Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tribute to Anthony Howard

" 'Under the briskness, he was a softie'." Observer, 26 December 2010 [A tribute to Anthony Howard, Julian's editor at the New Statesman].

From the piece:
My job interview with Anthony Howard at the New Statesman in 1977 did not go as expected. I was summoned to his office prepared for interrogation on my literary and editorial skills, not to mention my political tendencies. The job as number two on the arts and books pages was the one I most wanted in Fleet Street and would have done or said almost anything to get. I certainly planned to suppress the fact that I had voted Liberal in the previous election.

But instead of being grilled, I found an editor in a resigned, almost melancholic mood. "Well," he said, "it appears that you're coming to work for us." Then, before I could reply or thank him, Tony suddenly cheered up. "Of course," he chortled, "I can't pay you very much." He mentioned a figure. I would have worked for half. I subsequently learned that later in the day, Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens had gone in to see Tony and asked how much he had agreed to pay me. On hearing the modest figure, they looked at one another and – entirely prearranged – shook their heads and said: "Oh, you could have got him for much less", thus ruining Tony's day.
Read the full tribute at The Guardian website. Photograph by Murdo Macleod.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Julian Barnes reads Homage To Switzerland by Ernest Hemingway

Julian Barnes
Homage to Switzerland, by Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961)

'I chose Ernest Hemingway because he is deeply out of fashion, still over-admired by the literary boys-with-toys brigade, still shunned by women readers put off by the macho myth. His style is wrongly thought to be both simple and imitable; it is neither. His novels are better known than his stories, but it is in the latter that his genius shows fullest, and where his style works best. I deliberately didn't choose one of the famous stories, or anything to do with bullfighters, guns or Africa. "Homage to Switzerland" is a quiet, sly, funny story (Hemingway's wit is also undervalued) which also – rarely – is formally inventive. It has a three-part, overlapping structure, in which three Americans wait at different Swiss station cafés for the same train to take them back to Paris. Each man plays games of the sort a moneyed and therefore powerful expatriate is tempted to play with the nominally subservient locals – waitresses, ­porters, and a pedantic retired academic. But as the story develops, it's clear that social power and moral power are not on the same side. I hope "Homage to Switzerland" will make you forget the swaggering "Papa" Hemingway of myth, and hear instead the truthful artist.'

Listen to Julian Barnes read Hemingway on the Guardian website beginning Saturday, 18 December 2010.