Long Reads

Pyongyang Architecture: Eddo Hartmann and Matjaž Tančič

Korea was annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1910, and remained under Japanese rule until the close of World War II in August 1945. While the Allies had continued to vacillate on the fate of Korea come the end of the war, by August – as per an agreement between the two states – the United States occupied the southern half of…

Great Long Opening Sentences in World Literature

Some of the greatest first lines in world literature are but a few words long, consisting of a lone and simple clause: ‘Call me Ishmael.’ from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851), and for a more recent example, ‘See the child.’ from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (1985). Others too suggestively introduce a central figure, whether the narrator or the object of the narrator’s gaze:…

Themes and References in Joanna Newsom’s Sapokanikan

Yesterday Joanna Newsom announced Divers, her fourth studio album and her first since 2010’s beautiful and generous Have One on Me. Divers is due out on 23 October on Drag City. Accompanying this revelation, she also unveiled the video for the album’s first single. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, ‘Sapokanikan’ shows Newsom strolling, striding, and sashaying through the streets of New York City. ‘Sapokanikan’ is…

Elaine May’s A New Leaf (1971)

Henry Graham in A New Leaf is an artist in shades of green: his palette is of money, which he spends not judiciously, but with grace and flair and a firm creative hand. Born into great wealth, his spending is an act of pure self-expression. The trouble is that Henry Graham has overspent, and the cheques which he has passed…

On the Fugitive and French and Russian Poetry

When we hear or read the word ‘fugitive’ today, we perhaps tend to think of someone fleeing from something: most often in a legal frame, from justice; but also potentially from persecution, or simply from the uncomfortable circumstances of their lives. Supporting the first relation is the FBI’s list of the ‘Ten Most Wanted Fugitives’. This was conceived by J. Edgar Hoover,…

Saint Patrick in Context: Dates, Legends, and His Confessio

Saint Patrick in Context: Dates, Legends, and His Confessio

He is Ireland’s outstanding patron saint, conventionally held to have brought Christianity to the country in 432, and his feast day every 17 March is the cause for commemoration and revelry throughout the world – but remarkably little can be stated with any degree of certainty about the life of Saint Patrick. Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated on the traditional date of…

An International Record of Women’s Suffrage

An International Record of Women’s Suffrage

International Women’s Day, celebrated on 8 March each year, took place yesterday. To mark its passing, I thought I would look at some of the dates and backgrounds pertaining to when women first attained the right to vote. I have touched briefly on this subject in a couple of previous pieces: depicting a cultural history of Crimea; and viewing a history of…

On Kanye, Beyoncé, Beck, and Artistry

When Kanye West momentarily took to the stage as Beck was handed the award for Album of the Year at the 57th Annual Grammys, his quick grin and ready departure suggested that this was but a joke: a lighthearted reference to his infamous interruption of Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, upon Swift being selected for Best Female…

A Cultural History of the Potato as Earth Apple

The etymology of the word ‘apple’ takes us back to the Early Middle Ages, when it appeared in various related forms across the Germanic languages: as ‘apful’/’aphul’ or ‘apfel’/’aphel’ in Old High German, ‘appel’ in Old Frisian, ‘appul’ in Old Saxon, ‘epli’ in Old Icelandic, ‘æplæ’ or ‘æpæl’ in Old Danish, and so on. At the time, the word referred sometimes…