Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Year of the Moat

As the year of the MPs' expenses draws to a close, I find the following in that seventeenth-century political trimmer, George Savile, Marquis of Halifax: "To the question, what shall we do to be saved in this world? there is no answer but this, Look to your Moat." (A Rough Draft of a New Model at Sea, with a nod, I think, to, er, the New Model Parliament)

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Opium Eater

Reviewed Rob Morrison's admirable new biography of Thomas De Quincey, the English Opium Eater. Hard to believe that it is nearly thirty years since Grevel Lindop's equally good treatment of the same life. Bringing the melancholy thought that perhaps in twenty years someone will write a biography of John Clare that makes mine obsolete. Made to think about this because Morrison slightly underplayed the occasion when DeQ met the Northamptonshire poet: he could have done more with Clare's brilliant observations of the opium eater's character. Clare still haunts me, as I'm sure DeQ does Lindop. The psychology of the biographer's relationship to his subject: a fascinating subject in itself.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Newsnight Review

Newsnight Review discussion of climate change and the arts is available for a few more days on this link. We discussed apocalyptic movies (2012 and The Road), the eARTh exhibition at the Royal Academy, and the writing of wild nature, focusing on Sara Wheeler's book about visiting the Arctic. I thought - though didn't have time to say so on air - that the movie of The Road was magnificent (though not really about climate change, more about family and saying goodbye). It was actually better than the book: Cormac McCarthy's prose can sometimes be overblown ("the ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be" - hm). Often the way that the best films are made from the second-best books.