Open the Pages of…

The London Review of Books     April 17, 2014

In looking at the periodical The London Review of Books, the same large size, fold in half size periodical follows the ooh of The New York Review of Books.  Even when you turn inside, the Table of Contents follows the same pattern, with contributors detailed below the actual pages the articles appear on.  I like that the preview for the contents of the next issue is also listed on this page.  No apparent online access version is listed, yet there is one and can be found here.

The very first article delves you into the UK directly, the controversy of Hs2.  I had no idea that Hs2 meant the High Speed two, the plan for a 330 mile railway that will link parts of traveling north and south in the U.K. and controversial due to the fact that individuals are being asked to move since the rail itself will be taking over particular parts where homes are located.  Obviously, one of the largest concerns is that of the ability to bring the U.K. even more to the modern era. All sorts of issues that involve the environment an the land, as well as dispossessing homes are contained, as well as the overall plan and justification for such a mammoth project, and as you can see, there is alot of opposition as well.  There is much attention to the mammoth issue since this article actually goes on for about 4- pages.

The Letters section of course has correspondence that relates to articles of the past from within UK, yet, also writers from Virginia, Toronto, and Bolivia add to the diversity of writers that respond to past articles.  It’s nice to see the variety of readers and issues being represented.

It’s ironic how we discussed the books in The New York Review of books that have to do with China, as the next article chooses Pamela Crossley’s Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China.  The biggest takeaway her was that Cixi rose up through the ranks of a surviving wife of the Xianfeng emperor, and when the emperor passed away, continued to influence many factors that China has implemented today in the modern era of China.  It is hinted that that Cixi was referred to as more honorable and heroic than she was in real life, yet the contributions she left behind as a woman in a strict China dynasty seem to be very apparent.  This further emphasize the power of a woman in a time where women did not have the chance to be influential when it came to men being the main object of ruling and contributions to a country to the public eye.

I was intrigued with the new article which focused on the artist Kate Bush.  I never truly listened to anything by Kate Bush, but always knew in the 80’s -90’s she stood on the verge of being different and being able to stand apart from the mainstream music stream. Ian Penman makes the point that due to the fact that Kate Bush always managed to be quite popular from choosing to not be in the public light alot, and the fact that she works exclusively with her family and a studio at her home, the risks in music she seemed to take before are behind her.  The urge to want Kate Bush to go back and be challenged and take risks in her music is apparent in this author’s writing and he ends hoping this is a sue for Kate Bush to reemerge with the same style she appeared with in the 90s full of daring, challenge, and breaking from the standard mold of artists out there now.  Listening to her song Hounds of Love and Waking the Witch, (a little freaky to say the least) one hears a Cyndi Lauper style voice only much more mature, which takes risks, experiments and performs outside of the parameters of the standard music that was in the 80’s.

In the next article, you could tell this was very hard core politics in the UK, and Colin Kidd goes head on into the strategies to repair the House of Commons, but was way above my ability to follow due to the various names and conventions I am quite unfamiliar with in the govern of the U.K..  Yet, it is  important to see how relevant the London Review of Books keeps with the current concerns of the country.

The first in detailed article on a book would be that one examining Lydia Davis’ Can’t and Won’t.  The author Adams Mars-Jones dissects the sections of this novel and interprets the various sections as they appear to the reader.  While most seem autobiographical, they do appeal to the author due to the quirkiness and creativity she brings to observing events she goes on to describe.

I went on to read the next article focusing on artists Ben Nicholson and Winifred Roberts (Nicholson), as well as Alfred Wallis, who both artists came across and seemed to help promote.  What I found amazing was learning that Alfred Wallis really had just painted on cardboard and pieces of whatever he could find in his fishing shack, using paint he had on hand from the boats.  I think it is quite amazing to read about individuals I never kew existed, and have them brought forefront through the London Review of Books, showing the diversity of topics that are revealed in this periodical.  The gallery Kettle’s Yard is references constantly where many of these works were displayed, which in itself looks amazing.

In looking at Marina Warner’s Story-Bearers, the Moroccan author Abdelfattah Kilito is focused on, with the focus on how he saw languages, (Arabic and French) as well as  how he worked through them and how his works are being translated currently. and a video demonstrates his ability as an author comes through however this is not in English, but Arabic, so might be difficult for some.

Another political article follows that examines the role of the United States with Syria and potential attacks, and Obama’s decision to follow through or not in she of the cases.  The tone of the article is somewhat critical or more puzzles by why certain moments were not followed through to attack Syria when that seemed to be the intention, and the scary aspect of chemical weapon use, and which country is supplying to which country, and then the involvement of Turkey among this as well.  The additional scary aspect is the level that the U.S. has been providing arms to groups that actually might be more a threat than beneficial to the fighting occurring in Syria.

In the heading titled Short Cuts, a brief look at the conflict is brought to the reader’s attention, that involves Crimea, Romania, Germany,  Russia, and the Ukraine, a back and forth struggle involving aspects of religion, the Tartars, and the risk of freed that now exists.

In an article that focuses on Francois Mitterand, it is interesting to found out the loves of foreign dignitaries and how their lives are as scandalous as those we heard about in the United States.  From affair to the critical moves made toward various decisions, in reading the views of European views, this periodical is able to delve you into a different vocabulary of lives instantly from the variety of European-centered articles.  I had not idea how involved in the resistance Mitterand was and was unaware of the timeframe of his live and involvement, so this article also became a history lesson to me of his influence and involvement after being a Prisoner of War.

I was intrigued with an article that focused on how little was know about Jonathan Swift, due to his elusive references which often were coded to mean something else.  The emphasis on Jonathan Swift is in fact interesting.  The while article talks about how the word “Coffee” standing for sexual relations with a woman.  Yet this encrypting occurred frequently in his life, which adds the mystery to finding out details and information about his life.  The phrase “patterns of contradiction” appear everywhere in relation to studying Jonathan Swift.

Richard Hoggart is examined next as a prominent representative of cultural and media literature.  Additionally, he is discussed serving on a trial as a witness to determine if the novel Lady Chatterly’s Lover was obscene.  Ironically, the fit that someone of Puritan character was behind this story also comes up in this discussion hat involved him as a key witness.  One of his most influential works was The Uses of Literacy of what he is best known for.

Under the Diary column, a particularly interesting article dealt with the feelings of the areas of Odessa, Crimea, and the Ukraine.  The conflicts that interact with Russia helped bring some sense of the various feelings among factions in this area, and this column seems to allow writers to in fact write in a personal/diary format to bring out meaning of issues a little more clearly, especially issues that seems to be confusing due to the multitude of sides involved.  After reading this I realized the individuals in these areas that due feel change is about to happen, changes a million worlds away, and those that do not want to be involved.

The three pages of the Classifieds section covers everything from announcements for Write-Ins, Universities of Study, to many offers to travel to European destinations for accredited writing sessions and writing retreats.

In between the diverse articles that cover so many ranges of topics, publishing companies like Princeton University Press, films by Film Forever, Cambridge University Press, Harvard, Uniform Books, and Authorhouse (self publishing) just to name a few, are represented.

I was interested in the London Review Bookshop’s coverage of 10 texts that covered the breadth of Samuel Beckett, and the chance to visit the bookshop that focuses on so many contributions Beckett made.

I walked away exhausted working my way through so many political, social, and other articles from so many topics – I had NO IDEA the London Book Review of Books would take me there, and it will take you too, but be ready, this is the BBC, NPR, and more wrapped up in each periodical, and you will walk away more than informed!





About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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