Editorial intelligence

The LRB gives up hope on James Wood

A small, incidental pleasure (among many larger ones) of reading the London Review of Books is the occasional editorial intervention in the "In the next issue" notice on the contents page. In the current edition of the paper, alongside advance warning of pieces by Perry Anderson, David Trotter and James Lever, the editorial voice announces that "We've given up hope of James Wood on Lermontov".

I seem to remember Zadie Smith being the object of similar exasperation in the same place a couple of years ago -- and however mild and mock-diffident that exasperation is, I'd have thought the very fact that it's public is a rather effective goad to the recalcitrant, prevaricating writer. That said, the list of contributors on the LRB's website suggests that Smith still hasn't delivered, so clearly the tactic doesn't always work.

Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture Editor of the New Statesman.

Val Doone/Getty Images
Show Hide image

“The Hole-Up”: a poem by Matthew Sweeney

“You could taste the raw / seagull you’d killed and plucked, / the mussels you’d dug from sand, / the jellyfish that wobbled in your / hands as you slobbered it.”

Lying on your mouth and nose
on the hot sand, you recall
a trip in a boat to the island –
the fat rats that skittered about
after god-knows-what dinner,
the chubby seals staring up,
the sudden realisation that a man
on the run had wintered there
while the soldiers scoured
the entire shoreline to no avail –
you knew now you had been him
out there. You could taste the raw
seagull you’d killed and plucked,
the mussels you’d dug from sand,
the jellyfish that wobbled in your
hands as you slobbered it.
You saw again that first flame
those rubbed stones woke in
the driftwood pile, and that rat
you grilled on a spar and found
delicious. Yes, you’d been that man,
and you had to admit now you
missed that time, that life,
though you were very glad you
had no memory of how it ended.


Matthew Sweeney’s Black Moon was shortlisted for the 2007 T S Eliot Prize. His latest collection is Inquisition Lane (Bloodaxe).

This article first appeared in the 21 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt