The London Magazine (TLM) upholds a high standard of tone, diction, and point of view. The oldest cultural journal in the United Kingdom, TLM began publication in 1732; it has published a list of writers that includes Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats, T. S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath, Dylan Thomas and Doris Lessing. This issue contains essays on a variety of cultural topics, including eight lengthy book reviews, as well as poetry by seven fine poets and one short story. The volume is clean and sharp in appearance; inside, the text is pleasing to the eye, neither too small nor too large, and well-spaced on the page. Color reproductions of the latest paintings by Pakistani artist Jamil Naqsh grace the cover and comprise a special section within the issue. An excerpt from the commentary, by venerable art critic Edward Lucie-Smith, will give an indication of the tone of the magazine:
Naqsh is well known for sensual figurative work, most particularly for his voluptuous female nudes, which show the influence of Picasso and of the Italian sculptor Marino Marini, but also that of Ingres, of Mughal court painting, and of the sinuous erotic sculptures that adorn pre-Mughal Hindu temples . . .
His new series of paintings, however, consists of abstractions based on Arabic calligraphy. As is well known to all students of Islamic culture, the written words play a particularly important part in the history of Islamic visual expression.
The rest of the essay provides helpful, expert information on Naqsh’s work. Only serious readers need apply.
But maybe that’s not fair to readers of American experimental lit mags, who surely can be “serious” enough to appreciate “Triple Vintage Bohemia,” the essay by Michael Horovitz (who was spoken of by Allen Ginsberg as a “Popular, experienced, experimental, New Jerusalem, Jazz Generation, Sensitive Bard”). This discussion of “a few currently circulating documentations of post-World War II Bohemia” reviews a “massive de luxe” history of Soho 1948-2008 by Sophie Parkin; a biography of Pannonica Rothschild; and various editions of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, for a thorough look at the milieu of the Beat Generation.
The photographs alone will rivet. Grey Gowrie’s fine dramatic monologue “Reece Mews: Conversation Piece” precedes Horovitz’s essay with intimate references to Francis Bacon, Muriel Belcher, Lucian Freud, and other characters who play major roles in the books treated in Horovitz’s essay.
Other serious essays include author Jeffrey Meyers’s “The Remains of the Day: Ishiguro’s Jamesian Novel.” Here he argues that the “studiously formal, mannered and periphrastic” language employed by Ishiguro’s protagonist, the butler Stevens, is not merely a product of the author’s Japanese cultural heritage, but a method of revealing Stevens’s rejection of his class, a studied attempt to rise above it, renounce the possibility of happiness with a woman of the servant class, and become the man he serves. His failure to do so constitutes a theme echoing Henry James in The Lesson of the Master.
Daniel O’Byrne’s essay “Where are our Modern Day Ciceros?” argues that “the common ground or the centre ground of politics is a concept that would have been alien to Cicero”—that the contemporary politician’s effort to appeal to all voting citizens has damaged our concept of rhetorical power. When speakers want to appear to agree with everyone, they can hardly focus on one side or another of a controversial issue.
Eva Tucker’s lovely biographical essay on Dorothy Richardson informs with pleasing clarity. Rather than providing historical or literary criticism, Horatio Morpurgo’s “Europe: The View from a Homeless Shelter” posits in personal narrative a “third view” of the falling of the Berlin Wall. He describes an encounter with a wily Polish national in Germany in 1989, who uses him to get what he needs; Morpurgo shows in understated tones that his criminality was hardly culpable given the conditions there.
Suzi Feay’s short story “Candles for Corinne” opens this issue. A five-page one-paragraph monologue, it chronicles the frustrations and failures of its narrator, whose final complaint is that he has no story worth telling. Yet Feay gives him one: his compassion for a murdered prostitute who stands in, in his mind, for the women who have let him down. This, along with the allusive poems by such award-winners as Helen Dunmore and Philip Gross, rounds out the strong contributions in this issue of The London Magazine. For anglophiles and literary/cultural/historical scholars and enthusiasts, this magazine is a serious treasure.