Thursday, 13 March 2014

The best magazine in the world (at least north of the river)

This is an article in the Guardian about the London Review of Books. It is, as one would expect, full of praise for the unashamedly loss-making venture, worrying mostly only about the lack of women contributors.

What I most liked was the tension between the parochial and the global. The headline is "Is the LRB the best magazine in the world?". The subheading starts "The London Review of Books has become the most successful – and controversial – literary publication in Europe". So the message is that the LTB is big - and yet...

"Wilmers [the editor] is an established part of the liberal-leaning Primrose Hill intelligentsia: she was married to the film director Stephen Frears (the couple divorced in the 70s and have two sons, Sam and Will) and used to live next door to the biographer Claire Tomalin and her husband, the writer Michael Frayn. The playwright Jonathan Miller was down the road. Her best friend from Oxford (where she read modern languages) is Alan Bennett.

When I put this to her, Wilmers blinks. "Does everybody live in north London?" she asks herself, before going through a mental checklist of contributors and staff. "John Lanchester doesn't," she announces triumphantly. Spice [the publisher] says that most of their readers come from N and NW postcodes. Anywhere else?

"Clapham," he replies briskly.

I'm pretty sure that means that John Lanchester is the Clapham reader as well as being the Clapham contributor. But I can help out with another example - James Wood lives in Massachusetts, where he "teaches the practice of literary criticism at Harvard". Although I think Harvard is spiritually north of the river in LRB-land.

Teasing aside, I got the link from an American blog, an Anglophile, but a Daniel Hannan-reading Anglophile. So the LRB's writ does run a little outside the N and NW postcodes.

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