Edward St Aubyn has undoubted comic gifts, as he has proven in his previous work, but his satire on the Booker Prize judging process tacks a little too closely to burlesque. Perhaps he was having so much fun he ‘let himself go’. But satire, when it is successful, is a serious business.
Dworkin argues that, as well as religious theists, there are many others who because they believe the universe is inherently ordered while at the same time reaching beyond our comprehension, should also be regarded as religious. He calls them religious atheists. Among scientists, Einstein is the most famous religious atheist.
If our economic insufficiencies in the 1950s were obvious, and our attempts to address them obviously inadequate, this might not be because history, or our inescapable national character, were stacked against us. The fault, an unlikely clerical source argued, might not be in our stars but in ourselves.
Celia de Fréine seems to have arrived on the literary scene late but fully formed: as though she waited until her voice was mature to publish at all. Since she started, she’s been unstoppable. In an interview, she talks about the gestation of her work and her return to earlier ‘shelved’ work.
Sigmund Freud did not care greatly for his patients, and learning and teaching were more to his taste than helping and healing. Nevertheless, psychoanalysis has become in our age the pervasive orthodoxy of self-knowledge, even if its scientific claims are on a par with those of, say, aromatherapy.
Philip Larkin’s restless spirit could not commit to any one course: he wrote serious poems and comical ones, had serious friends and comical ones, a religious and ‘proper’ lover and a sceptical, flamboyant one; he coveted fame and luxury – bathing and booze and birds – yet was known as a hermit.
John Deakin recorded in his photographs the Soho of the 1950s, a bohemia inhabited by painters like Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud and poets like WS Graham and George Barker. Though his portraits are often harsh, they are not devoid of sympathy, or pity for those crushed by life.