Cheer Up with the Smiths! I’m at the American Spectator

reporting live from 1984! What everybody forgets about the Smiths is how much fun they were.And not just fun: The band careened through the '80s putting out four studio albums which were joyful, sexy, funny, self-deprecating, silly, and even sometimes compulsively danceable. The myth of Morrissey and his mopey muse has some truth to it—and he made the jokes first, in song titles like “Miserable Lie,” “Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now,” “Pretty Girls Make Graves” and the rest—but the band mocke … [Read more...]

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From Evelyn Waugh, “Men at Arms”

They performed an exercise of "company in the attack," became entirely intermixed, extricated themselves and bivouacked under the stars. A warm night, smelling of dry furze. Guy made a round of the sentries and then lay awake. Dawn came quickly, bringing momentary beauty even to that sorry countryside. They fell in and marched back to camp. Rather light-headed after his sleepless night Guy marched in front beside de Souza. From behind them came the songs: "Roll out the barrel"; "There are rats, … [Read more...]

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Richard III’s Bones Definitely Found; Details of His Brutal Last Day

This week, in Things I Care About: Not just the identity of the man in the car park with the twisted spine, but the appalling last moments and humiliating treatment of the naked body of Richard III in the hours after his death have been revealed at an extraordinary press conference at Leicester University. ..."I'm a medievalist really," Morris said. "I don't go much for the Tudors. Even if Richard did kill the princes in the tower, you have to judge him by the standards of his day – no o … [Read more...]

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Goldfinch and Lyre Bird

I just re-read The Liar, Stephen Fry's 1991 debut novel, and it's still the funniest thing I've ever read. The antihero, Adrian Healey, careens through life plagiarizing, dissembling, cheating at cricket, and camouflaging his deepest emotions. He's terrified of getting caught (at what? at everything), and fears/hopes that the whole world is just a giant set-up to expose him.It's a heartbreaking book in its own way, scathing but poignant. Adrian's vulnerability comes through from the very … [Read more...]

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“18th Century Fox”: Helen Rittelmeyer Is Hilarious

in AmSpec, on Burke-era popular conservatism: TWO THINGS ALL  conservatives love are narratives of decline and talking about conservatism. Put those together and you have the popular argument that conservatism ain’t what it used to be. The chart of that supposed decline, if you were to draw it Ascent of Man style, would start with Edmund Burke looking intelligent and walking upright, followed by William F. Buckley as Australopithecus, slouching. The present age would be represented by some knuc … [Read more...]

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Evelyn Waugh’s Celebrity Ascesis

What on earth is going on in this "interview"? It is 20% actual interview, 50% psychoanalysis, and 30% inquisition. Never before have I thought, Evelyn Waugh is so patient! Fascinating, in a kind of sick way. … [Read more...]

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“I Want a Fur Coat and a Villa and a Cat”

new book on 20th-c changes in English marriage ideals pushes back against my Weekly Standard piece: The longing for a home of one’s own was all-encompassing. As one commentator explained, “Where almost everything else is ruled from outside, is chancy and likely to knock you down when you least expect it, the home is yours and real.” Those who idealise long-lost working-class communities forget how many people married to escape their parents. David Kynaston, in his recent book Modernity Britain, … [Read more...]

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