Daily Office:


Matins: As a big believer in the effectiveness of no-fly zones, I agree with this proposal for dealing with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Lauds: Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest lady in the West End? The answer? A whole deck of baseball cards, leading with playwright Bola Agbaje as “The New Voice” but with plenty of room for “Queen Bee” and “Eternal Siren.”  (via Arts Journal)

Prime: Over the weekend I discovered a constellation of Web sites that seem to be keeping the preppie flame burning. The Trad, for example…

Tierce: A caption from the print edition: “Similarities (and differences) exist in David Axelrod’s relationship with the current president and Karl Rove’s with the past.”

Sext: Great news: Chuck Norris talks of running for President of Texas. (via Joe.My.God.)

Nones: Good news (sort of): Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, insists that the collision that killed his wife, and sent him to the hospital, had to have been an accident.

Vespers: At Emdashes, Martin Schneider has a go at cutting Ian McEwan’s reputation down to size. What might have been an irritating exercise is rather worth reading.

Compline: Now that the “Consumer Society” is on its deathbed, it’s safe for critics to take hitherto unfashionable pokes at sacred cows, and Jonathan Jones, at the Guardian, has his needle out.  Oremus…

§ Matins. The no-fly-zone approach was working, I thought, in Iraq, before Cheney & Co resolved on more invasive tactics. It protected Iraqis in the north and the south of the country from Saddam’s air attacks, anyway; and it might be expected to do the same for Darfur.

§ Lauds. Those would be Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, respectively. I checked out Michelle Dockery (“New Leading Lady”), but her recorded work seems to have been for TV in the UK. I do have to ask: whom did Kelly Reilly p*** o**?

§ Prime. My source for this link was A Continuous Lean, a good-looking site with a comprehensive blog roster.

A day or so later, such sites seem only to be expected, but when I stumbled upon them, late at night, I felt that I’d crept up on a band of elves working some sort of midnight spell. (The long and the short of it is that I haven’t got a category for these links.)

I guess I’ve gotten too used to young man’s uniform of T shirts, jeans, and sneakers, with optional hoodie. The writers of Trad and Lean are dressing pretty much as I was expected to when I was their age — and younger.

The entry from The Ivy Style on loafers made me feel a little better; I was beginning to think of loafers as “old man’s shoes.”

§ Tierce. Mr Axelrod is a man to watch, but — it’s to be hoped — not to see. He is in charge of the important office of public feedback, weighing and assessing polls, media coverage, and other indicators of general response to Administration initiatives. But feedback is corrective, not controlling. Public opinion can be led, but it cannot be followed. That lesson, sadly, is the principal legacy of the Clinton Administrations.

I’m sorry to see the Times call Mr Axelrod the president’s “political protector.” This isn’t a football game.

§ Sext. And then, when all the brouhaha died down, he could lead his chosen people from fairy’s land to Australia.

§ Nones. Even if Mr Tsvangirai has reason to think otherwise, he’s saying the right thing. (The matter can always be revisited later.) His number-one job number right now is to make President Mugabe’s goons look ineffective.

§ Vespers. The most arresting line this suggestion:

A clue to McEwan’s combination of successes and failures may lie in an impression of mine, at least, that he is especially beloved by a certain kind of reader who hasn’t always read that many top-notch novels; it’s hard to tell. McEwan is a little too good to be the “mere” poster boy for literary striving by the unsophisticated. And yet the people I know who have read really deeply (I am not counting myself in that group) don’t especially care for him.

This is followed by a short list of other “big-deal Anglo-American writers: Mailer, Wallace, Vollmann, and Amis. If “reading deeply” requires reading William Vollmann, then I shall rusticate in my illiteracy, thank you. (Vollmann has failed the bookshop test every time I’ve tried him.) Although I read Marilyn and The Executioner’s Song with page-turning interest, I eventually concluded that Mailer needed a strong subject to interest me, and that he himself was assuredly not such a subject. Much as I love Wallace’s expository writing (about almost everything), he seems to me not to have had much in the way of a fictional imagination. As for Amis, nastiness is his inspiration; it hones the edge of his cutting prose.

In the end, there aren’t that many “big-deal” male writers on my bookshelf. It’s very possible — if I may modify Mr Schneider’s proposition — that McEwan is especially beloved by a certain kind of reader who would otherwise be reading work by a woman.

§ Compline. One of the most bloated sacred cows is the idea that “pop art” is a kind of “art.” It is not. It is, rather, a peculiar brew of décor and philosophy, more about ideas than appearances. (You might say that it’s the (very bad) idea that all appearances are deceptive.) Mr Jones’s little piece is hardly great criticism itself, but it does suggest that “hip” may be worse than “kitsch,” something that I now see I’ve suspected for a while. What do you think?

2 Responses to “Daily Office:

  1. Nom de Plume says:

    Hmmm…. do I really have to reassess McEwan? I’m not liking this.

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