Jonathan Keates

Shimmering Salons

The Age of Conversation


New York Review Books 488pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

What do the words ancien régime make us think of? Tinkling minuets and enamelled snuffboxes perhaps, Boucher nymphs with dimpled buttocks, mincing courtiers in red-heeled shoes, Marie-Antoinette playing at dairymaids with her ladies-in-waiting in the Petit Trianon or Voltaire flung into the Bastille for ridiculing a duke. The expression is nearly always used pejoratively, implying that the French Revolution, whatever its incidental ghastliness, rescued us for ever from a world of unfathomable artifice and subservience. A basketful of severed heads at the foot of the guillotine was surely a small price to pay for the privilege of not having to grovel to our betters and the right to say what we mean.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Hart sets out to unsettle, startle and disturb. In this strange, disconcerting, radical version of a strange, disc… ,
    • Here is @MannJessica's June crime fiction round-up, discussing books by Georges Simenon, Jack Grimwood,… ,
    • John Stubbs reviews Stephen Greenblatt's latest, 'Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power' ,
    • RT : What happened when US military strategist Herman Kahn - one of Kubrick’s three models for Dr Strangelove - took LSD… ,
    • 'Pollan has no doubt that the use of psychedelics could have a powerfully beneficial effect on a range of condition… ,
    • A memoir about an Untouchable family and the 'formation of modern India': 'Ants among Elephants' by @gidla_sujatha… ,
    • RT : First founded in Edinburgh in 1979, is considered a trusted independent source for reviews of new book… ,