Writing On Literature

  • In 2003, I went to Japan as Visiting Professor at the University of Tokyo, a post that had evolved from the Professorship held in 1924 by the First World War poet Edmund Blunden. Blunden wrote the prose account of his wartime experiences, Undertones of War, in the shadow of the University's grand Red Gate referring only to some trench-maps and his anxious unforgetting. Blunden's time in Tokyo was immensely productive, inspiring new poems, edited texts, critical commentaries. He also kept up with his beloved cricket (there is a separate chapter on Cricket in Barry Webb's definitive biography). However, my own combination of interests meant that while teaching in his shadow I was presented with a literary scoop, or so I

    Feb 19,
  • At last. Christmas has gone away. Now that the advertising has died down, it might be a good time to say something reasonable about the Kindle, or at least more measured than their own trumpet-blowing that was everywhere during the gift-giving season. 'Think of a book. Sixty seconds later you can be reading it.' Possibly, but there's another step in between. You have to hand over some money. Instead of getting annoyed by this separation between source and consumer ('Think of a cow. An hour later you can be eating it.') the advertising made me think of a much older campaign, for razors, which provides an excellent analogy for the contest between books and e-readers. Despite what the techies

    Jan 11,
  • I've always understood that one of the key revolutions of the internet is to allow small but disparate voices to join together to make a louder noise than would otherwise be possible. I like public libraries. This is a quiet like, but it is one shared by hundreds of thousands of people across the country. We will probably not be marching on Milbank anytime soon, but I'd like my quiet voice to be heard, and perhaps to join with other quiet voices elsewhere. I spent Friday in the British Library at St Pancras, where I read some nineteenth century books about political arrangements in first-century Rome. Later, back at my computer, I received a circular email from the BL

    Nov 28,
  • I know I keep promising to post up the first pages of J'suis pas plus con, or rather, I promised once and I always keep my promises. I have, however, been distracted by two issues. Computer malfunctions, which are boring. And stash. As an ambitious rugby player, I used to have the same hunger for stash as everyone else.  'Stash' was the stuff that came with selection to a team.  Stash is the extras, the perks, the over-and-aboves, and in those days, before the ease of printing onto synthetic materials, stash was expensive and therefore reserved most often for representative teams.  It was worth having. Typical items would be tracksuits, training tops, match shorts, maybe even a team-branded bag.

    Oct 17,
  • I was due to go on holiday tomorrow, and the first part of the journey involves a 'no-frills' airline.  'No-frills' means 'no service', so I was concerned that my crocked leg, permanently braced at a constant zero degrees, would count as a frill (i.e it might require some service). I found this on the Easyjet website, under Carrier's Regulations: 'Adult passengers travelling with lower limbs in cast, waist and/or full leg plaster, must purchase three seats in total, per journey, to travel.' British Airways require only one extra seat, presumably because the seats are wider.  Prof Shiro Yamamoto (who once made a 2-day trip from Tokyo to London to buy a violin), tells me one extra seat is also necessary

    Aug 18,