TLM Issue

There has to be an Afterlife

  There has to be an afterlife, since matter Can neither be created or destroyed. So, fear not, you’ll continue. According to physics Your future presence is definitely required. Look, here’s an atom once breathed by Socrates; There’s another breathed by Van Gogh. Inhale deeply, you can morph into a Neanderthal. Every second new afterlives [...]

Heathcote Williams: A Tribute

  Along with Tom Stoppard, Heathcote Williams is for me the great English writer of my generation. He is first and last a poet. His first book, The Speakers, about the soapbox orators in Hyde Park, was indeed in prose. But prose so musical, so cadence-aware that there had been nothing like it since Murphy [...]

The Snug

  Confessions held by a stained glass door, glass coloured by tales of affairs and debts, horses and deaths. So much hanging in the air, like smoke exhaled in the O of conversation – of what might have been. There’s something I’m meant not to know. And maybe, just maybe, if you could share a [...]

T.S. Eliot, 1922 and transatlantic culture

  In his recent book, Constellation of Genius – 1922: Modernism and All That Jazz, Kevin Jackson describes the indelible impression that 1922 left on the cultural landscape, claiming that it marked the emergence of ‘the most influential English-language novel’ (James Joyce’s Ulysses) and ‘the most influential English-language poem of the century’ (Eliot’s The Waste [...]

The Ideal Husband Exhibition

  The thing is, we’ve been friends since our first day at primary and you sat down at my elbow at the sticking table and said, What shape are you?, then dug around in the wafer-thin glue- backed paper shapes scattered like autumn leaves across the table-top before us, plucked a small pink star from [...]

Meandering Through London

  The Language of Cities, Deyan Sudjic, Allen Lane, July 2017, pp. 240, £9.99 (Paperback) One of several running jokes in the popular 1980s sitcom Only Fools & Horses involved the postal address of the two main characters, Derek and Rodney Trotter. They lived in a block of council flats called Nelson Mandela House, and [...]

Remembering Derek Walcott

  When I realised that I was going to teach English for a year in Fort-de-France, Martinique, I brought with me three books to keep me company in a strange and foreign land. Two of the books were books from my early childhood, two writers from the United States, like me, but the other book [...]

The Cathedral of Soissons

  Amiens, Rouen, Riems, Bourges, Chartres… the celebrated colossi of Gothic ecclesiastical architecture in France, those peaks rising from the northern plains of France that pilgrims and casual explorers from the world over come to gaze at in reverential awe. There they stand straining their necks, overwhelmed by the superhuman scale of the medieval structures, [...]

The Deep Heart’s Core

  Philip Guston and the The Poets, Gallerie Dell’Accademia di Venezia, Venice, 10 May 2017 - 3 September 2017 Among the mad, the bad and the occasionally wonderful work that makes up this year’s Venice biennale, one exhibition stands out for its intelligence, depth and visual alchemy: Philip Guston & The Poets at the Gallerie [...]

Seeing Robert Lowell Plain

  In the centenary of his birth the major American poet Robert Lowell is back in focus, if not quite in fashion. This year he is the subject of an excellent biography, Robert Lowell: Setting the River on Fire, by Kay Redfield Jamison, and his New Selected Poems has also appeared. After proofreading his first [...]

Green Man

  One November morning in 1974 Trafalgar Square’s fountains turned bright green. The perpetrator, Nicolás García Uriburu was out of sight. He had swiftly fled the scene after his latest act against water pollution. ‘Every time I colour water, it’s a baptism for me, a rite of water purification,’ he would say, ‘to make everyone [...]

The Diaries of a Tragic Tory Leader

  Sir Stafford Northcote, 8th Bt. FRS (1818-87) of Upton Pyne, near Exeter (a modest estate by Victorian standards of some 5,700 acres), became Tory leader in the Commons in 1876 when Disraeli, then aged seventy-two, went to the Lords for a quieter life. Disraeli died in 1881 while the Tories were in opposition, to [...]

Shame, Error and Guilt

  Proxies: A Memoir in Twenty-four Attempts, Brian Blanchfield, Picador, August 2017, pp. 256, £9.99 (Paperback) There are changing tides and currents at work in contemporary literature. Just as autofiction is repurposing the relationship between fiction and the self to create autobiographical, metafictional novels, creative nonfiction is using the self and even fiction to better [...]

Angels of Death

  Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed, Ed. Gary Garrels and others, with a preface [by the popular Norwegian writer] Karl Ove Knausgaard and four essays, Yale University Press, July 2017, pp.152, £35.00 (Hardcover) The exhibition takes place at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum in New York and [...]

My London

  Sally Emerson is the award-winning author of novels including ‘Heat’, ‘Separation’ and ‘Second Sight’ and an anthologist of poetry and prose. Her six novels are being published by Quartet this year. She lives in Lon- don. This is the twenty-third article in our regular series of “My London”. Oh my London how I have [...]

An Ode to Spectacles (Three Inches Thick)

  She arrived right on time, smoking a cigarette round the corner, checking her watch between drags before popping in a peppermint pastel, wary of meeting one of those non-smokers sensitive to the stale tar smell as she had been during the three weeks she’d quit last June. Right down to the quick, last drag [...]

It’s All In The Paint

  Wayne Thiebaud, White Cube, Mason’s Yard, London, 24 May - 2 July 2017 Prunella Clough, Annely Juda, London, 24 May - 8 July, 2017 George Rowlett: Paintings from Paestum and Walmer, Art Space, London, 14 July - 11 August 2017 Some years ago, when Wayne Thiebaud (born 1920) made a rare visit to the [...]

Return to Work

  You: perched in an ivory pulpit, a shrew in wire-rimmed glasses. Me: bound to an office chair, a spaniel winding his wedding ring. You hack at the generic diagnosis on my certificate, insinuating I’ve bluffed a doctor, clearing yourself of blame – but your gnarled-knuckles are bloodied from twisting my gut and flushing my [...]

On Reading a Translation of Sappho’s poem on Jealousy

  ‘He seems to me equal to gods that man whoever he is who opposite you sits and listens close to your sweet voice.’ - Sappho I look at you and him creating laughter, Clearly in love, at least to me outside, I look and try to read the words your eyes Speak to him, [...]

Tiger Head Sonnets

XVIII My grandfather searches for flints, for bulb fractures, for shatter marks. A kestrel is rising like smoke over tumuli. There were kisses in words, parcels of silks like petals, carved wooden gods with elephant heads. For in the end he knew she was the miracle itself, the secret which every god refuses to utter, [...]

Quick as a Moth

  Quick as a moth, rises the bird in the air, all rush of wings and glancing of sun from black feathers. The small shell tucked in its beak, barely visible, caught between the bird’s breath and the sky, will remember this moment as a hurtle towards earth, a violence, a scream of air, a [...]

A Study in Blackness

  The Royal Opera, London, Spring/Summer 2017 Giuseppe Verdi, Otello, Giuseppe Verdi, Don Carlo (1886 version), Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg When Zeffirelli cast Domingo in the role of Otello three decades ago for his acclaimed film of Verdi’s opera, there was little concern when the Moor appeared bronzed with rather more than a [...]

Serious Play

  Say Something Back, Denise Riley, Picador, May 2016, pp. 96, £9.99 (Paperback) Commotion of the Birds, John Ashberry, Carcanet, November 2016, pp. 128, £9.99 (Paperback) As many reviewers have pointed out, Say Something Back revolves around the death of Denise Riley’s adult son, and the long elegy ‘A Part Song’, included here, has been [...]

Building With Light

  Designing the V&A: The Museum as a Work of Art (1857-1909), Julius Bryant, published by Lund Humphries in association with V&A Publishing, May 2017, pp. 176, £35.00 (Hardback) At the end of June the Victoria & Albert Museum opened its spectacular Amanda Levete-designed new £50m extension beyond the reverent arches of the Aston Webb [...]

Self-Portrait as Eve

  I never use a peeler. I prefer the sweet frisson of a paring knife chasing my thumb around an equator of red-green globe. I’m a risk-starved wife, peeling apples for a son who insists on naked fruit. I eat a snake coil of skin and he says I’m disgusting, then kisses me on the [...]

Train to Penrith

  There’s a lot of England left Whatever glum people say - Acres and acres of it - but dull Even in Spring; bereft Of hedgerows, wild flowers. Grim units of production, Grey barns, an occasional spread Of solar panels. Lost towers Of churches pointing nowhere Punctuate an agnostic sky; Car parks, piles of pointless [...]

Castillo Olite

  Some English show a pride in family who volunteered to join Spain´s Civil War, seeing it as an anti-fascist fight. I sat and watched a film about the wreck, in terms of deaths the worst that Spain has had. Some in the audience were the sons of those who´d witnessed it in long gone [...]