The next post will be on or before Saturday 14th April. If you want to read my latest comic novel about online dating, THE LAWLESS BOOK OF LOVE, go to the January and February 2018 archive, see well below and to the right
NB. Everything below is drawn and edited from a recent issue of the (UK) Literary Review, my very favourite literary magazine
LOW WAGE BRITAIN
At Amazon he had to call the warehouse a ‘fulfilment centre’. At Uber when the bleeping blue light indicated a booking, he had 15 seconds to make up his mind whether to take it or not. At Carewatch, where he had 20 minutes to wake, clean, shower, dress, feed and counsel each ‘customer’ before moving on to the next, he learned the meaning of hopelessness, in a job that is impossible to do in the time allotted: travel time is not remunerated and you are obliged to provide your own fuel and vehicle.
HE HATED BRUSSELS
The controversial author of Sylvie and inspiration to the Surrealists, Gerard de Nerval (1808-1855) had, as a striking pet, a lobster he used to walk through Paris on a silken lead. Regarding the Senne, the trickle of a river running through Brussels, and recalling the allophonous Seine, de Nerval asked himself: ‘What kind of a capital is a city where you can’t even drown yourself?’
THE GREAT MAN’S PONDEROUS TOME
Publisher Gallimard were baffled when 3 weeks after its 1943 publication, Jean-Paul Sartre’s 700 page Being and Nothingness became a freak bestseller. It turned out it was because the book weighed exactly 1 kilo, and people were simply using it as a weight, as the usual copper weights had disappeared to be sold on the black market or melted down to make ammunition.
THE MAD PARENT
Viscount Tredegar was an occultist and friend of Aleister Crowley. He was for a time in charge of the department which supplied the strategic birds for the WW2 Secret Pigeon Service, but was eventually court-martialled for gossiping about Columba’s work. His defence cited his unhappy childhood and the fact that his mentally ill mother had built herself a large bird’s nest in the living room and sat in it wearing a beak.
DEBUSSY GAVE THEM THE BOOT
[Debussy] refused to be bamboozled by reputation…in bracingly acerbic critical essays, in which he made no bones about describing Berlioz as a ‘prodigious fraud’, Beethoven’s piano sonatas as ‘very badly written’ and Wagner’s Ring Cycle as ‘a box of tricks’.
RENOIR THE MISOGYNIST AND ANTI-SEMITE
[Pierre-Auguste] Renoir took a dim view of women’s intellectual abilities and described feminist authors such as George Sand and Juliette Adam as ‘calves with fine hooves’. At the height of the Dreyfus Affair in the 1890s Renoir threw in his lot with the conservative Right and slandered French Jews as rootless cowards.
SEX AND A SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE
(from the diary of Bloomsbury writer Francis Birrell, concerning economist John Maynard Keynes, 1883-1946)
‘I copulated with Maynard for 2 reasons: a) Out of a spirit of adventure; b) Because it pleased me to think I would copulate with a person I wasn’t in love with & so score off Gerald[Shove]. The whole affair was frivolous. Maynard knew I was not in love with him & as regards me, his was a ‘cock & ball’ affair to use a phrase of his own, as opposed to ‘a hand & heart’. I have not in the least regretted the experiment.’