Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.
E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)
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Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.
( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)
The Old Comrades:
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Monday, August 09, 2004
Here I am, home again and seated at this keyboard once more. I plonk myself down on the old swivel chair almost reluctantly. It's like picking up the threads of a soap opera you haven't been watching: you know that you will be sucked in after five minutes and don't quite want to surrender your hard-won indifference. What brought me back this evening was learning of the death of Bernard Levin.
I remember our old gas fire we had in the 70s. It's a mercy it didn't kill me, that fire. It certainly gave me some memorable headaches when I lay too long on the rug next to it, as I used to after breakfast, reading the Times, having recently discovered that there was a point to this paper-reading my father did. My favourite bit was the double page in the middle where the Times people didn't just say what had happened but what they thought about it. It gradually dawned on me that the columns that made me most joyfully indignant (children love being indignant) about the evils of communism or of apartheid all had the name "Levin" on top of them.
A year or two ago I re-read a column (was it one of several?) that had particularly entranced me when I first read it in front of the fire. It had featured the adventures of a character called "John Cheekykaffir" and, with a sarcasm pretty and poisonous as liquid mercury, parodied the official pronouncements of the South African government regarding the death of Biko. Perhaps some PC virus has germinated in my soul, but second time round it wasn't quite as good as I remembered - or perhaps my desire to believe that having half my life behind me involves some gain as well as loss does not permit anything that appealed so much to my childhood self to appeal equally now. But this holds up gloriously. The chap who provides the link seems to have come across it by way of a discussion of the best flooring for operas, and that is indeed what it is all about.
"The Theatre Royal in Wexford holds 440; it was completely full. . . so there are, allowing for a few who have already died . . . hardly more than four hundred people who now share, to the end of their lives, an experience from which the rest of the world, now and for ever, is excluded. When the last of us dies, the experience will die with us, for although it is already enshrined in legend, no one who was not an eye witness will ever really understand what we felt. . .Most of those four hundred must be gone now, including the author, who did, despite what he says, a very good job of sharing the experience with us.
Here's some vintage Levin abuse of trendy artists who whip off a production-line caricature of some disliked political leader and then call themselves "dissidents" because not absolutely everyone oohs and aahs like their own circle.
Here he is on the family of his favourite composer:
With the possible exception of the House of Atreus, I cannot think of a line more dreadfully cursed, from generation to generation, than the family Wagner ... To the hideous warp in his own personality he then proceeded to ally the rancid blood of Franz Liszt...On Anton Webern's Six Orchestral Pieces:
... an average for each item of five plinks, two plonks and a grrrrrr.On Peter Brook's Mahabharata:
Heroes abound, their heroisms subtly differentiated; beauty draws men with a single hair; miraculous births and magic powers abound; great vows are sworn; honour is honoured; noble renunciations are made, indentities are uncertain; hate and love, lust and chastity, blood and earth, cruelty and forgiveness, faith and treachery - all these clash and mingle, exchange roles, reveal new meanings.
And on dogs:
... a loathsome spaniel (not that there is any other kind of spaniel)...
And here's how I got into blogging before I knew what blogging was:
A few months before I first heard of blogs I went to a careers counsellor. He asked me what I dreamed of doing. I said, "I want to be like Bernard Levin used to be in the Times." Levin used to have a near daily column where he wrote about whatever took his fancy: politics, opera or whatever. "Can I do that and get paid for it?" I asked. His answer boiled down to "Yes and not much," which was spot on...
I won't ever have Bernard Levin's job, but my desire to be like him is undiminished. I wish it hadn't been Alzheimer's that took him.