All posts tagged: london

John Lanchester’s Essential Deceptions

With essays that span the devastating effects of financial inequality and globalization and a new novel on climate change disaster, John Lanchester is becoming the central voice for the end of the world. But such serious business also requires a kind of trickery. It was exceptionally crowded for a weekday afternoon at the British Library as John Lanchester peered into a vitrine containing a curious jewel. It was the final weeks of a sold-out exhibition on Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, and although the show included the oldest surviving copy of the poem Beowulf, the oldest known Latin Bible, and a variety of other literary treasures, these weren’t what the author was most interested in. Instead, Lanchester contemplated a bejeweled golden reading pointer. In the ninth century, its creator, King Alfred, had sixty of them made to accompany copies of his own translation into Old English of a Latin papal text — a kind of premodern marketing campaign. Its most interesting feature is its promotional self-awareness; Lanchester pointed to an inscription on the jewel that read, AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN — “Alfred …

You’ll Never Know Yourself

Pierre Bonnard’s revolutionary and controversial use of color became a means toward unlocking his past and the truths of his own self. But what if, ultimately, there was nothing to find? For years, Pierre Bonnard juggled the love of two of his models. The women were Marthe de Méligny, who would eventually become the artist’s wife, and Renée Monchaty, who would kill herself in spurned grief. In Young Women in the Garden, Bonnard painted them both. They are in a bourgeois backyard garden, like something out of a Renoir or Manet, at a large table adorned with a basket of fruit. Monchaty is the focal point of the scene. She sits in a chair, turned toward the viewer; her head rests innocently in her hand. She appears contented, at ease. In the bottom corner of the scene, looking not at the viewer but toward Monchaty, De Méligny looks quietly bemused, her profile nearly cut out of the frame. Bonnard ultimately left Monchaty for De Méligny. Sensing that his marriage to De Méligny was imminent, and that …

America’s Nostalgia for the British Aristocracy

It used to be you couldn’t throw a stick in an Oxford quadrangle without hitting a posh, white, Eton-prepped, young man. These days though, you’re just as likely to hit a middle-class girl from Nottingham, sleep-deprived and lugging a backpack, on her way to economics class. It’s clear that modern Americans love the idea of British royalty. From a national obsession with Downton Abbey to a desire for those “oh so lovely accents,” the aristocratic days sure seem dandy to us; and yet, this kind of aristocracy has all but disappeared. Oxford, Cambridge, and Eton each have “Diversity” webpages and their once-impossible-to-penetrate wrought iron gates have been flung open to anyone from any social class from any country. Prestigious, $100,000-per-year boarding schools like Le Rosey have finally begun to dole out hefty scholarships. Hunting outings are now team-building corporate events. A ski trip in the Alps isn’t all that unusual for the upper-middle-class student studying abroad in Europe. (In fact, she probably also goes sailing in the West Indies with her consultant/corporate lawyer/oil maven father during …