Posts Tagged ‘London’
October 17, 2016 | by Martin Herbert
The hopeful dystopia of Pushwagner’s Soft City.
Where does art begin? In the case of Soft City, the straightforward answer is this: it began in Fredrikstad, Norway, in 1969, in a sea captain’s house converted into a writer’s retreat by the novelist Axel Jensen, after Pushwagner had ingested Sandoz LSD. He doodled a man in a car, whom he intuited was called “Mr. Soft”—five years before Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel would have a hit song of that name—and, along with Jensen, envisioned a day-in-the-life narrative structure for the character, along the lines of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and James Joyce’s Ulysses. And then?
A hiatus of some three years (hardly the only sharp left turn in Pushwagner’s tumultuous life), during which time he lived on virtually nothing in London (subsisting by selling drawings on trains for pennies) and Oslo, went back to his mother’s, was arrested for trying to board a flight to Madeira on his hands and knees, was institutionalized, walked back to Fredrikstad, escaped a hotel in Paris, sojourned in Lisbon, returned to London, and became a father. After these adventures, he once again began Soft City, with, he’s said, his beloved baby daughter, Elizabeth, on his lap, and with thoughts of the future in mind. Mr. Soft now had a family of his own, and a fearful projected dystopia to live in. Pushwagner finished the book, or rather the 269 bleak yet blackly comic ink drawings that would comprise it, in 1975; and then, after a few luminaries of the London music world had admired it (including Pete Townshend and Steve Winwood), he lost it. Read More »
October 4, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- I’ve spent thirty painstaking years building my personal brand from the ground up: a signature blend of synthetic microfibers and dried-out pipe tobacco, shot through with the bashfulness of the Coppertone girl. But I forgot the sounds. Whether you’re a corporation, an individual, or just an abstraction, you’ve got to brand yourself aurally to stand out, Jack Hitt writes: “Sonic branding involves stand-alone sounds, like NBC’s three-note signature or United Airlines’ use of the most familiar measures of ‘Rhapsody in Blue.’ These distilled riffs are meant to build an aural association with a product to create a Pavlovian sense of loyalty and expectation … Fajitas, [Joel] Beckerman writes, were merely a decent-selling dish that went supernova as a middle-class entrée after Chili’s focused its presentation on the loud sizzle of the dish emerging from the kitchen, a sound that figured into all its key advertising. Spend enough time pondering the nuances of sonic branding, and you come to appreciate the pure genius of the letter z in the word Prozac.”
- Hey, gang, there’s a new restaurant in London called Bronte! They left the umlaut off, but still, you’d be forgiven for assuming there’s something literary about it. No such luck, though. Tanya Gold paid the place a visit, and: “I hoped that Bronte would be filled with Victorian writers licking ink off their fingers and bitching about Mrs. Gaskell being a third-rate hack; but it is not to be … It is named for Horatio Nelson, the Duke of Bronte … So Bronte is named for a man no one calls Bronte. It could have been called Nelson, decorated with eye patches and plastic parrots, like a Padshow hell shack; or it could have been called Gaskell, an angry and flouncy tearoom that wrote bad novels and one marvelous, vicious and dishonest biography called The Life of Charlotte Brontë; or it could have been called—and this is my wish—Brunty: Pens, Sex and Potatoes.”
September 22, 2016 | by Laura Bannister
A brief history of London’s Tower Menagerie.
It was New Year’s Eve 1764, and John Wesley—founding father of Methodism, horseback proselytizer, teetotaler—stood before the structure now known as the Tower of London, accompanied by a flautist, who was, in turn, accompanied by his flute. Wesley had traveled to this sprawling complex in the hope of testing a hypothesis. Could music soothe the most savage of beasts? If it did, Wesley might clear up a burning theological ambiguity—the question of whether nonhuman animals had souls. With his contracted companion in tow, he marched through the tower, determined to find some big cats and to smother them with song.
Zoos, as we know them today, did not exist in Wesley’s lifetime—the zoological garden is a distinctly modern phenomenon. Even the London Zoo, one of the oldest “scientific” outdoor sites for animal rehoming, opened six decades after his tower trip. If Wesley wished to glean the spirituality of lions firsthand, the infamous citadel, all arched cages and grilles, was his best bet in England. (Spoiler: the reaction to a live flute performance was mostly lukewarm—only one out of five lions stirred and stood up on all fours—not quite what our preacher had been hankering for.)
For those unfamiliar with the capricious usage history of the Tower of London, it might be hard to imagine parts of the site used as a full-blown menagerie—one that lasted about six hundred years. But through its almost thousand-year history, the place has morphed like a sort of Room of Requirement, having served variously as a palace, a public-record office, an armory, a torture chamber, a private ground for beheadings, and the Royal Mint. Its most recent incarnation is as a magnet for jewel-ogling, cash-happy tourists. Today the tower’s official website reflects this diversity—it includes a Peasants’ Revolt Quiz (“Are you revolting?”), details on venue hire for weddings, and an e-shop peddling miniature armor and replica Lionheart shields. Read More »
September 1, 2016 | by Emma Garman
On Pre-Raphaelite muse Jane Morris.
“Defining British Art,” part of this summer’s 250th anniversary sale at London auctioneer Christie’s, included two lots by Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Ligeia Siren (1873), a nude of an unknown model, and Portrait of Jane Morris, bust-length (ca. 1870), a chalk drawing of the legendary Pre-Raphaelite muse—née Jane Burden and known as Janey to her friends—who, despite being married to trailblazing designer William Morris for thirty-seven years, was the love of Rossetti’s life. Only the second work sold (for the tidy sum of £602,500), from which we might infer that Janey’s strange beauty, more than a century after her death, entices at least as much as Rossetti’s signature. A few years ago, his chalk drawing of Janey as Proserpine, goddess of spring and empress of Hades, sold at Sotheby’s for nearly £3.3 million—double the presale estimate.
Rossetti would be gratified indeed. Proserpine, which he reworked in at least eight versions, was his favorite creation, the fullest realization of an artistic drive fueled, above all, by his passion for Janey. A. S. Byatt, in pondering Rossetti’s painterly addiction to Janey in her new book, Peacock and Vine: Fortuny and Morris in Life and at Work, also sees this particular image as the culmination of Rossetti’s entwined artistic and erotic fixations. Byatt, however, is disquieted by it. “There is something appalling,” she writes, “in looking at a whole series of Rossetti’s images, more and more obsessive yet essentially all the same, brooding, dangerous, sexually greedy, too much. The best, and therefore the worst, is Proserpine.” Read More »
August 2, 2016 | by The Paris Review
In case you’re new around here: all summer long, we’re offering a joint subscription to The Paris Review and the London Review of Books for just $70 U.S. Already a Paris Review subscriber? Not a problem: we’ll extend your subscription to The Paris Review for another year, and your LRB subscription will begin immediately.
We’re also in the thick of the third edition of our popular #ReadEverywhere contest. The rules: post a photo or video of yourself reading The Paris Review or the London Review of Books on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest and use the #ReadEverywhere hashtag and one of our magazines’ handles. We urge you to get creative. You might, say, bathe with The Paris Review. Give an issue of the LRB a (very) mild washing and drying. Or pass a few idle minutes by going through the car wash with both magazines.
The winner of the contest will receive a wide selection of Aēsop products. For inspiration, take a look at last year’s winners, or see what this year’s competition has already cooked up.
Now get yourself a joint subscription, head outdoors, and hashtag your way to victory.
July 26, 2016 | by The Paris Review
For the third consecutive summer, we’re offering a joint subscription to The Paris Review and the London Review of Books for just $70 U.S. Already a Paris Review subscriber? Not a problem: we’ll extend your subscription to The Paris Review for another year, and your LRB subscription will begin immediately.
We’re also in the thick of the third edition of our popular #ReadEverywhere contest. The rules: post a photo or video of yourself reading The Paris Review or the London Review of Books on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest and use the #ReadEverywhere hashtag and one of our magazines’ handles. Swing from vines with our magazines. Ascend to jungle canopies with our magazines. Skin your knees clambering up the old oak tree with our magazines. The winner of the contest will receive a wide selection of Aēsop products.
For inspiration, take a look at last year’s winners, or see what this year’s competition has already cooked up.
Now get yourself a joint subscription, head outdoors, and hashtag your way to victory.