With a Bit More Democracy We Might Hang Mr Howard

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Cleisthenes may have invented democracy in Athens in 508 BC but not all Athenians were in favour of it. Here Plato in his Republic (c 375 BC) describes what happens when democracy gets out of hand: ‘Teachers are afraid of their pupils and curry favour with them, while pupils despise their teachers. Older members of […]

Worth Investigation

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Edith Wharton tells a story about Henry James, who once managed to get lost on the Kings Road, Chelsea. In desperation he accosted a local and proceeded to treat him to the usual orotundity and prolixity of the Jamesian period, replete with many an ‘in short’ – the inevitable prelude with James to a fresh […]

They Must All Go Back to Potty Training

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘The God of the Germans’, wrote Jung in a notorious essay of 1936 which was said to lend support to Nazi anti-Semitism, ‘is not the Christian God but Wotan.’ Leo Abse agrees. The leitmotiv of his profoundly disturbing and compulsively readable book is that a destructive aggressiveness, a Wagnerian megalomania, lurks at the root of […]

He Has No Solution

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

It’s easy to read – just twenty-five bite-sized chapters painlessly combining autobiography and potted economic history from the First World War to the present. At points when I began to yawn and wonder when he was going to tell me something I didn’t know, he came up with a juicy tale of financial swindling or […]

Debt was the Spur

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Rooting around in the basement of a Camden library a couple of decades ago I came across a set of shelves buckling under the weight of the handsome Caxton edition of Balzac’s Comédie humaine, published in 1899 to mark the centenary of the author’s birth. Inserted in the copy of Eugénie Grandet was a note […]

The Full Horror of Ordinary People

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Mike Leigh’s Naked (1993) is a wonderful, horrible film. It follows the adventures of Johnny, a Mancunian Raskolnikov, introduced to us in the first scene committing a vicious rape. Repellent yet fascinating, Johnny – played with almost unhinged brilliance by David Thewlis – is presented as an emblematic antihero for our times: rootless and loveless […]

What Conspiracy?

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Some time ago Christopher Hitchens disinterred an aperçu of Conor Cruise O’Brien that ‘intellectuals who were too fastidious to sacrifice civility and objectivity for the revolution could quite often be induced to make these very sacrifices for the counter-revolution’. A similar trait can be observed among the panjandrums of American publishing. Although they make a […]

The Rage of Dying

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Sherwin B Nuland is an American writer/doctor who argues here – in fact protests too much, methinks – that finding out as much as we can about death beforehand will rob it of its terrors. I doubt it. Acknowledging death, yes, instead of denying it; mustering up any spiritual beliefs or experiences we can, yes; […]

At the End of the Day, Bourgeois is Best

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

When I asked the green-eyed Parisian air hostess with whom I shared a flat why Michel Foucault had fallen from grace in France but was flavour of the decade in both British and American universities, she said: ‘Our literary theories are like our clothing: they are for a single season.’ Foucault really went out of […]

Deafened by Birtspeak

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In February 1972, a bright young producer at London Weekend Television was described in a newspaper profile as someone who would be ‘very much at home behind an electric guitar in front of 5,000 watts of solid noise. He is big, hairy, hip. He wears button-through T -shirts and purple cord pants and a jacket […]

History of Idleness

Posted on by David Gelber

The authors refer to the ‘beaching season’, and it is with us. A towel hits the sand, we go horizontal, we roast for two weeks. As self-confessed beach bums, Lena Lencek and Gideon Bosker pay homage to the ritual; as academics, their account is keenly researched and tightly chronological – with its roots in mythology, […]

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