Flaubert, snow, poverty, rhythm … the random musings of Anne Carson

Anne Carson, the celebrated Canadian-American poet, essayist and classical translator, is notoriously reticent about her work. She agreed to just these three sentences appearing on the cover of her first book in eight years: Wrong Norma is a collection of writings about different things, like Joseph Conrad, Guantanamo, Flaubert, snow, poverty, Roget’s Thesaurus, my dad, Saturday night. The pieces are not linked. That’s why I’ve called them wrong. Not only does this suggest the range of subjects explored but also Carson’s idiosyncratic, playful humour. Of course there are links between the pieces, and of course they are anything but wrong. Wrong-footed by the blurb, it’s thrillingly difficult to find one’s

America is a nation divided

New York Imagine a European country today in which a newspaper in its most populous city launches a mendacious project reinterpreting its past. The practice was perfected under the old communist system that ruled Romania, Hungary, Poland and the rest of the Soviet satellites. But it is no longer possible in that part of the world now that the old continent has rediscovered freedom. It is taking place elsewhere, though, right here in New York, marinated by the Bagel Times which has invented a nation predicated on racism and enforced racial inequality. The 1619 Project is based on delusion and is a sweeping assault on the American way of life

After a lifetime in nightclubs, now I party at home

New York   It’s party time in the Bagel, and it’s about time, too. Good restaurants and elegant nightclubs are now a thing of the past, at least here in New York, so it’s home sweet home for the poor little Greek boy, for dinner, drinks and even some dancing at times. Here in my Bagel house my proudest possessions are my three Oswald Birley pictures. One is enormous and covers the whole wall of the entrance hall. The other two are a self-portrait and one of a rather grand lady. They are masterfully executed portraits, with aesthetic as well as psychological realism, an extremely difficult goal for an artist

The myth of American freedom

Gstaad Imagine a beautiful, sexy woman, an Ava Gardner or a Lily James, with a wart on the end of her nose. It stands out, whereas on an ugly mien it would go almost unnoticed. Noise in stunning and peaceful surroundings disturbs more than it would in grating, jarring cities. Last week, on a gorgeous sunny afternoon, after yet another record snowfall, I was cross-country skiing and stopped for a picnic lunch with Lara and Patricia, two married friends of mine who had left me miles behind. They were using the new skating method of cross-country skiing (I remain traditional, gliding on the double track). A cloudless and very blue

The joy of my new British passport

‘Anything you want?’ says Catriona on her way out of the house to go to the shop. I’m standing at the hob stirring a first batch of Low Life’s 2021 Pandemic Second Wave green tomato chutney. (My outdoor homegrown tomatoes stopped turning red just before Christmas.) The wooden spoon stops revolving while I google my brain for things I want. No results. Materially, I have everything I need. Too much of everything. What I once looked on as too few clothes now strikes me as insane excess. I’ve got a Honda Jazz that starts first time parked down in the village, lent to me by a friend for as long

A farmer’s notebook: why I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas

It snowed the other day. I could tell from the light through the gap in the curtains and the muffled silence. The kids came into our room at 6.45am in high excitement and loaded with a comprehensive legal argument about how they had to stay off school because of the ‘dangerous’ roads and the ‘risks of travel’. I caved. I always cave. I hated school, and screw it, they’ve barely been this year anyway and haven’t turned in to deadbeats or junkies yet. Mark Twain said you shouldn’t confuse your schooling with your education, and he was right. Twenty minutes later they were heading out in the dangerous white wilderness

A meditation on death

Gstaad   I shoulda been a weatherman: no sooner had I announced snow to be a Gstaad rarity than it came down non-stop. But then it rained, so everything’s hunky-dory. Older rich people who don’t ski are relieved that it’s stopped; younger types who do indulge are over the moon that it’s snowed at all. Happy, happy Gstaad… but not really; the coronavirus news has some scared out of their wits. In fact, this alpine village is beginning to feel like Der Tod in Venedig, or Death in Venice for non-German speakers. The great South African doubles specialist Frew McMillan, now the best tennis commentator on TV, used to call