Carrie On comedy

Credit: Shutterstock First Lady: Intrigue at the Court of Carrie and Boris Johnson Michael Ashcroft, Biteback, 2022, 304pp, £20 KEN BELL is unconvinced by an attempted character assassination Michael Ashcroft’s biography of Caroline ‘Carrie’ Johnson takes the art of reputational destruction to a completely new level, gleefully combining the hatchet and stiletto. By all accounts,…

Diary of an organ-playing nobody

Credit: Shutterstock R. J. STOVE reflects on life as an antipodean performer on the King of Instruments ‘“What?”, said [piano manufacturer] Herr Stein. “A man like you …  wants to play on an instrument which has no sweetness, no expression, no piano, no forte, but is always the same?” “That does not matter,” I replied.…

Courtoom farces

Credit: Shutterstock A Matter of Obscenity Christopher Hilliard, Princeton University Press, 320pp, 2021, £30 KEN BELL follows the story of English law and ‘dirty books’ With its seventy-two pages of footnotes, Christopher Hilliard’s A Matter of Obscenity manages to combine the original archival research of the heavyweight historian with a lightness of touch that should…

Deptford dreaming

Credit: Shutterstock DEREK TURNER pays tribute to grittily resilient S.E.8 Aircraft always overhead, trains pulling in and out, traffic backed up along the New Cross Road, pulsating rap from open windows, plastic bottles in the gutter, pigeons with fungus-eaten toes, gang tags on gritty walls, smells of exhaust, fast food, sweat and the shower-gel of…

Dreaming of utopias past

Henry Wrong, first administrator of the Barbican Centre, overlooking the build. Credit: Barbican Archive Building Utopia: The Barbican Centre Nicholas Kenyon et al, Batsford, 2022, 288pp, fully illus., £40 ALEXANDER ADAMS acknowledges a modernist monument’s coming of age My first exposure to the Barbican Centre came obliquely. In the children’s science-fiction drama The Tripods, when…

Chapter Six. The Wedding

This is chapter Six of LIAM GUILAR’S almost completed epic of Britain. Chapter One was published in Long Poem Magazine #25 Spring 2021, and Chapters Two, Three, Four and Five in The Brazen Head. For more information about Hengist, Vortigern and the Legendary History, see www.liamguilar.com The story so far. Mid Fifth Century; Hengist and his brother Horsa have sailed to Britain where they have…

Five poems by Robin Helweg-Larsen

ROBIN HELWEG-LARSEN has had some 350 poems, largely formal, published in the Alabama Literary Review, Allegro, Ambit, Amsterdam Quarterly, and other international magazines. He is Series Editor for Sampson Low’s Potcake Chapbooks – Form in Formless Times, and blogs at formalverse.com from his hometown of Governor’s Harbour in the Bahamas. His Mad Skull’s Like a motorcycle…

Heresy, Catacombs, Birch – three poems by Daniel Gustafsson

DANIEL GUSTAFSSON has published volumes of poetry in English and Swedish, most recently Fordings (Marble Poetry, 2020). New work appears in Ekstasis, The York Journal, Fare Forward, Amethyst Review and elsewhere, and is forthcoming in Temenos Academy Review. Daniel lives in York. Twitter: @PoetGustafsson   HERESY The faults accrue. Our first, and least original of sins, is this: a…

Canon, to the right of them

Colonialism and Modern Social Theory Gurminder K Bhambra & John Holmwood, Polity, 2021, 257 pp, £16 LESLIE JONES is unconvinced by a clever piece of 'decolonizing' advocacy The toxic legacy of European colonialism and imperialism underpins the 'populist ressentiment and rejection of multiculturalism' of the white working class in Europe and the USA [i], according to Bhambra…