Sunday links

2nd August 2020

John Wyver writes: another weekend, another bunch of stuff that I have found interesting, illuminating and helpful; my thanks as always to those who point me to good things via Twitter and in other ways.

Looking back – what was important?: a truly remarkable reflection by the educator and scholar Jan Blommaert in response to his diagnosis of cancer stage 4 in March.

The end of the world as we know it: a wonderful essay for TLS by the great Bill McKibben about Covid-19, climate catastrophe — and hope. [£, but you get a limited number of articles free each month]

My near-death experience on a Covid-19 ward: moving words from John Burnside for New Statesman.

Disinformed to death: Jonathan Freedland for New York Review of Books on how we might respond to the dangers of fake news and the perils of a post-truth world.

The sociologist who could save us from Coronavirus: Adam Tooze (who I am reading more and more) on Ulrich Beck, author of Risk Society published in 1986, the year of Chernobyl:

Beck’s contribution in Risk Society was to offer a compelling sociological interpretation of th[e] pervasive sense of undefined but omnipresent threat, both as a matter of personal and collective experience and as a historical epoch. But more than that, Risk Society is a manifesto of sorts, proposing a novel attitude toward and politics for contemporary reality.

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Sunday links

26th July 2020

John Wyver writes: another selection of stuff that has caught my attention over the past week, kicking off with four essential analyses of contemporary geo-politics – as usual, I am more than grateful to those on my Twitter timeline and elsewhere who, explicitly or not, offer suggestions for inclusion.

Whose century?: for LRB, Adam Tooze reviews four recent books about, broadly, China and America, while spinning a breathtakingly broad overview of postwar global economics and security.

[PS. the latest LRB, from which Adam Tooze’s article comes, is a bulging suitcase of brilliant writing from, among others, Frances Stonor Saunders, William Davies, Randall Kennedy, Neal Ascherson and Linda Colley; £, of course, but worth every penny if you can afford it.]

Pompeo’s surreal speech on China: Thomas Wright for The Atlantic brings bang up to date Adam Tooze’s.

A ‘new start’ built on old lies: meanwhile looking to our our own backyard, here’s another recommendation for the latest from Chris Grey’s ‘The Brexit Blog’ – immaculate, anger-provoking political analysis of the highest order.

The great climate migration: and then looking a little further out, although not much, this is an exceptional interactive by Abrahm Lustgarten for The New York Times Magazine, with photographs by Meridith Kohut.

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Sunday links

19th July 2020

John Wyver writes: another group of links to articles, occasional videos and Twitter threads that have engaged and on occasion challenged me over the past week – thanks, as ever, are due to those on my Twitter feed that so unselfishly recommend great writing and reading.

• John Lewis was an American founder: lots of exceptional writing this weekend about the late and truly great activist, and this is among the best, by Adam Serwer for The Atlantic.

‘White fragility’ is everywhere. But does antiracism training work?: complex writing on a complex topic – Daniel Bergner on the works and teachings of Robin DiAngelo, for The New York Times.

Rethinking collections research: ‘Head of Collections [at Science Museum Group] Tilly Blyth examines how the choices we make about what to research can help us to understand the role objects in our collection had in supporting colonial structures and the new roles the collection might play in creating spaces that are open for everyone.’

Flailing states: a wide-ranging, coruscating LRB essay about Anglo-America from Pankaj Mishra.

• Let them eat cake: for Avidly, this is excellent by Adam Fales about consumption, anti-capitalism and this…

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Sunday links

12th July 2020

John Wyver writes: the usual suggestions about articles, together with occasional videos and tweets, that have engaged and informed me over the past week. My thanks, as is also customary, to those on Twitter and elsewhere who have alerted me to likely candidates.

A theme park of Donald Trump’s dreams: was it only a week ago that 45 ordered into existence ‘a statuary park named the National Garden of American Heroes’? Masha Gessen for The New Yorker is the piece you need to read on this truly bizarre notion:

This is America as Trump sees it: a skeletal, heroic history, with a lot of shooting, a lot of flying, and very little government. Excluded from this history entirely are Native Americans… The proposed park, in other words, is one of settler-colonialist history.

The last reporter in town had one big question for his rich boss: wonderful writing from Dan Barry (with photographs and video by Haruka Sakaguchi) for The New York Times in a profile of Evan Brandt, the lone reporter keeping a local news operation alive, just.

How can the press best serve a democratic society?: the intro to Michael Luo’s fascinating article for The New Yorker sums it up well: ‘In the nineteen-forties, a panel of scholars struggled over truth in reporting, the marketplace of ideas, and the maintenance of a free and responsible press. Their deliberations are more relevant than ever.’

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Obi Egbuna and the BBC: the story continued

10th July 2020

John Wyver writes: My previous post ‘Earl Cameron and a lost play’ traced my research explorations prompted by a repeat transmission in 1971 as a Play for Today of a 1968 BBC (now lost) production of Wind Versus Polygamy by Obi Egbuna. I sketched the context for what was one of the first dramas by a Black writer to be produced by the BBC for both radio and television, and I included brief mentions of Obi Egbuna’s life in Britain at the end of the 1960s. What I want to do in this second post is outline a little more of the that remarkable story and its political context, as well as highight two notable occasions when the playwright’s story became entwined with the workings of the BBC. Incidentally, I remain uncertain of the occasion of the BBC photograph above of Obi Egbuna with Peggy Ashcroft, but Nick Stanton’s Comment below (for which many thanks) gets us a lot closer to it than we have been previously.

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Earl Cameron and a lost play

6th July 2020

John Wyver writes: Back in October 2018 I was fortunate to see Basil Dearden’s 1951 luminous crime drama Pool of London at BFI Southbank. What made the occasion particularly special was a gracious introduction by one of the film’s stars, the great – and now late – Earl Cameron (above). His death at the age of 102 was announced last week, and among the tributes are Brian Baxter’s Guardian obituary and the Tweets in a BBC News story. Pool of London is a truly exceptional post-war British movie, which can be viewed via BFIplayer for a modest fee, and I recommend it warmly.

Coincidentally, on Friday, while working towards a documentary about the BBC1 series Play for Today (1970-84), about which I’ll write (much) more later, I stumbled across a trace of one of Earl Cameron’s later performances. In 1968 the actor took a leading role in a BBC2 production for the Theatre 625 strand of Wind Versus Polygamy, a play I’d not heard of by a writer, Obi Egbuna, of whom I was similarly (shamefully) ignorant. Following up on this sent me down a research rabbit-hole to encounter the Pan-African Players, the British Black Panther Movement and the complexities of the politics of race in late 1960s Britain. From which has come this first element of a two-part post, the conclusion of which will follow later this week.

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Sunday links

5th July 2020

John Wyver writes: more links to more stuff that has engaged and interested and informed me over the past week, much of which is thanks to Twitter recommendations for which I remain very grateful. PS. I realise these collections feature a lot of pieces from the United States, which I rationalise by the fact that they may be less familiar to readers in Britain and because some (most?) of the most interesting and challenging and distinctive cultural writing comes from across the Atlantic – not to mention some of the most interesting culture.

‘The most ignorant and unfit’ – what made America’s worst ever leader?: I know we’re all exhausted reading about Tr*mp but for New York Review of Books David Rothkopf is very good on the historical context.

The Hamilton movie swings open the doors of Broadway: at Vulture, theatre critic Helen Shaw and columnist Mark Harris reflect on watching the show on screen in the age of Tr*mp.

historical accuracy is Good, Actually: on Hamilton and more, this is really good from Hailey Bachrach (and, yes, the capitalisation is correct).

American degeneracy: Michael Lobel for Artforum on links between Confederate memorials and the Nazis’ conception of ‘degenerate art’.

Negative monuments – memory and forgetting in Sofia: Dimiter Kemarov for The Point with an instructive tale from Bulgaria in 1999 and today.

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Sunday links

28th June 2020

John Wyver writes: another selection of links, many gratefully harvested from my Twitter follows, to articles and videos that have felt significant over the past week.

You want a Confederate monument? My body is a Confederate monument: extraordinarily powerful writing from poet Caroline Randall Williams, for The New York Times.

Lest we forget the horrors – a catalog of Trump’s worst cruelties, collusions, corruptions, and crimes: McSweeney’s brilliant project has reached no 759. 759. 759.

Since day one, Donald Trump has been an autocrat in the making: Masha Gessen’s new book, excerpted by the Guardian; see also Masha Gessen’s unarguable Why are some journalists afraid of ‘moral clarity’?, from The New Yorker.

American fascism – it has happened here: Sarah Churchwell for New York Review of Books.

Swimming with the sharks – what progressives can learn from Republicans Against Trump: Laura Shields and Dirk Singer for on the remarkably effective Lincoln Project.

Full-length version of Portland State’s national anthem duet: the accompanying text says, ‘While filming the national anthem for Portland State University’s virtual commencement ceremonies on the South Park Blocks in downtown Portland, a stranger asked if they could sing with PSU graduate Madisen Hallberg.’

You also need to know, as a Youtube contributor writes: ‘His name is Emmanuel Henreid. He’s a well known & respected, Classically trained Singer, Dancer, Actor, & Pianist. He currently sings for the Portland Opera Co, Maui Opera Co, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Gospel Choir Kingdom Sound, & teaches students around the Globe.’ I found the — socially distanced — duet very moving.

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Paperback writing

25th June 2020

John Wyver writes: I am happy to report that today is the official date for the paperback publication of my book Screening the Royal Shakespeare Company: A Critical History. Bloomsbury brought out the hardback in The Arden Shakespeare series a year ago, and now, with some minor revisions, it is available at an affordable price, both between paper covers (£15.39 today from the publisher) and – from Saturday, for some reason – in e-book formats (a snip at £10.88). Sir Stanley Wells described it in the TLS as a ‘meticulously researched, amply documented and wonderfully wide-ranging study’ and it has been appreciatively discussed elsewhere, including by Peter Kirwan at The Bardathon.

Today, I thought I might mark the occasion by noting a handful of screen productions that have come to light since the book was published and that I would most certainly have included had I come across them during my research. One of the joys of a project like this, of course, is the continuing process of discovery of new slices of an adaptation history, and I feel certain that there is more to emerge.

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The genius of Ian Holm

22nd June 2020

John Wyver writes: It was sad to learn on Friday of the death at the age of 88 of the great actor Ian Holm. Among the many tributes and obituaries are ones by Michael Billington and Ryan Gilbey for the Guardian, Mel Gussow for The New York Times, Michael Brooke for Sight & Sound, and Anthony Lane for The New Yorker, which includes apposite clips from Alien (1979) and Chariots of Fire (1981).

I cherish especially his work with Peter Hall for the Royal Shakespeare Company in the early 1960s, and most particularly his Gloucester / Richard III in The Wars of the Roses trilogy. Hall and John Barton adapted the Henry VI plays and Richard III into three dramas that were first seen in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1963, and revived the following year before being recorded for BBC Television and broadcast at Easter 1965.

For many years the television versions languished unseen, but Illuminations is immensely proud to have released The Wars of the Roses on DVD and for download – and the details of how to purchase it are here. I have also written extensively about the series, including on this blog and in my book Screening the Royal Shakespeare Company: A Critical History, which is published in paperback on Thursday.

Here’s a brief moment from the series, demonstrating the charismatic clarity and immediacy and intelligence and sheer joy of Ian Holm’s performance. This is taken from the third part of the trilogy, from Richard III act 1, scene 2, at the conclusion of the scene in which Richard seduces the grieving Lady Anne (played by Janet Suzman).