Seemly Passions

Tues 31st August. I head off to the London Review Bookshop in Bury Place, in order to buy the London Review Of Books. The shop stocks the latest issue a day or two early, even ahead of the issue’s contents appearing on the LRB website. So today I get to read a brand new Alan Bennett story, ‘The Greening Of Mrs Donaldson’. Like ‘The Clothes They Stood Up In’, and ‘The Uncommon Reader’, it’s another tale of a buttoned-down character getting a new lease of life. This time, a widow lets her young lodgers skip rent in return for a ringside view of their sex life. There’s also amusing scenes from her job as a stooge patient for medical students.

I wonder why I’m so excited about buying the LRB this way. Then it dawns on me. In the 90s I used to love getting the weekly music papers, NME and Melody Maker, on a Tuesday lunchtime in Camden, a full day before everywhere else. It was a magazine buying experience with the hint of privilege, even time travel. Priority boarding.

With the music papers, there was a sense of trying to join a club. Of wanting to Belong. Now I merrily stroll through life in blissful ignorance of who the current crop of strange-haired bands are. Instead, I have a passion for wanting to read the latest Alan Bennett story hot off the press. Which suits me, at the age I am (39 this Friday). It is a Seemly Passion.


In pursuit of further Seemly Passions, I’m working my way through the current Booker Prize Longlist. Quite enjoying the excuse for a dip into the latest literary fiction, using my library card. Here’s my Twitter-length reviews so far.

Alan Warner’s Stars In The Bright Sky. Young Scots women mooching about at Gatwick & Hever Castle. Touching, funny. 8/10.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. Unlikeable Aussies. Good last 50 pages (of 500). Lots of smoking on the verandah. Should be more of a page-turner. Isn’t. 7/10

February, Lisa Moore. Canadian oil rig disaster widow reflects on decades of grief. Happy ending. Moving. Superb detail. Prefer Alan Bennett’s widow solution, though. 8/10

Damon Galgut’s In A Strange Room. South African man’s frustrations en transit. Worrying depiction of Kafka-esque health care in India. Old fashioned existential-lit. 8.5/10


Am attending regular one-to-one sessions with a government employment adviser. She gets me firing off job applications, tweaking my laughable skeleton of a CV, and it all feels wrong. I need to do something though, so here I am. Would I consider voluntary work, she asks. Not really, I say ungratefully.

You can’t sit at home watching daytime TV all your life, she says. And then she hastily adds – seeing me about to complain – not that you’re the sort of person who does that!

Last paid job: giving a one-off talk at the National Portrait Gallery (Aug 5th), on Queer Perspectives. While wearing a curfew tag. Wonder if that’s a NPG lecturer first. Need to write up the talk and put it online.

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