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Shortly before my arrival there had been another police campaign, reportedly of exceptional rigour, against illegal immigrants. The attitudes to immigrants are the same the world over – the stories about West Indians in England (“twenty-four to a room”) are exactly matched by the stories about Grenadians and others in Trinidad – and there was great public enthusiasm as Grenadians scattered all over the island in terror and went into hiding. (Many were harboured by employers who value the cheapness of their labour…)
The calypsonian called Lord Blakie sang:
“Move, lemme get me share.
They beating Grenadians down in the Square.
Lemme pelt a lash, lemme get a share.
They beating Grenadians down in the Square.
Since they hear we have Federation
All of them packing up in this island.”
Everywhere else, if not actually dead, they were contemplating the afternoon milking, hoping on the whole that it would be fine for the Saturday cricket match against Sandon, dropping tea-bags into the pot, playing with the baby, asleep. Rural life is a mystery until one realizes that nearly all of it , everywhere in the world, is spent in preparing for and recovering from short but punishing bouts of the tedium inseparable from the tasks of the land, or rather their failure to give the least sense of achievement, as it might be a lifetime spent washing up out of doors. I have never understood why anybody agreed to to on being a rustic after about 1400.
One lingering question after the George Bellows show at the Royal Academy: why isn’t he as well known as Edward Hopper? I’d seen some of the boxing scenes before – I used to have a poster of the Dempsey-Firpo fight on my wall – but the sheer range of Bellows’ work was a revelation. (It’s just a shame the exhibition has had to be squeezed the Sackler Wing. I was glad I chose a reasonably quiet day – I imagine those small rooms can get really congested at the weekend.) The New York street scenes, the coastal landscapes and the quiet, intimate portraits of the well-heeled and not so affluent country folk are all fascinating, even if some of the London reviewers have been sniffy about them. (“Dire” was the term one of them used.) Who knows what Bellow would have achieved if he hadn’t died so young?
Good to see John Updike’s Q&A with the Paris Review back in circulation on Twitter. I’ve always loved this part:
You seem to shun literary society. Why?
I don’t, do I? Here I am, talking to you. In leaving New York in 1957, I did leave without regret the literary demi-monde of agents and would-be’s and with-it non-participants; this world seemed un-nutritious and interfering. Hemingway described literary New York as a bottle full of tapeworms trying to feed on each other. When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but toward a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas. I think of the books on library shelves, without their jackets, years old, and a countryish teenaged boy finding them, and having them speak to him. The reviews, the stacks in Brentano’s, are just hurdles to get over, to place the books on that shelf. Anyway, in 1957, I was full of a Pennsylvania thing I wanted to say, and Ipswich gave me the space in which to say it, and in which to live modestly, raise my children, and have friends on the basis of what I did in person rather than what I did in print.
More on that theme in his wonderful memoir, “Self-Consciousness”.
“Live in Brittany”, the new album by The Celtic Fiddle Festival. TradConnect has a review.
The Rolling Stones and Joe Public: from Robert Greenfield’s oral biography of pioneering rock promoter Bill Graham.
The LA Times reviews a biography of Herschel Grynszpan, the young Polish Jew whose shooting of a German official became the pretext for a night of terror:
The assassin fully expected to be hailed as a hero among Jews around the world. Instead, he was vilified by just about everyone, especially by German Jews, who feared his act would bring down fresh hell upon their heads. Of course, they were right, and to the extent that Grynszpan is remembered at all it is as the guy who “caused” Kristallnacht. It is Kirsch’s contention that instead of being blamed for Kristallnacht, Grynszpan should be placed in the pantheon of Jewish resistance fighters. (By contrast, Gavrilo Princip, the young man whose assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand “lit the fuse” for World War I, was hailed by Serbs as a national hero. Princip later got a plaque in Sarajevo; Grynszpan has gotten nothing, not even a T-shirt in Tel Aviv.) Continue reading