On books.

RDN on books, fiction and non-fiction, old and new. I have often also reviewed at the Social Affairs Unit website.

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Polite Modernism: Eric Parry & the Other Tradition

What Colin St John Wilson called "The Architecture of Invitation" or "The Other Tradition", I call "Polite Modernism". Its finest living exponent is Eric Parry, who is firmly in the CSJW tradition, both academic and creative. And now he has delivered what looks like an excellent successor to CSJW's British Library, and Denys Lasdun's Royal College of Physicians. Actually, his headquarters for the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers has a decent claim to be the ultimate in the genre so far. After the fold, there's an account of what Polite Modernism is, and how it fits into Brutalism and Modernism, and even post-modernism. Read more...

Published

28 June 2017

Hobo’s 79th Armoured Division insignia

This is the famous insignia of the 79th Armoured Division. It seems very likely that, like the 79th itself, it was designed by General Percy Hobart (Sir Percy, as he became). If so, he was as creative with a pencil as with his military planning. He was certainly close friends with writers and artists, including Eric Kennington, one of the best war artists of WW1 and WW2.
The Bull's Head insignia of the 79th Armoured Division
The Bull's Head insignia of the 79th Armoured Division
For more on this story, see below... Read more...

Published

28 August 2014

Stanley Kennedy North folk dance book, 1921

Stanley North, by then calling himself Stanley Kennedy North, in recognition of his marriage to Helen Kennedy, illustrated and (presumably) produced this marvellous little book, Mr North’s Maggot (so called after a folk dance formulation). It is dedicated to Helen and has a foreword by Cecil Sharp, the great revivalist… Read more...

Published

27 August 2014

Stanley North WW1 “Child’s ABC”, 1914

Sometime during the autumn of 1914 (I am presuming), my grandfather, Stanley North produced these marvellous images to illustrate Geoffrey Whitworth’s “Child’s ABC of the War”. It was in the spirit of much of the artistic and literary response to the declaration of war.

Here is a gallery of the… Read more...

Published

25 August 2014

Bernardine Bishop’s “Unexpected Lessons In Love”

This is a very fine book, and well merits the comparison with the writing of Penelope Fitzgerald, which Adam Mars-Jones drew in his Observer review. It's a comparison as to both classiness and type, and I hadn't made it, which was dumb of me, since I have been reading and loving Fitzgerald.. Read more...

Published

10 June 2014

RDN on Michael J Sandel

I meant ages ago to write a note about Michael J Sandel's What Money Can't Buy. I read it with mounting irritation and wanted just to mark people's cards as best I could as to what to watch out for when they come to it.... Read more...

Published

01 May 2014

On Strathcarron on Twain on the Levant

As part of my serendipitous reading saga, I am actively pursuing what might be called Levant studies, not least with the goal of a visit to Israel. I am hoovering up useful travel and history commentaries on the region, and am hugely glad to have come across the remarkable Ian Strathcarron's valuable account of a journey he made in 2011 to recreate a journey made to The Holy Land by Mark Twain in 1867. Read more...

Published

04 April 2014

1940: Poetic fighter pilots

I am working on portraits of various modern warriors, starting with memoirs by people who fought in WW1 or WW2, or - importantly - both. Two such strike me as breath-taking. They are accounts of the young pilots of the beginning of WW2. Read more...

Published

22 February 2014

de Botton & misreading “The News”

I have disagreed with most of what I have read of Alain de Botton's work over the years and am not likely to read his latest, The News: A user's manual. In case you do, here is my take on what I understand him to be saying, so you can judge for yourself. In other words, here's a user's manual to his book. Read more...

Published

03 February 2014

London: the new Levant?

I have been reading Robert Byron's lovely, weird, The Byzantine Achievement (1929). I am drawn to the way the English mind admires the Hellenic as part of its being drawn to the Levantine. This Hellenophilia is a question of seeing Greece as something more, and more continuous, than merely having in its heyday been the birthplace of the Western mind. Besides, I like the way creative people like John Craxton (and the Durrell's of course) and others were so keen on Greece. Read more...

Published

03 January 2014
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