Live 


A New Wave masterpiece, as powerful and true today as when I first saw it in 1963.


Emily Priest (Essay: Akihabara)
How to Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran 

In the age of #MeToo this book is more relevant than ever. With a sharp wit and laugh-out-loud anecdotes, Moran makes feminist ideology accessible and relatable and makes every female reader cry with laughter. It’s the book I needed whilst growing up!


Jeffrey Meyers (Essay: Conrad’s Judgement: Stevenson
vs. Stevie Crane)
Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva – Rosemary Sullivan 

A fascinating account of a disastrous inheritance.


Michael Spinks (Poetry: The Question & Silver Birches)
Vilette – Charlotte Bronte and The Royal Wedding (19th May 2018)

A book that haunts me with its beauty and daring, its contrived secrecy and its surgically open-hearted confession, Charlotte Bronte’s last novel, Villette, surely stands on the stocks as possibly the greatest novel written in English. She plays with our sensibilities just as she plays with her own beating heart, and what a dreadful, courageous ending.


My second recommendation is The Royal Wedding. People drawn to the intellectual are not supposed to enjoy spectacles like the royal wedding, but the theatre created was both intimate and spectacular. The drama was centred on Harry and Megan but the cast was huge and odd and the charged narrative changed with every minute, and one had glimpses of all sorts of relationships and unexpected contacts. Reading faces and movements was fascinating. And Bishop Michael delighted with bubbling enthusiasm for the occasion, for the two central characters, and for the great source of love, God himself, also present. ‘How important is love?’ he asked. ‘Two people fall in love, and we all turn up.’


Peter Robinson (Fiction: A Seaside Funeral)
Girlfriends, Ghosts, And Other Stories – Robert Walser 



After a visit to Bern in April, I have returned to reading Robert Walsen, and have been enjoying this collection translated by Tom Whalen, Nicole Köngeter and Annette Wiesner.


Ian Stone (Essay: The Commune of the City)
Edward the Elder and the Making of England – Harriet Harvey Wood 



Harriet Harvey Wood’s biography is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of the monarchy and the period – and legacy – of Alfred the Great. The author writes with erudition and engagement. A thoroughly rewarding read.


Peter Slater (My London)
Us – Zaffar Kunail

Image taken from LondonReviewBookshop


I am looking forward to this debut volume out in July. It includes ‘Fielder’, an uncannily evocative poem, which captures the profound significance found in what might have been a small, unremarkable moment.


Ella Windsor (Essay: Mexican Treasure)
Testimony – Robbie Robertson 

The compelling story of the front man of The Band, told from his own poignant perspective.


Read our contributor’s writing in our June/July 2018 issue: order now!

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