Taking Sides: the TLS v. the LRB

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which is the greatest book-review-tastic magazine?

DV (dirtyvicar), Tuesday, 18 May 2004 12:46 (seventeen years ago) link

When the LRB is good, it's very good. But I find the TLS's range much better.

Jonathan Z. (Joanthan Z.), Tuesday, 18 May 2004 13:07 (seventeen years ago) link

This *again*, Vicar? Didn't you ask it on ILE?

I am not saying you should not ask it again, though.

the bellefox, Tuesday, 18 May 2004 13:12 (seventeen years ago) link

Okalright TLS but, well i didn't take it too far but somehow decided NYRB is in fact best....i also rate bookforum this much

Scott & Anya (thoia), Tuesday, 18 May 2004 13:14 (seventeen years ago) link

The LRB out of your question, the Vicar.

I very much enjoyed reading the book reviews in the CULTURE section of the Guardian though - but think they could have been far more bilious wrt BERGDORF BLONDES. I admit I didn't read any reviews which took up a whole page ftb I was very very hungover and the print was jumping about in front of my eyes (not in a good way).

Sarah (starry), Tuesday, 18 May 2004 13:16 (seventeen years ago) link

The LRB has slipped right down my list now that they've cut their free year's subscription down to four free issues only.

I like the LRB
Because if you're me
The LRB's free

Because some bloke I live with is always subscribed to it. It is the real reason I don't live alone.

accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Tuesday, 18 May 2004 14:44 (seventeen years ago) link


kenchen, Wednesday, 19 May 2004 13:06 (seventeen years ago) link

"Because some bloke I live with is always subscribed to it. It is the real reason I don't live alone."

ha ha! that is perfect. My bloke bought me a Granta subscription several years ago, and that always keeps him in my good graces.
TLS or LRB - in America, it's hard to find either. I haven't tried, but are they available on line? I read the NYT book review and shall be receiving the NYRB soon.
I find it amazing that all you/us posters have time to read reviews as well as books. Sometimes I get completely befuddled by reading a review of a book by an author of a book that I wanted to read. Does that make sense?

aimurchie, Wednesday, 19 May 2004 13:54 (seventeen years ago) link

I did work experience at the TLS. They were kinda mean.

Gregory Henry (Gregory Henry), Wednesday, 19 May 2004 17:24 (seventeen years ago) link

For prim, pedantic dowdiness, the TLS can't be beat; I especially like the way they (used to?) cite the full publication information for illustration captions--including the page count. Sweet.

Is the LRB's bookshop still in business?

Stephen X (Stephen X), Friday, 21 May 2004 16:57 (seventeen years ago) link

They do still advertise their bookshop, so I assume it is still open. And aimurchie, if you are a subscriber to the LRB you can access their online archives. Or if you're friends with a subscriber you can get them to access them for you.

Most people I know get their LRB in the post, so availability isn't really an issue.

Gregory, dish!

accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Friday, 21 May 2004 19:18 (seventeen years ago) link

I hate to show my ignorance, but what are LRB & TLS?

Carol, Friday, 21 May 2004 20:51 (seventeen years ago) link

Which do you think would be more quixotic these days--opening a new bookshop or a CD store?

Can you name any other independent bookstores that've opened in the past 3-4 years? God bless 'em, but I'm not sure how they do it.

Stephen X (Stephen X), Saturday, 22 May 2004 01:31 (seventeen years ago) link

I think the LRB (London Review of Books) gets some kind of Arts grant to keep it going, so maybe its bookshop does too.

The TLS is the Times Literary Supplement, Carol.

accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Saturday, 22 May 2004 22:05 (seventeen years ago) link

three weeks pass...

There's free stuff to read on both of 'em, and it's often really good.
I'm just glad they're both there, but major props to whichever one had James Wood review Elizabeth Costello; I haven't even read it yet, but that article has been one of the highlights of my year.
Um, yeah. Must get out of the library more often...

Margo, Thursday, 17 June 2004 04:00 (seventeen years ago) link

The LRB's recent review of John Fowles' Journals was a great scathing review. It must be so satisfying to get your teeth into a really rotten book every so often.

accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Friday, 18 June 2004 12:05 (seventeen years ago) link

one year passes...
Hey! Has anyone filled in their LRB QUESTIONNAIRE yet?

I have!

I want to know what you said, eg about underrated and overrated writers!

the bellefox, Thursday, 2 March 2006 13:12 (sixteen years ago) link

what survey is this, dude?

DV (dirtyvicar), Friday, 3 March 2006 11:01 (sixteen years ago) link

What survey do you think? The one that I mentioned, in my post! It came in an envelope of its own, last week.

Maybe it is not available in the Republic of Letters, I mean, Ireland.

the finefox, Monday, 6 March 2006 14:24 (sixteen years ago) link

I filled this in on behalf of the missus (who is the subscriber) the other day.

Underrated: Norman Rush.
Overrated: Ian McEwan.

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Monday, 6 March 2006 15:03 (sixteen years ago) link

I never got this survey in the mail, but I'm a US subscrib er.

kenchen, Monday, 6 March 2006 19:25 (sixteen years ago) link

twelve years pass...

Given how critical I've been of Colm Toibin, it is fair to say: his recent LRB review of Thom Gunn is one of the better critical pieces I can ever remember reading from him. He knows the poetry, compares collections, makes it personal without being too self-indulgent.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 23 October 2018 09:28 (three years ago) link

one year passes...

Very good:


xyzzzz__, Monday, 22 June 2020 16:15 (one year ago) link

It is.

Future England Captain (Tom D.), Monday, 22 June 2020 17:21 (one year ago) link

Another wonderful Katherine Rundell

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Thursday, 25 June 2020 02:09 (one year ago) link

"And it highlighted the fact that over the 10-year period, the London Review of Books did not publish a single review of a non-white poetry book, or the writing of a single non-white poetry critic. A total of 105 poetry articles by 39 poetry critics were published by the LRB over this period.

“All 39 were white. Those 105 articles reviewed 127 different books and all were by white poets,” says the report. “No other magazine in the UK has published more articles without a single non-white critic. It is the only magazine in our data set to have never published a review of a non-white poet.”

The Ledbury analysis points out that since 2009, eight non-white poets have won the UK’s major poetry awards, the TS Eliot and the Forward prize, including Derek Walcott, Claudia Rankine and Ocean Vuong. “The LRB has reviewed none of these,” it says."


xyzzzz__, Thursday, 25 June 2020 22:54 (one year ago) link

As July begins, I have reached the first LRB of May.

Still reading articles about the pandemic from the beginnings or first half of its duration thus far. It felt more dramatic then.

the pinefox, Thursday, 2 July 2020 09:01 (one year ago) link

The poetry that gets printed by the lrb is generally from a very small number of poets (Anne Carson, John Ashbery (rip) August klienzahler, Rae armantrout) some I love (eg the first two) some I quite dislike (the second two). But like the rest of what they publish its for the mostpart from within a very narrowly defined cultural milieu. Hard to even imagine them going as off-piste to include more experimental contemporaries of armantrout (Susan howe say). In part the narrowness of the lrb is part of what can make it good. The article they published about Theresa may is one of my favourite and it's insights only make sense from within the same parochial 'i went to Oxford' perspective that unites their core staff. Patricia Lockwood is a real oddity and her regular articles delight in contrasting with a house style that can feel oppressively uniform in its tics. It says something of what is so simultaneously monstrous and refreshing about the lrb that its obvious that reflecting greater 'diversity' wouldn't even occur to them.

plax (ico), Thursday, 2 July 2020 10:49 (one year ago) link

I think I'll never catch up.

But then I think: I won't bother reading Jacqueline Rose. And I don't need to bother with this preposterously long, utterly typical Colm Toibin article about letters that Robert Lowell wrote about having an affair.

the pinefox, Thursday, 2 July 2020 14:14 (one year ago) link

Lol I remember that one. I couldn't help thinking that I would love to read an article of similar length about someone in another profession's utter shit-headedness towards an ex. A profession like hairdressing or database management. I don't know why writers' private lives are supposed to be particularly interesting. I know the justification is that Lowell wrote a book of poems about it, and that it was supposed to be a particularly scandalous conflation of the private and the public etc but frankly the length of the article and the detail therein just felt like wallowing in exactly the worst parts of the whole affair.

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Thursday, 2 July 2020 15:02 (one year ago) link

Lowell is boring but toibins writing on him is appalling drivel

plax (ico), Thursday, 2 July 2020 15:44 (one year ago) link

Haven't read the particular article you're referencing

plax (ico), Thursday, 2 July 2020 15:44 (one year ago) link

And I don't need to bother with this preposterously long, utterly typical Colm Toibin article about letters that Robert Lowell wrote about having an affair.

lol that is a pretty fair summation

I don't know why writers' private lives are supposed to be particularly interesting.

Everyone loves gossip + parasocial relations with celebs.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 2 July 2020 15:47 (one year ago) link

I read that Tobin piece and concur, but for the bits on Hardwick, whose writing I've been getting to know more in the last year or so.

The piece by Rose on Camus is really fine and you all should read it. The way it integrates covid with a novel that has had a bizarre re-discovery.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 2 July 2020 15:51 (one year ago) link

Tracer Hand's post above is my favourite on ILX for some time.

the pinefox, Friday, 3 July 2020 08:41 (one year ago) link

LRB used to (might still do) advertise internships only in its own classifieds. I guess it saves money, but doesn't do much for diversity.

fetter, Friday, 3 July 2020 09:31 (one year ago) link

Thank you pinefox! :)

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Friday, 3 July 2020 09:38 (one year ago) link

I don't know why writers' private lives are supposed to be particularly interesting.

They are to other writers it would appear. Especially Phil Space.

Future England Captain (Tom D.), Friday, 3 July 2020 10:41 (one year ago) link

i think LRB's been quite meaty recently but but my reason for reading tends towards "odd perhaps useful fact i was till now unaware of" rather than "deeper understanding of specific topic or person close to my heart" -- and on the whole i prefer the fact to be historical rather than personal these days

i vaguely had an urge to write a letter abt runciman's whitewashy takedown of rahm emmanuel (but i was too busy writing abt adam ant) (who still doesn't feature often enough in this so-called magazine)

(i sent them an actual pitch a couple of months back but got no reply) (i am very very bad at pitches)

mark s, Friday, 3 July 2020 10:54 (one year ago) link

i like jacqueline rose but also tend to leave her big long pieces to "read later" as i assume they will be intellectually demanding -- and then entirely forget to read them

mark s, Friday, 3 July 2020 10:55 (one year ago) link

adam ant) (who still doesn't feature often enough in this so-called magazine)


the pinefox, Friday, 3 July 2020 11:04 (one year ago) link

it reads like the pitch i sent was abt adam ant but it wasn't (one of several problems with it)

mark s, Friday, 3 July 2020 11:06 (one year ago) link

"The poetry that gets printed by the lrb is generally from a very small number of poets (Anne Carson, John Ashbery (rip) August klienzahler, Rae armantrout) some I love (eg the first two) some I quite dislike (the second two)."

Btw I have noticed more people whose poetry I've heard of on twitter being published in the lrb in the last year or so.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 3 July 2020 11:21 (one year ago) link

"i will never log off"

mark s, Friday, 3 July 2020 12:03 (one year ago) link

I came across this piece from Al Alavarez's (someone I hear about now and then but never in an interesting enough way to actually read up on) ex-wife today, reviewing Al's account of their marriage:


It has that tediousness of the literary brand of gossip, but its a one of a kind too.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 5 July 2020 22:02 (one year ago) link

two weeks pass...

enjoying the big piece on robert louis stephenson and henry james in bournemouth -- which i think does the spadework to establish how a long gaze at entwined biographies can in fact be illuminating

(if only bcz it notes -- claims? -- that henry jekyll of jekyll and hyde fame is in fact a. based on his close friend james ftb same initials and b. kind of a critique of james' attitudes to the world and to writing?)

(also bcz fucksake it's fascinating that these two writers were so close)

mark s, Wednesday, 22 July 2020 11:26 (one year ago) link

i thought the hardwick reaches of the lowell-affair essay were also interesting, tho very VERY buried in much too much material abt lowell, who always elicits a massive #whocare from me -- not that i give much of a fuck abt poetry at all but with him it's like "what if beat poetry but dully posh?"

mark s, Wednesday, 22 July 2020 11:28 (one year ago) link

Might fuck about with the Christopher Rick's archive:


(Read the piece on Empson's Using Biography last week, which I did enjoy. I finished Gulliver's Travels recently so his piece on Swift is just in time)

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 22 July 2020 11:39 (one year ago) link

A lot of swearing going on here.

I very much agree with Mark S's post except his spelling of RLS's name.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 July 2020 11:43 (one year ago) link

Is RLS in the TLS or the LRB?

Sonny Shamrock (Tom D.), Wednesday, 22 July 2020 11:50 (one year ago) link

for some reason this stuck with me (on the revolting sounding zevon)

The Q whom Specktor kissed had once been involved with Zevon, and Specktor asked her: ‘Did you ever forgive him?’ She looks at him and ponders, like a Tuesday Weld close-up: ‘I never thought of it that way.’

Fizzles, Sunday, 13 March 2022 18:21 (two months ago) link

LRB 10.3.2022: again I open the wrong issue, am all out of order. No dates on the envelopes these days!

I've read about 5 articles here and none are exceptionally interesting - Simon Akam on the Army probably the standout though. Will Reynolds on McLaren (a figure who, if I think about it, doesn't appeal or interest me at all) be the highlight?

the pinefox, Sunday, 20 March 2022 11:44 (one month ago) link

as someone who's recently read quite a lot abt thomas cromwell and watches every TV romp feat.the tudors i found the piece on the dissolution of the monasteries genuinely interesting and useful

we tend to encounter it merely as a side-issue in the melodrama of ann boleyn (and we tend to see e.g. monks as losers and not worthy of our attention) -- but it was a colossal and a radical re-organisation: the wiping away of a whole layer of social activity (and the transfer of a much smaller strand of it into proto-modern schools and universities) (which we now regard as unustly surviving institutes of privilege)

i also like james butler's piece on medieval possession and exorcisms but it's more about diverting anecdotes than a sketch of a wider and very different world (and i'm less of a fan of ken russell's THE DEVILS than butler is, derek jarman's design notwithstanding)

mark s, Sunday, 20 March 2022 12:20 (one month ago) link

just completed akam on the army and i agree that it is very good: starts with the relatively easy task of taking apart a bad and lazy book, but brings to this a LOT of strong and interesting critical information, including the author's own travails when penguin random house got cold feet and cancelled *his* (much better sounding) book abt these issues

mark s, Sunday, 20 March 2022 13:35 (one month ago) link

Akam's own book was prominently reviewed by the LRB:

Butler did a good job with his task re Exorcism, but I found the article rather pointless. It's odd that Penguin have even published a special anthology of Exorcism, at this point.

My impression re: closing monasteries was that it was mainly about generating wealth for the Crown. Have not much looked into it and am only 30% through the article on it, which is well-written and of course expert.

the pinefox, Sunday, 20 March 2022 15:09 (one month ago) link

Of the two rock biogs recently reviewed Lavinia Greenlaw did a bit better when drawing out interest in Nico than Simon Reynolds did for McLaren. This, despite the latter being very much a one-off, and despite Reynolds having this obsession that he seems embarrassed by now. Maybe he should forget it all, but why should we?

Diarmaid Macculloch is so good! I really enjoyed the piece on the monasteries too. I couldn't get into James Butler's piece. Agree that the David Thomson piece from a few issues back was superb too.

One of piece I really liked was Laleh Klalili on this book by a former US army type that goes through the soldier to consultant to author to kinda guru industry. Very strong, powerful ending.


xyzzzz__, Sunday, 20 March 2022 21:45 (one month ago) link

Diarmaid MacCulloch's long and knowledgeable article ultimately left me unsure why the vast dissolution of monasteries process had taken place at all, except for one brief reference to my own very half-baked idea that it happened to get finance for the Crown.

Hal Foster on Kurt Schwitters is crisp as usual but processes it all through a set of abstractions that quickly come to feel banal.

Simon Reynolds on Malcolm McLaren: for much of the article I found this dreadful. McLaren comes across as a horrible, selfish, destructive individual who purveyed bad creative work, and Reynolds as a vapid cheerleader for empty ideas of 'subversion', who seems to have gained nothing in maturity in the last 30 or 40 years despite the profound experiences that he has doubtless gone through. And yet - in the last column or two, it changes. SR actually says that MMcL was bad, and did bad things, and this should be counted against him. His statement that 'destruction and disorder are the opposite of what we need today' is vague enough to be right or wrong depending on context, but it's potentially more serious and constructive than the garbage he's been espousing earlier.

Yet in the last lines he lets this welcome turn lead him to the extreme of apparently saying, not merely that we should stop talking about punk, but that we should do the same for the whole of C20 culture. Talk about throwing the baby out with the Vartry water. 'At some point they will become incomprehensible to young people, requiring too much historical backfilling to be worth the effort' - maybe he should warn Diarmaid MacCulloch of this?

While I wouldn't read a book about McLaren, the fact that there is now an 855pp book about him reminds me of what I tried to suggest on the ILM Cure thread: that it's slightly anomalous that there are not serious historical works covering the careers of more major pop acts, as part of the overall history of culture. Dylan, Bowie, even Smiths, yes. But why isn't there a 500-page rigorously researched fully referenced history of Siouxsie and the Banshees? ... Maybe there is.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 23 March 2022 19:41 (one month ago) link

there was a magnificently sniffy letter from the author of the McLaren tome in a recent LRB:

Critique of the Goth Programme (Neil S), Thursday, 24 March 2022 12:04 (one month ago) link

the book is presumably this long bcz it's extremely well illustrated? design and fashion are paul gorman's primary wheelhouse, including a history of beloved style mag the face, a (by no means bad and very well illustrated) book on barney bubbles, plus an oral history of the music press (uk and us) which certainly is full of handy anecdotes

he was also the ghostwriter of GOLDIE's first autobiography (which goldie has since somewhat repudiated tho this is not really gorman's fault IMO) (i am extremely close pal's with the ghostwriter of goldie's SECOND autobiography so i know everything abt this) (perhaps i shd be angling to become goldie's third and defnitive ghostwriter)

mark s, Thursday, 24 March 2022 12:21 (one month ago) link

this mfer wrote pal's

mark s, Thursday, 24 March 2022 12:23 (one month ago) link

That letters page (poster Neil S's link) looks a good one!

the pinefox, Thursday, 24 March 2022 17:33 (one month ago) link

LRB 10.2.2022: ultimately not one for me, save the one long article I read first: Lethem on Lem. One of the best, most important pieces of non-fiction he's produced for some time. Great to see him filling in his relation to SF in a way he hasn't done for years.

The first half of the article on J.C. Oates is decent - the reviewer really knows her Oates (who has written 50 novels!). I daresay that Oates should be given more attention. What's quoted from her here reads well.

Inclined to agree, belatedly, with Mark S's statement that Joe Dunthorne's Diary looks like fiction as much as fact.

the pinefox, Friday, 1 April 2022 12:04 (one month ago) link

It's odd that Penguin have even published a special anthology of Exorcism, at this point.

Ressurgence of interest in paganism, witches, folk horror, I think it's prob selling well.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 1 April 2022 12:24 (one month ago) link

quickly on walter de la mare (in v44 no6, by LRB regular mark ford): i was disposed to like this as i went in bcz the LRB twitter account quoted a line that was mildly disobliging abt leavis lol* but it spends too much time saying "WdlM is unfashionable these days but actually there's lots to like" and not enough IMO abt his his strengths as a means to sidestep the modernist juggernaut (which he wasn't a fan of): those strengths = viz he was a key figure in the children's verse movement (as poet and as anthologist) and he was also a very active ghost-story writer

tbf both are facts carefully mentioned, but only as adjuncts to the Real Work™️ (= his poetry for grown-ups)

anyway it made me go and dig out his 1910 children's classic THREE MULLA-MULGARS (aka THREE ROYAL MONKEYS) and start rereading (it alsmo made me realise i kinda mix up john masefield and walter de la mare, since i went to look up when the latter was poet laureate but the poet laureate was the former)

*in truth not disobliging enough

mark s, Saturday, 2 April 2022 10:05 (one month ago) link

LRB 24.3.2022: opened it last night. Very unpromising. Even Fredric Jameson, writing about ancient religious stuff, was too tedious to continue with for long.

The article that Mark S mentions actually looks the most appealing of all to me.

the pinefox, Saturday, 2 April 2022 10:09 (one month ago) link

adding: to be clear i do not had the argument sketched even roughly in my mind (re the dynamic interaction between modernism, kidlit and ghosts) but i sense it's there and someone needs to make it (me, in the LRB) (they don't do anything like enough on kidlit)

re this issue as a whole: i imagine most of the energy went into the ukraine material and i will certainly read that at some point, without great enthusiasm (the robespierre piece seems very by-numbers to me, not least bcz it cites simon schama a couple of times)

mark s, Saturday, 2 April 2022 10:13 (one month ago) link

oh i shd read the wdlm one. some of his short stories are amongst my favourite things.

Fizzles, Saturday, 2 April 2022 10:28 (one month ago) link

so the lrb has finally arrived and i have read the de la mare piece. i have some thoughts, but i'm not even going to attempt to put them cogently – more a sort of list.

the interplay with modernism is generally misframed, i think - i don't especially mean in ford's article, it's not particularly egregious in that respect but it does probably result in what mark correctly says is a repeated 'not v fashionable these days' observation, expressed in one way or another.

the yellow book, late 19th century aestheticism, laforgue, the grotesque, modernism being a diversion, maybe coherent in intent, but not coherent in terms of its influences, there is continuity from de la mare backwards and forwards. it is the literary canon, and its 'and then modernism' narrative that makes it seem like de la mare is off to one side (sure he is, but *more* than literary modernism? why are *they* at the centre? i do not mean to get all carey - i like modernism, and no i don't know why i've put this bit in brackets) - all of these scumble the modernism v de la mare framing. plus, late christian eliot is different from early eliot. he also became something of a guardian of literature, i think – he raised a similar subscription for arthur machen. he was a mystic too! (in a way that the high catholic that wyndham lewis became was not).

i'm a bad reader of poetry, so i found the quotations useful, and i'm interested to read Wootten's book. i think we had a boxed copy of come hither when i was growing up. mystified to know why – wouldn't have appealed to either my mum or my dad, and if it was a gift to me, i never picked it up - the cover and the tweeness emanating off it put me off. i will look for it the next time i visit my mum, as now i'm interested.

Walter de la Mare's The Vats (1915) and JG Ballard's The Waiting Grounds – unusually... uniquely?... taking place off earth – are the same story. i've been meaning to put something down on paper about this for years. notes everywhere. but yes, they are the same. not entirely sure what this means other than people underrated ballard's victorian-ness.

slightly to mark's point - a comparison of the evolution of british science fiction from fin-de-siecle and edwardian lit, as compared to the US paths from Lovecraft/Machen etc and the different places they reached, and expressions they uh expressed, is v interesting, as is their unification in things like quatermass and that other thread that covers children of the stones and sapphire and steel and such like that i cbf'd to link to atm.

Fizzles, Sunday, 3 April 2022 18:23 (one month ago) link

Read this excellent piece on Whiteness in an earlier issue. It puts together a lot of names and thinking around anti-racist discourse over the last century, up to the present.


xyzzzz__, Monday, 4 April 2022 13:59 (one month ago) link

Late to Reynolds on McLaren. The idea that Punk's destructive side has been overlooked in favour of its DIY/creative side strikes me as totally absurd - this might at most be true for Reynolds himself and a few other post-punk specialists, but the general legacy of Punk in mainstream popular culture is 100% the destructive, cartoonishly violent stuff; that's still the caricature that comes up when most ppl think of what a punk is, the Grundy interview is still their most iconic moment, etc.

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 4 April 2022 14:56 (one month ago) link

Agree. That's convincing.

the pinefox, Monday, 4 April 2022 16:20 (one month ago) link

NYRB subscribers are wild pic.twitter.com/PmTZFB50Dr

— Chris (@CMccafe) April 4, 2022

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 5 April 2022 08:20 (one month ago) link

it me

mark s, Tuesday, 5 April 2022 09:25 (one month ago) link


A classic example of saying almost nothing of the titles under review but using their subject as the basis of your own little essay.

fetter, Tuesday, 5 April 2022 13:06 (one month ago) link

Good one!

I didn't enjoy Patricia Lockwood in the same issue, I suppose the diary is the most self indulgent section but she didn't have anything perceptive or interesting to say on Kafka and her humour fell flat for once.

ledge, Tuesday, 5 April 2022 13:36 (one month ago) link

NYRB has gotten pretty boring, IMO. Maybe partly a retrenchment to not doing anything that might offend their advertisers since the Ian Buruma controversy, and also just the fact that it's very difficult to fill Bob Silver's shoes. Too many boring reviews of boring books.

o. nate, Tuesday, 5 April 2022 14:13 (one month ago) link

LRB 24.3.2022:

Tom Stevenson on the history of economic sanctions. A good topic, and of course timely. I'd like to think that sanctions against Russia now are effective, but then I tend to imagine that like most other things they are spoiled and rendered moot by the corruption of the world's power and money. But some well-meaning people also say that sanctions are *bad*.

Stevenson tends to make sanctions sound harsh and effective, but he doesn't at all make me think that they are as bad as war. Thus he makes me feel like they are a preferable alternative to war. There is also something intuitively reasonable about the notion of sanctions which there is not about the idea of war -- analogous to, say, not answering someone's calls, as vs going and burning down their house. Others will say that this analogy and judgment are misguided.

So, sanctions:
- are good because they can hurt nations that act badly (like Russia)
- are good because they are not war (like NATO fighting Russia)
- are bad, many people say, because they hurt innocent civilians (many people say that sanctions on Iraq and Iran have been cruel or criminal)
- but then again are good, many similar people also say, and should be extended though vested interests oppose them? (South Africa then, Israel now.)

Between all these positions I'm not certain what the correct position is on sanctions, but am still inclined to say they look more good than bad, compared to other things.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 6 April 2022 18:06 (one month ago) link

I forgot to note that Fredric Jameson's review of Tokarczuk is not really a review at all, nor a coherent article about the issues behind the text in question. It would be kindest just to say it's a man of 88 enjoying himself, and that the whole article would be fairly OK if it were a long private letter to a friend who had also read this 892pp novel and knew what it was about.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 6 April 2022 18:13 (one month ago) link

Mark Ford on Walter de la Mare: I don't know this poet, but found this article fairly good and the best thing in the rather sub-par issue.

Touching to read that WDLM 'grew up in Charlton and Forest Hill' then lived in 'Beckenham, Anerley and Penge'.

Confusing to realise, after rereading, that 'Walter de la Mare' was his *real* name and 'Walter Ramal' his early pen name - I'd thought it was the reverse.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 6 April 2022 21:42 (one month ago) link

I forgot to note that Fredric Jameson's review of Tokarczuk is not really a review at all, nor a coherent article about the issues behind the text in question. It would be kindest just to say it's a man of 88 enjoying himself, and that the whole article would be fairly OK if it were a long private letter to a friend who had also read this 892pp novel and knew what it was about.

I scanned it because I do intend to read the book and that was my impression - or the rather less considered 'what the fuck are you talking about', anyway. I'll go back to it after I've read the book.

ledge, Thursday, 7 April 2022 07:59 (one month ago) link

dont bother, fredric james svcks even more than terry eagleton >:(

mark s, Thursday, 7 April 2022 09:37 (one month ago) link

The "Responses to Ukraine" feature was pretty dire. It reminded me of the NYRB US 2020 election issue, where they got all their contributors to write some blurb on the upcoming election. This kind of forum, in which you'll be lined up alongside other contributors, asked to comment on a politically-charged issue, and not really given space to develop an argument (essentially Twitter in periodical form), brings out the most conformist tendencies and becomes a purely rhetorical exercise: find a novel angle on rehashing the conventional wisdom.

o. nate, Friday, 8 April 2022 20:37 (one month ago) link

Strong words but somewhat fair, I think, o.nate.

I was predisposed not to like this feature - why on Earth should I care what Prof R*se thinks about this world-historical issue? - but actually found it a bit better than expected. It seemed that they had primed contributors to talk about different things. But on the whole, no, not keen.

the pinefox, Saturday, 9 April 2022 09:18 (one month ago) link

Finished that LRB and on to LRB 7.4.2022.

Apart from Lethem on Lem I've found LRBs quite unappealing lately. Here the one definite highlight would appear to be Adam Mars-Jones. Who is now listed as 'director of the Writers' Centre at Goldsmiths'.

But actually the issue holds a bit more than that. Tom Stevenson in Ukraine: he seems a notable addition to the LRB roster in being a military expert who is also politically critical. I like his clear factual writing here.

Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite on Wales: a good topic (how often does the LRB cover Wales next to Scotland or NI? It doesn't). She's very positive about devolved government. It's also noticeable, maybe unsurprising, how far the diminution of the Welsh language resembles what happened in Ireland.

The front cover advertises 'A poem by Maureen N. McLane'. Unusual. I thus read the poem, and thought it was bad.

Even if, unlike me, you thought that aspect of the cover was good, you might still think this cover bad, including the slanted text announcing Julian Barnes.

Poor, dull letters page save the list of alliterative actresses.

the pinefox, Monday, 11 April 2022 08:38 (one month ago) link

I actually read all I was interested in the latest April issue, in about an evening a week ago.

John Gallager on a really interesting book (partially written by Carlo Ginzburg), its the strange case of a man who claimed to be a Werewolf. The book has a curious design, because the two authors are making contrasting arguments from the same source material, which is not something I see published often. Lydia Liu's piece on the Chinese typewriter (ofc the computer makes all attempts null and void, and its funny how this is swiftly covered) was a quietly good, back end piece. In the middle you have Kevin Okoth's piece on Cedric Robinson, which started a bit slow but when it gets going its great on the critiques (and counter-) of Marx. I never get to read enough about these so its nice to encounter these arguments in a digestible manner. Rosemary Hill on publisher Joseph Johnson was used to draw a picture of the London literary scene back then. I always like sitting down with one of her pieces, they always introduce me to something I wouldn't normally seek to read about, in a very conversational way. Finally Michael Hofmann on a curious book -- "An African in Greenland" -- which is just as the title says. Love this very short one pager, and it doesn't cut what MH is excellent at, which is either saying this is really good or really bad and using some passages and comparison to enforce the very basic, brutally made judgement. I ended with Chris Mullin's diary piece on the attempts to make him fess up on the identity of the remaining Birmingham bomber.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 12 April 2022 21:43 (one month ago) link

Tolstoy...is good now

https://t.co/RFioMoJGOQ pic.twitter.com/1rjSCdT9Z8

— Jess Bergman (@jesslbergman) April 18, 2022

xyzzzz__, Monday, 18 April 2022 19:50 (four weeks ago) link

Would I enjoy a whole book by Matthew Specktor, mooning around the smog of L.A.? Maybe---I do enjoy the detailed, flashlight clarity of his thoughts and feelings about the Dream Syndicate, especially live, leading to the download of his collection (the link still works, I just now used it again):

dow, Tuesday, 19 April 2022 03:42 (four weeks ago) link

Finished LRB 7.4.2022 - leaving me in the very unusual position of having no LRB to read.

Nicholas Penny I have only noticed in LRB in last couple of years: his old-school rigour and niche obsessiveness are not exactly enjoyable, but here the fastidiousness becomes comic:

it is a surprise to find him described in an essay by Audrey Flack, reprinted in the catalogue, as ‘cast aside’ and rather amusing to read of his ‘discovery’ by her – not in a dark chapel in a rural church, nor in the basement store of a provincial museum, but hanging in the Renaissance section of the Met!

In conclusion - his tone could be from the 1960s or 1930s:

It is a small exhibition but well judged as an introduction to the artist. The unobtrusive labels are supplemented by a free exhibition guide with succinct texts drawing attention to details and explaining puzzling features but not telling us what to think. There is no entrance charge and when I was there at half-term, the ‘us’ consisted of many visitors of all ages and diverse backgrounds.

Matthew Karp on Robert E. Lee: I enjoyed this, realised I knew nothing of Lee, was very interested to read of him as failed military tactician.

Adam Mars-Jones' article turned out to be a systematic critique: great to see.

Couldn't much follow the Chinese alphabet, did get more than expected from the werewolf.

Chris Mullin's one of the most historically and politically significant pieces.

I should probably have a new issue by now, shouldn't I?

the pinefox, Tuesday, 19 April 2022 11:02 (four weeks ago) link

Some v good stuff on the LRB blog lately


xyzzzz__, Thursday, 21 April 2022 09:46 (three weeks ago) link

We have made our 21 April issue free to download as a PDF – if you like what you read, be sure to take advantage of our subscription offer and get 12 issues for just £12!

Free issue here: https://t.co/SpUDGvtr5J

Subscribe here: https://t.co/r9zMz9RJtw pic.twitter.com/LhHXyNsVvc

— London Review of Books (@LRB) April 25, 2022

xyzzzz__, Monday, 25 April 2022 14:30 (three weeks ago) link

two weeks pass...

Reading criticism of Ted Hughes led me to the 1988 poem 'On the Reservations', which I was surprised to find had appeared in the LRB.


I'm not sure that I think this is a good poem, but I do find it an interesting text, and not especially what I'd have expected from Hughes, especially when he was literally writing poems in celebration of the Royal Family. The diction and form of this seem to be something that you could find in eg: Iain Sinclair's CONDUCTORS OF CHAOS anthology.

She dreams she sleepwalks crying all the dead
in the slag-heaps wrong
land wrong
time tepees a final
resting for the epidemic
solution every
pit-shaft a
mass grave herself
in a silly bottle shawled
in the canal’s
fluorescence the message
of the survivors a surplus people
the words
washed off her wrists
and hands she complains keep feeling

The poem makes repeated references to mining, and it would seem accurate to say that it is consciously a post-miners' strike poem.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 10 May 2022 10:03 (one week ago) link

I finished LRB 21.4.2022.

The front cover mentions 'Cosmolgy'. I thought this new spelling must reflect the content of the article. It doesn't. It seems just to be a typo, in an unfortunately prominent location.

Collini on BBC is entertaining and readable, but to a rare degree confirms Terry Eagleton's old description of SC as a liberal 'standing dauntlessly in the middle of the road'.

Andrew O'Hagan now has some kind of licence just to write 'personally' about anything. He says here: 'I love the internet, perhaps more than anyone, but my innocence died with its success'. Most of that sentence seems to me bad and false.

Erin Maglaque writes rather indulgently about a book about love that sounds quite bad. But not entirely indulgently.

Tom Crewe on Turgenev is very standard LRB stuff on an old writer, relatively well done. Crewe is becoming a novelist.

Lots of history in this issue: France and England in the C19, Italy in Egypt.

Ubiquitous blokeish Burrow does not make Pope sound enjoyable or appealing.

The next issue seems worse.

the pinefox, Monday, 16 May 2022 11:38 (yesterday) link

yes it's weird going with an unusual spelling of turgenev on the cover as a tease (it looks like a typo but apparently isn't) and then missing the actual typo

by the grace of god in all my days as a sub the only error on a cover that was let thru was miles davis's birthyear when trailing his obit (still wrong but less obvious)

mark s, Monday, 16 May 2022 12:19 (yesterday) link

I might be the rare ILBer who likes Phillips, but I’m trying to figure out if I should get a subscription to the LRB, the NYRB, or the Brooklyn Rail.

(I know you non-US folks will probably have no idea what “The Rail” is, but it is similar to the other two, tho a bit more focused on visual art and certainly much more generally “left” in its contributor base).

we need outrage! we need dicks!! (the table is the table), Monday, 16 May 2022 12:20 (yesterday) link

i enjoyed the pope piece tbh: it did not make pope seem likeable (i don't think he was?) but it did make sense of why ppl thought so highly of him and the scale of his success at the time, also the tale of his feud with edmund curll is amusing and even slightly instructive (dawn of copyright)

mark s, Monday, 16 May 2022 12:23 (yesterday) link

I liked Arianna Shahvisi's Short Cut - starting off with Schrodinger's What Is Life (itself an excellent piece of writing which I would highly recommend), and linking it to the cost of living crisis - not in a particularly instructive or illuminating way perhaps but it felt satisfying and not gimmicky.

buffalo tomozzarella (ledge), Monday, 16 May 2022 12:33 (yesterday) link

I think the science in that piece was too hard for me to understand.

I have read the Brooklyn Rail in NYC, after a friend recommended it to me with fanatical enthusiasm.

I found it quite poor and thus - insofar as it had been so highly recommended - massively overrated. I don't think the issue I saw contained one single good article.

But it's free isn't it? Or was? Unlike the other two. Thus more like the BRIXTON REVIEW OF BOOKS?

the pinefox, Monday, 16 May 2022 13:02 (yesterday) link

Well, in all fairness the pinefox, while I think we both admire each other’s enthusiasm, our tastes very rarely intersect, so it might not be the best question for you. I’ve found most issues of the Rail to be infinitely more interesting than the LRB.

we need outrage! we need dicks!! (the table is the table), Monday, 16 May 2022 14:14 (yesterday) link

Is it, as I've assumed, free?

The LRB costs - though not really much for a subscription.

the pinefox, Monday, 16 May 2022 15:02 (yesterday) link

The Rail is free in Bkln and 90$/yr for those outside

we need outrage! we need dicks!! (the table is the table), Monday, 16 May 2022 16:06 (yesterday) link

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