"I expect you’ll be becoming a schoolmaster, sir. That’s what most of the gentlemen does, sir, that gets sent down for indecent behaviour.” Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall
Contexts
An unfailing life

An unfailing life

On 29 April 1937 Virginia Woolf read one of her texts on the radio, the only recording of her voice known to have survived from a total of three BBC radio broadcasts. This highly introspective essay on the craftsmanship of writing was entitled ‘Words Fail Me’; four years later, almost to the day, Woolf would...
Mixed-up thinking

Mixed-up thinking

This is the story of how I came to write Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars and how it came to be more relevant than even I had imagined. It is a story of two parts – the first a little more obvious than the second. But everything needs a beginning… My beginning lies...
Vagrant tales

Vagrant tales

Before Greece embraced modernity and its marvels, it was a nation of stark realities and pernickety sprites. Lore and legend held as much validity as did hard facts in the popular imagination, but also in the synthesis of what was no less than a national soul. Sprites, trolls, crones, harridans and ogres, with innumerable names,...
Wraiths of neither good nor evil

Wraiths of neither good nor evil

With the hindsight of history, with the raw, stinging feeling on the skin of one’s conscience of the viciousness and harrowing desolation that was spawned by Nazi rule and WWII, it may seem that there was for Germany a distinct separation between a brutal, all-obliterating moment of total guilt and a redeeming ‘moment after’ of...
In defence of book learning

In defence of book learning

Running for President in 1952, Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson came up with a peculiar rallying cry. “Eggheads of the world, unite!” he declared in a stump speech. “You have nothing to lose but your yolks!” These days, of course, such a bad pun wouldn’t make it out of a Democratic Party focus group alive, but...
Strange fascination

Strange fascination

The 1970s took their shape from any number of events, tragedies, trivialities, crises, obsessions, conflicts, characters, fashions, inventions, resignations, processes and social and cultural situations. It was a decade of cults, terrorists, protests, scandals, strikes, recessions, environmental panic and a sense of constant crisis. It was also the decade of Bowie. He always had a...
The hydra of memory and forgetting

The hydra of memory and forgetting

“If you have no wounds, how can you know you are alive?” wrote Edward Albee in 1998’s The Play About the Baby. Steven Uhly’s Kingdom of Twilight could be said to be all about physical, psychological and historical wounds and about the true meaning of knowing oneself to be alive – the true worth of...
On Silence

On Silence

How do you tell the story of Christian faith? The difficulty, the crisis, of believing? How do you describe the struggle? There have been many great twentieth-century novelists drawn to the subject – Graham Greene, of course, and François Mauriac, Georges Bernanos and, from his own very particular perspective, Shusaku Endo. When I use the...
That sinking feeling

That sinking feeling

If art’s mission is to change public perceptions or to transcend established practices, it can no longer be apolitical, unaware of social or economic currents. The creators of an exhibit that examines the “cultural afterlife” of taxidermised polar bears, nanoq: flat out and bluesome, by Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson, sum up a rather recent...
Measuring change – and holding onto it

Measuring change – and holding onto it

“You’ve come a long way, baby!” Such was the tagline of a US ad campaign launched in 1968 to sell Virginia Slims cigarettes. Images of women portrayed as hip, mod, and independent (all with cigarette in hand), were paired with historical depictions of drudgery and repression. Clearly, Madison Avenue wanted American women to believe they’d...