From the Maclise Portrait-Gallery of Illustrious Literary Characters

In December of 1830 the Royal Irish Academy declared a competition. A gold medal and fifty pounds would be awarded to the best essay on the most enduring mystery of the island’s architectural patrimony. From Antrim to Kerry they had stood since time immemorial, some of them thirty metres tall under corbelled, conical stone roofs, with their doors several feet above the ground. Who built them, and to what purpose? Enter Henry O’Brien, a Trinity-educated classicist with an Enlightenment-era headful of passionate speculation. He was twenty-two years old, and had grown up in poverty by a broken tower near Cahersiveen…

There's been a lot of Sir Tim in our household over lockdown: Legend, Rocky Horror and, recently, Treasure Island. What deathless treasures, these performances!

Photograph: Early Day Films

Mark Jenkin’s is a ferocious and primitive elegy that’s as bawdy as a sea shanty. Here we have a haunting movie that’s suffused with the wounded spirit of place and ringing with the echoes of ghostly recriminations. Above all it is alive, incandescent with seething antagonism. But it’s also a haunted work that broods as intensely on its own materiality as it does on the plight of its characters and their environment. Even watching the film on a streaming service (4oD with its obscene ad breaks) felt like an evanescent and site-specific experience, as though it were some found…

Photo credit: Allen Ginsberg LLC Getty Images

14 grown-ups (so-called) and all their accompanying kids & pets, horns & typewriters, and at least one rifle.

my vow is:
to remind us all
to celebrate
there is no time
too desperate
no season
that is not
a Season of Song

I don’t mind that people use the Beat label. It’s just that it’s very much of one time, a long time ago. A lot of people kept being Beat writers in…

Finally I’m daring the attempt and it’s a foggy day. From my desk, through my window, I stare at that ungainly, solitary, and striking structure. The Empress State Building — formerly of the Admiralty and these days crawling with fuzz, no longer the tallest commercial structure in London but still towering over the great Brompton Cemetery — obscured by mist. Its outline may be smudged and softened, but somehow in partial glimpses through and above the cold, swirling murk it cuts shapes even more jagged than those seen on clearer days. For all that it dominates the view from my…

Photo: Walt Disney Pictures, all right reserved.

Out among the stars I sail

Way beyond the moon

In my silver ship I sail

A dream that ended too soon

When we meet Joe Gardner it’s both his last day on earth and the first day of the rest of his life, and he’s weighing up the prospect of a less contingent existence. Job security, medical insurance, a pension — he balks at these. Accepting a full-time position as a middle-school music teacher may have its benefits, but this restive spirit yearns for more than mere stability. We first see him presiding over the cacophony of band practice…

Welcome back to Simpsons Total Recall, in which I occasionally challenge myself to write up a classic episode of the series entirely from memory.

Darryl Strawberry . . . Wade Boggs . . . Mattingly . . . and the rest.

Their names liveth for evermore.

Sort of.

As ever: Thank you, Frinkiac.

When I inaugurated this series of essays (see below) I deliberately started with the best or at least most nostalgic of an uninspiring bunch, perhaps in the hope that the thin stuff of the first series would provide enough of a space for me to clear my throat. I also ended up…

Autumn: wind and rain strip the trees, and the pavements have been lost beneath soggy leaves of many withered hues. Halloween: despite the gathering dark we must content ourselves with but those lonely specks of starlight pinpricking through the murky skies above London. So if you’re looking for something to watch as the nights grow longer, then call off the search, regather your party, airplane your phones, and tune in. I knew this was one of the most striking and exciting directorial debuts I’d ever seen; in the two months that have passed since that viewing,

Criticism at its best, particularly in the form of the ruminative essay, can be the record of an individual subjectivity’s apprehension of a work of art. When it attempts to be truthful in rendering the personal experience of the work, criticism can be a mirror of the partiality and contingency of the single encounter—of the instinctive and often arbitrary nature of our responses. Theory, on the other hand, can be emotionally unsatisfying to the lay reader or viewer. This is because, in attempting to establish a normative basis for classification and evaluation, it presupposes a panoptic view of the work…

Here’s an exchange from that, for accuracy, I had to look up on IMDb:

Photo credit, for now and in perpetuity, goes to Frinkiac

Almost like Lecter in prison, Nicholson Baker famously wrote his study of John Updike’s novels, , from within the confines of his mind palace, quoting the works only from memory…

Alexis Forss

Reader, writer, raver. Lecturer + tutor. PhD in English Literature.

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