The editors' blog
~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, March 13th 2014
As we wrote in "A Year of 1914" there are countless ways in which the centenary of the first world war will be marked this year. But while the 20th century will always be remembered as a disastrous period in British-German relations, I’m looking forward to celebrating a happier time in the two countries’ histories. For this year also marks the 300th anniversary of the Hanoverian accession, when a German prince became King George I of Great Britain and Ireland (above) and the glorious Georgian period began.read more »
~ Posted by Charlie McCann, March 12th 2014
A group of skateboarders from south London may be about to change our idea of what constitutes a village green. Until now, people have tended to think of them as rustic lawns with wooden benches and, perhaps, a duck pond. But these skateboarders are attempting to have a thoroughly urban site registered as a village green.read more »
~ Posted by Robert Butler, March 10th 2014
In this latest selection of readers' comments from the website and Facebook, the subjects range from economy in literature and women striking for equal pay to Rod Stewart's right to wear tartan.
In praise of economyread more »
Re: Lit up by The Luminaries (above)
I am now about 180 pages along in "The Luminaries". I started reading it in great anticipation, but I'm beginning to have serious doubts about the Man Booker judges. The author clearly has a gift for description and mood, but only one character at this point in the story is even close to being fully realized. The author has only achieved this by having her narrator laboriously describe this character's personality. There has been little action, so the plot, such as it is, moves at a glacial pace. I'm struck by the contrast between this novel and another I just finished, J.L. Carr's "A Month in the Country". The latter is a work of great economy (130 or so pages in the edition I read), but evokes a world so real, and characters so affecting, that they haunt one's memory. Of course, Carr's novel was only nominated for a Booker.
~ Posted by Simon Willis, March 5th 2014
Some of the best stories Tudor England ever gave us came not from execution, adultery or gilded obesity, but from travel. This was an era of English adventure, of the quest for El Dorado and doomed searches for the Northwest passage. It was the era of William Hawkins, a ship’s captain from Plymouth, who sailed to Brazil in 1532 and brought home a king with bones pierced through his cheeks. Many of these stories were collected by a courtier to Elizabeth I called Richard Hakluyt in the late 16th century. His "Voyages and Discoveries" is a compendium of letters, ship’s logs, trading reports and exotic traveller’s tales. In its original form it stretched to more than 1.5m words. Penguin Classics published an abridged version in 1972, a little over 400 pages long and containing 66 pieces. The shortest of them I read between Tube stops—a single paragraph by a Belgian cartographer called Gerardus Mercator setting out English discoveries in northern Finland and Russia, including the exact latitude of Moscow. The longest—Sir Walter Raleigh’s account of his discovery of Guiana—took up a lunch hour.read more »
~ Posted by Hazel Sheffield, March 4th 2014
It was billed as a coup. The BBC had bagged Damon Albarn, Blur frontman and "musical polymath" (if recent press coverage is to be believed), to headline the first 6 Music Festival on Friday night. He promised a set of never-heard-before tracks from his first solo album, “Everyday Robots”, which is due out next month.
But on the night, as the hour-long set drew on, the audience grew restless. “When’s he going to play ‘Song 2’?” the man beside me asked, before singing the Blur song's refrain with his mate: “Woo-hoo!” Instead they got the title track to Albarn's new album, “Everyday Robots”, a violin squeaking discordantly in the background. Albarn moved onto a melancholy acoustic number, “Hostiles”, and then “Lonely Press Play", his current single. The sound, which was patchy at best, could not drown out the chatter. Space opened up behind me as people filtered out the back.read more »
~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, March 3rd 2014
Last week I blogged about the odds being offered on this year’s Oscars results. The bookmaker William Hill declared that Sunday’s Academy Awards would be the most predictable ever. As confident as William Hill was, though, I’m still a little surprised by how accurate its in-house fortune-tellers were. Every one of their major forecasts came true.read more »
~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, February 26th 2014
A hundred years ago, on the morning of March 10th, a small woman wearing a fitted grey coat and skirt walked into the National Gallery in London with a meat cleaver. The cleaver was not visible to the gallery attendants, nor to the policemen who had been drafted in because the gallery was on red alert for a suffragist attack. The woman made her way to the room where The Rokeby Venus (pictured), the only surviving female nude by Diego Velázquez, was on display. It was a work of art that was in the public eye, having been purchased for the nation just eight years earlier. The required £45,000 had been raised by donations from art lovers, the depth of whose pockets varied—"An Englishman" gave £10,000 and "A Young Student", two shillings—but the message was the same: this painting mattered to people.read more »
~ Posted by Hazel Sheffield, February 24th 2014
I’m not a big fan of petitions, but in 2010 there was one I had to sign. It was the campaign to save Radio 6 Music when the BBC threatened it with closure. It turns out I wasn’t alone: of the 600,000 listeners the station had at the time, 25,000 wrote letters and many more signed the petition. The campaign worked. Now, with an audience close to 2m, 6 Music is hosting a festival, and for the first time a few thousand of the faithful will come together in a Manchester warehouse to look one another in the eye.read more »
~ Posted by Samantha Ellis, February 21st 2014
When we improvised a play at school, about the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison throwing herself in front of the king’s horse, I played the horse. Still, I soon decided I was a feminist. It was the Eighties, not feminism’s finest hour, and I hated Margaret Thatcher saying she owed nothing to what we were still calling “women’s lib”. I liked the fierce Second Wave feminists, and even more, I liked the suffragettes, who fought hard and won through, and did it all in pearls and picture hats.
So I’m hugely excited about the forthcoming film "Suffragette", written by Abi Morgan, directed by Sarah Gavron and starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Romola Garai, Anne-Marie Duff—and some men. And, the papers say, Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst!read more »
~ Posted by Charlie McCann, February 19th 2014
"The problem with philosophers today," Alain de Botton told an audience at the National Theatre earlier this month, "is that no one pays any attention to them." Just look at the numbers. He put the daily visitors to the Daily Mail website at 40m and the total readers for the average new book of philosophy at 300.read more »