:: Essays archive ( 2000-2005, click for articles pre-2006)

Sex, Style, and Sewage Farms: Winifred Holtby and Virginia Woolf published 02/12/2014

Winifred Holtby’s novels offer us not the “luminous halo” of consciousness, but the materiality Virginia Woolf rejected as lifeless; to Woolf’s rhetorical question “Must novels be like this?” Holtby implicitly replies that at any rate they can be like this and still convey something important.

Rohan Maitzen on the literary relationship between and legacy of Winifred Holtby and Virginia Woolf.

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Prediction and the flagpole published 29/11/2014

The study of economics is faced with this problem – let’s call it the flagpole problem (I’m borrowing it from the philosopher Julian Reiss) – all the time. The IMF says there is an association between austerity and lower growth. Yet a range of other phenomena were associated with both austerity and lower growth during the study period. Interest rates were at or near zero. The financial system was broken. Households had high levels of debt.

Emran Mian on economic prediction.

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“weird sex under the pier” published 28/11/2014

What fun we had at The Colony, talking books and writers, loving words and laughter we both got on well. Each month we both got up and did The Colony Showtime along with Alabama 3, The Magic Numbers and Badly Drawn Boy; the only night where Shane McGowan paid to sing. I thought it wouldn’t be long ‘til Salena was discovered by the rest of the world, such talent and beauty, inside and out rarely go together and a great natural performer.

Sophie Parkin on Salena Godden‘s books of poetry and autobiography.

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Strangled: the “Black And White” album published 21/11/2014

Picture for a moment a world in which the most significant practitioners of every particular musical style were written out of the history of that movement. For example, imagine The Beatles being excluded from the story of the Sixties beat boom; or Charlie Parker being mysteriously passed over in retrospectives of bebop; or King Tubby being omitted from narratives on the evolution of dub reggae. Such acts of neglect might seem unthinkable, and yet there is one genre whose self-appointed custodians do ensure the marginalisation of its greatest exponents, and that genre is punk.

Phil Knight on The Stranglers.

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(Notes) From the Other Shore published 18/11/2014

“I encounter discomfiting truths here, within and outside of myself. How for years I’ve longed to come back, felt some piece of me missing for not reckoning with the Vietnam that was left behind, and then to come back and have to admit the ways I still feel I do not belong.”

Dao Strom on returning to Hanoi.

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The Artist Pioneer: East London and the ‘Stripped-Pine Pioneers’ published 25/10/2014

Since the 1960s a picture has emerged. A collective language of urban development, which paints artists – to use a generic conglomeration of fine artists, writers, architects, photographers and filmmakers – as urban pioneers. It would seem this has become the portrait of urban renewal. Artists as what Jonathan Raban so cuttingly called the ‘stripped-pine pioneers’. First-wave foot soldiers of gentrification. Boldly marching beyond the frontiers of well-trod quartiers, in search of new, cheap, interesting spaces to live and work.

Bea Moyes on the development of the East End.

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The JeffCO School Board and the Pentagon’s “Vietnam” published 18/10/2014

“You can’t separate this effort to justify the terrible wars of 50 years ago from the terrible wars of today,” said Phyllis Bennis, a Middle East expert who has known Mr. Hayden since the early 1970s. “When I saw this (the Pentagon’s version of Vietnam, what the JeffCO School Board dreams of), I thought immediately, ‘We’ve got to stop this.’ ”

Alan Gilbert on the Pentagon’s Vietnam.

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The Circular Church (or Books, Guns and the Report on the Blind) published 13/10/2014

I recognise street names that I’ve gleaned from a recent reading of a biography of Borges. I first read Borges when I was eighteen: The Aleph and Other Stories. Those fictions introduced other dimensions – outside of time and in parallel spaces – not only to my conception of Buenos Aires and South America but also to London, Cardiff, New York. According to the Penguin History of Latin America by Edwin Williamson, indigenista intellectuals like Victor Raul Haya de la Torre claim that Indo-American historical space-time is not, and will never be, the same as Europe’s. But the writers of the Far South of the Americas are a lot less fanciful than those on the shores of the Caribbean where Gabriel García Marquez set his work and where Isabel Allende began writing hers. Not that I disparage an openness to chance. I’d begun a voracious consumption of Latin American literature four months before setting out on this journey and chance had already played a significant part in the books that had fallen into my hands

Des Barry’s Argentinian dérive inspires a renewed interest in Latin literature.

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Francis Plug’s Top Backstage Tips For Authors published 03/10/2014

Alcohol is absolutely essential to the public author. You cannot cope without it. No way. Once you’re in your event you’ll be able to drink white spirits, but you need to get the brown stuff in early, because it doesn’t look like still water.

Exclusive to 3:AM, by Francis Plug.

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Cadaqués published 19/09/2014

The city we do not know confronts us as impenetrably as a geometric volume, I think, though I know it isn’t true; as soon as the exterior assaults us we withdraw to the safety of classifications: at the very least, we know the meaning of the shifting streetlights, the purpose of the sidewalks, the words bar and café are the same the world over. After a certain age, perceptions seem to serve no purpose at all but to divest the exterior of autonomy with relation to its self-definition.

By Adrian West.

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