COLUMNS The Art of Everyday Life

by Nina Ellis

Everyday life is my new escapist fantasy. I recently started reading Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet books, day-to-day epics which now feel like portals to delicious normality. They centre on tasks like cleaning up after a party or packing the car to go visit your sister: ‘He was back again, standing in the bedroom doorway, waiting with exaggerated patience for her to shut her suitcase,’ Howard writes of someone’s annoying husband. Her characters are immersed in the mundane actions that make up their lives — and after a year of not being allowed to throw proper parties or visit my sister, I’m loving being immersed in them too. [read full column]

COLUMNS Dusting My Bookshelves

by Jessica Sequeira

Dust has a dry sense of humour. It can clog up machines to stop them from working, blind oxen in a storm, muffle sounds. Or recall them for future use — scientists now say dust can store sounds as memory. Perhaps forever, perhaps as glow. Cosmic dust is what makes the beautiful light you see in pictures of the universe. Dust does has no prejudices. It just settles, moving toward inertia, getting into the gears of progress until events are finished, done and dusted, the dust settled. Even the gunpowder. [read full column]

COLUMNS The Other City

by John Phipps

If you have another city I can say this much about it: you’ve been there before, not as a tourist but as something closer to a visiting resident. When you went, you found its squares flooded with optimism, its people sunny and welcoming, its streets laid out in the form of a passionate promise. It’s somewhere you remember being irrecoverably happy, and where you are very slightly nervous to go again, in case while you were away it turned back into being just any other city. [read full column]

COLUMNS My Dead Soviet Boyfriend

by Ka Bradley

Chistyakov writes poetry and sketches the landscape. He gets ever so lyrical about the spring, but you would, wouldn’t you, if winter was so cold you’d watched prisoners playing poker using the frostbitten fingers they’d hacked off as gambling chips. He misses the cinema. The sound of a violin tears his heart to shreds. He’s abject with a melancholy that slides off into depression or bitterness on a daily basis. I cry when I see videos of scared animals; imagine what effect this diary had on me. [read full column]

COLUMNS Outside of Time

by Lamorna Ash

I hadn’t heard of Megan Boyle until one afternoon pulled out from amongst the mass of dragging days at the end of 2020, when I was sent the trailer for her book. And I, who had pre-emptively judged all book trailers to be the very worst sort of literary marketing tools, fell for it. It was a simple premise: a rapid-fire slideshow of the 2,257 photos Boyle took on her iPhone the year she was making Liveblog, with some oneiric, half-mournful, half-euphoric pop song playing over the top. It was so seductive to me, to glimpse a person’s life in this way, every pulsing instant they had considered worthy of documentation. I loved her instantly. I wanted to make a room for myself inside her head. [read full column]

COLUMNS Listening in Lockdown

by Alannah Dorli Jones

For those of us working from home, podcasts have become a good alternative to screens in our leisure time, with the added advantage that you can busy yourself doing something useful (and leaving as little space as possible for thoughts of the present to creep in). Veteran podcaster Deborah Frances White says that podcasts are ‘like radio that no one stops you from making’. There’s a podcast to suit every conceivable niche, ranging no less widely in quality. With this in mind, here are a few suggestions to suit the present moment: one to inform, one to console, and one to distract. Though ostensibly disparate in theme, these three podcasts each have at their core the one thing we've needed for a long time — and which we’re just starting to glimpse: hope. [read full column]

COLUMNS Intimacy At the End of the World

by A.V. Marraccini

To examine monumental works of art on a small laptop screen at a distance might at first seem the worst possible way to encounter the new Anselm Kiefer show at the Gagosian Le Bourget. The four works in Field Of The Cloth Of Gold (online at Gagosian Le Bourget, 7 February – 11 March ) are huge, entire white-wall sized, not uncommon for Kiefer, who often works at this scale. Yet Kiefer’s work often begets a strange intimacy uniquely suited to this form of viewing. He has often made small-scale books, and in these as well as his monumental works, use a variety of materials, textures, and scarification of the canvas. To see only closely, personally, what is otherwise only visible as if from a distance parallels Kiefer’s own approach to the monumentality of history. Here, we zoom in, able to see the moments of fracture in each acid wash, each piece of affixed straw or gold leaf. [read full column]

COLUMNS With or Without U

by Mersiha Bruncevic

Paris has had an anchoring effect on me, something which I thought was impossible. This is what I’ve been trying to write about. It probably has little to do with the place itself and a lot to do with a desire to understand what constitutes a home. During the pandemic, I imagine others have been wondering about this too. A flat or a house can’t be the thing that makes a home, because we’ve been staying put, sitting in some flat or house, feeling more lost and alienated than ever. [read full column]

COLUMNS Hear! Listen! Hark!

by Jessica Sequeira

Pure monologue can be superficial cleverness, and lack something, the essential element of contrast. I, like many humans, find great pleasure in contrast. Autumn colours worn in summer. Water with orange, not lemon. Bread with tomatoes, onions and garlic, not butter. Thinking of snow in London, under a tree on a hot day. Loud music in world-silencing earphones. Bitter herbs made into sweet gelati, the sugar and water drawing out the nuances and softening astringencies. [read full column]

COLUMNS Encountering Lucia Berlin

by Nina Ellis

Comparisons are often drawn between short stories and photos. Henry James wrote to Robert Louis Stevenson in 1888 that he wanted to take ‘a multitude of pictures’ through the ‘small circular frame’ of his short fiction. Like photos, stories are brief, bounded, and preserved in collections. Like photos, stories often capture vanishing moments. Berlin’s fictions are experiments in transience: many of her protagonists are suspended between places and times. The housekeeper on the bus in ‘A Manual for Cleaning Women’. The girl on the plane in ‘Itinerary’. The older woman on the BART train in ‘Temps Perdu’. [read full column]