John Thompson

John Thompson is Quain Student in English at University College, London.

Back to Byzantium

John Thompson, 22 January 1981

There’s a jet on the cover of Destinations, soaring silently above New York, bathed in the rosy, gauzy haze of a dawn sun. The serenity of it all is deceptive, because Jan Morris is screaming in on a special assignment from Rolling Stone. Her collection of essays touches down in a quick succession of trouble-torn areas – India in the Emergency, post-Watergate Washington, Southern Africa, Panama, even London with its National Front marches – then screams off again for a further twenty culturally-absorbent pages elsewhere. As Ms Morris says, Rolling Stone is an ‘urgent kind of magazine’, so all this rushing around is what we would expect. But she didn’t expect it, not at her time of life anyway: ‘I was a middle-aged Anglo-Welsh writer of romantic instinct and distinctly traditionalist prose, based on a small seaside village in North Wales.’ But in 1974, we learn, her stone was rolled away and she found herself resurrected by ‘the most thrilling phenomenon of contemporary American journalism’, an enterprise ‘which had established its fortunes upon the economics of rock music, and found its readers among the lively, restless, affluent and stereophonic avant-garde of young America’. She accepted the magazine’s commission ‘at once’: ‘I am fond of paradox.’


Ideal Speech

19 November 1981

SIR: Mr Hawthorn insists on defending his ill-worded review of books dealing with issues in ‘critical theory’. In his reply to my letter he accuses me of misreading his account of Ricoeur and he alleges that I present a ‘simple and tendentious’ sociology (Letters, 17 December 1981).According to Mr Hawthorn, Ricoeur ‘takes language rather “as a medium, a mediation,...

Orwell’s Reputation

22 January 1981

SIR: As Frank Kermode brings out (LRB, 22 January), Bernard Crick draws attention in his George Orwell: A Life to the writer’s brutality. What is striking is that some interesting pieces of documentation by contemporaries touching on this are omitted from the biography. Dealing with Blair at Eton, Professor Crick is careful to trace his development as a games-player, yet fails to include this...

Plain English

Denis Donoghue, 20 December 1984

Orwell took little care of his manuscripts. He didn’t anticipate that collectors of such things would pay real money for them, and that universities would think it a privilege to turn a...

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