The Sunday dozen

28th April 2024

John Wyver writes: Apologies for missing last week – somehow the keynote for the University of Westminster conference Designs on TV, together with other stuff, just gobbled up the days. But here’s this week’s selection of twelve articles and audio elements that have engaged and informed and challenged me over, well, the last fortnight.

And I start with a link that would have led last Sunday, just a few days after the death of the great Kent and England spin bowler Derek Underwood. The image above is from my 1968 autograph book, when I spent many happy days at Canterbury, Folkestone and elsewhere watching the Kent team, with Underwood bowling to the equally legendary Alan Knott behind the stumps.

Sawdust and spin: a simply gorgeous tribute to the left-arm spinner by Luke McKernan, including an encomium to one of the greatest of all cricket photographs taken by Dennis Oulds of Central Press on the occasion of the last ball of the Oval Ashes Test in 1968 – and this link is to another wonderful, deeply informed tribute to Underwood, by Mark Nicholas for The Cricket Monthly. But these are Luke’s words:

He always had that boyish air of one who simply wanted to play the game. It was the look of the daring young RAF officer held up in Colditz, the quiet but determined one, first to join the escape committee and start the fight again. He was the Leslie Howard of the game. All these things I will remember. Rest in peace, Derek Underwood.

And here’s a short video celebration from the Guardian:

The Venice Biennale and the art of turning backward: so much to ponder in this essay by Jason Farago for The New York Times [gift link], and for me, so much to agree with:

It’s often preachy, but that’s not its biggest problem. The real problem is how it tokenizes, essentializes, minimizes and pigeonholes talented artists — and there are many here, among more than 300 participants — who have had their work sanded down to slogans and lessons so clear they could fit in a curator’s screenshot. This is a Biennale that speaks the language of assurance, but is actually soaked in anxiety, and too often resorts, as the Nigerian author Wole Soyinka deplored in a poem, to “cast the sanctimonious stone / And leave frail beauty shredded in the square / Of public shame.”

Where does culture come from?: the LRB podcast relays Terry Eagleton’s delightfully erudite and wide-ranging recent lecture which, despite his throat infection, is a great listen; the text, without the improvised jokes and an Irish love song, is here [limited free access], and you can watch it all too, including the song:

Our project was the city – Bristol Ideas: 1992-2024: reflections that are more than worth your time (and the piece is long) from Andrew Kelly about the festival and the ‘many lessons to learn from the Bristol Ideas’ experience in culture and cultural planning, partnership building, adapting to changing cities and raising money. Here we look at the story of the organisation, our philosophy and approach, some of the projects we ran, and the lessons we have learned.’ This is the introduction to the open access e-book book, available here, that Kelly has edited looking back over the 22 years of the Festival.

The roots of neo-realism: just ahead of the BFI’s very welcome Chasing the Clouds: Italian Neo-realism season, the Institute’s website has made available Pasquale Iannone’s 2013 introduction to the movement in the form of a selection of precursors.

The life and death of Hollywood: Daniel Bessner for Harper’s argues that screen writing is facing an existential threat.

The comfortable problem of mid TV: interesting reflections from (yes, again) The New York Times [gift link] by James Poniewozik about the current state of television drama and comedy: ‘What we have now is a profusion of well-cast, sleekly produced competence. We have tasteful remakes of familiar titles. We have the evidence of healthy budgets spent on impressive locations. We have good-enough new shows that resemble great old ones.’

‘Who shall describe beauty?’: a very fine response by Darryl Pinckney for the New York Review of Books [limited free access] to the Met’s The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism exhibition, on until 28 July and which I have noted before; if you can’t get to the show, or as an intro ahead of a visit, the museum has produced this virtual tour:

The Lansbury Estate, Poplar, Part 1: meeting ‘the needs of the people’: a fascinating Municipal Dreams post (first published in 2013) about the Lansbury Estate in London’s East End, built for the 1951 Festival of Britain.

No one buys books: this article by Elle Green for The Elysian has attracted lots of attention from those who write books, who publish books and indeed who read books, and it is packed with remarkable detail, culled from the US government’s anti-trust trial against Penguin, about the state of the mainstream industry today.

Tade Thompson’s Rosewater – an alien invasion that grows on you: I’ve been reading, and enjoying, the much-celebrated first volume of Thompson’s Nigeria-set speculative fiction trilogy; this is a thoughtful 2018 review by Jessica Fitzpatrick for the LA Review of Books.

Donald Trump has never sounded like this: this is one of those weeks where I share three (!) articles from The New York Times [all of them as gift links]; this one is a long, beautifully written and smartly nuanced analysis of Trump’s rhetoric by political writer Charles Homans.

You are the fuel that energises Elon Musk’s hate machine: to mark the two year anniversary of the day that M*sk began to buy Twitter, Ketan Joshi pens an angry and rigorously sourced argument about how X’s owner ‘has been twisting every dial in head office to benefit right-wing, libertarian and racist ideologies, and disadvantage the opposite’ – and why, as a consequence, you have to leave.

And finally: apropos of nothing apart from the fact that, as ever, I’ve been listening lately to a lot of Bill Evans, here’s his 1966 trio in Oslo with ‘If you could see me now’:


  1. Thank you John. I shall dine out on being placed above Terry Eagleton.

  2. John Wyver says:

    You’re very welcome, Luke, although I’m contractually obliged to point out that the ordering is absolutely non-hierarchical.

    Do you think it’s fanciful to see something of Underwood’s looping left arm in his autograph? Plus, it’s so considered and precise, like his game, and very far from the hasty scrawl that even in those far-off days of gentlemen players many cricketers offered to us eager autograph hounds.

    In my book, I see, I also have Richie Benaud, Colin Cowdrey, John Snow, Brian Statham, Ray Illingworth and Sir Learie Constantine. Giants, all.

  3. It does loop beautifully and shows the character of the man, absolutely. I am in awe of the autographs you collected. Learie Constantine, my o my.

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