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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!

Review | The Ink Trade by Anthony Burgess, Edited by Will Carr

Image taken from AllEvents


Even though Burgess was an ‘enormously prolific journalist’, he is dominantly known for his controversial, cult classic A Clockwork Orange (1962). But you will find no Nadsat here.

This collection of journalism, edited by Will Carr, features some of Anthony Burgess’s articles from 1961 to his death in 1993. Previous collections of his work include Urgent Copy (1968) and Homage to Qwert Yuiop (1986) however, as these are now out of print, many readers are unaware of Burgess’s non-fiction. That is, until now.

The Ink Trade is comprised of an impressive sixty articles and reviews covering a range of topics from Samuel Beckett’s birthday (not Good Friday as Beckett would argue) and why Burgess writes (‘compulsion’ he simply puts). Each feature is a few pages long which makes this book the perfect companion to anyone like me, a millennial with a fleeting attention span – or so I’m told.

But, in all seriousness, The Ink Trade makes a great example of a book you can pick up and put down. You can read it anywhere and you won’t have to worry about finishing the chapter before your stop or until someone else wants the toilet.

Although short, each section is written with both substantial research and credibility yet also wit, cynicism and rhythm –  making it a pleasure to read. ‘Literature is monody, the single line, the voice unaccompanied’, he writes, almost poetically in The School of Jesuits yet, a mere twenty-five pages later, he effortlessly shifts to a comically spiteful tone: ‘The critics are having a stab at me again. Me that is, in my capacity as a novelist…Writing a book is damned difficult work, and you ought to praise any book you can’. He seems to effortlessly immortalise his voice on the page, a skill few writers can successfully do, as we picture him before us, throwing his toys out of the pram, fag in one hand and a whisky in the other.

His style of writing reminds me of other great journalists and novelists such as Hunter S. Thompson and George Orwell. They all share that nihilistic and macho persona that only writers of their generation seem to pull off.

This book contrasts greatly to his fiction. If you were to give The Ink Trade and Clockwork Orange to a reader, concealing the author’s name, they would quickly assume that they were written by two different people. That’s if they made it through the first Nadsat infested page of the 1962 black comedy.

I can only fault this book on one thing – his criticisms. I don’t agree with quite a few of them and in many cases seem hypocritical and vague. He claimed Pale Fire, Nabokov’s 1962 novel, was ‘tedious to read’ (just a tad rich coming from you Burgess) and states that Kerouac’s style of ‘dangerous leaness’ is ‘not good’. However, disliking a book for the author’s opinions is just as productive as fighting with a dead man. Hang on. That’s exactly what this is…

The Ink Trade is the perfect companion for anyone on their daily commute, especially those interested in journalism and literary criticism. It is an accessible and effortless read and I’m thankful Will Carr has given us that. If he hadn’t collated these previously unpublished materials, I would have always remembered Burgess for ‘chepooka’ and not his stinging wit.

The Ink Trade releases on the 30th May. 

By Emily Priest

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