There may be a faint whiff of tediousness surrounding these opening posts of mine (what does tediousness smell like, you ask? Like a musty jumper, I should think) for which I may not beg, but will most certainly request your forgiveness. I have plenty to write about – you must not doubt that – nevertheless I sense that I should be starting with some sort of grand gesture.
Don’t brace yourself, it’s not coming. The fact is, I gave up on grand gestures sometime in the 1980s (who’d have thought a simple ribbon would be so hard to cut?) Allow me, instead, to shift into position, to ease into the driver’s seat, to slip snake-like into the cultural stream with a series of essentially practical observations.
What is the point of this here blog? A valid question, my dear fellow, and nicely put. I may be repeating myself (anyone who heard me dominate the conversation at The Crippled Bee last Wednesday evening need not read on) but I will say this: the main point of this blog is to take up issues that will no longer be served by my online journal (which, from now on, will function primarily as an archive of longer articles, of which there are – I might add – close to a hundred). Things to look forward to? Expect details of J-P Sertin’s new project, a piece on Thornton Farland’s ‘Japanese sonata’ and a modicum of musing on the most recent responses to the Bulgarian Farm Poets. On top of this, I will be taking the opportunity presented by this shorter form of prose to throw profound and absurd quotations left, right and (most probably) centre, from the mouths and pens of both well-known authorities and – as I am wont to do – from the many unfortunate figures whom time has remembered to forget.
The change of status at Underneath the Bunker has coincided – as you may have noticed – with the completion of all 52 reviews from my Greatest European Novels list (I say completion: there is in fact one review outstanding: a sorry issue to which I will return at a later date). This project has taken longer than I imagined when I published the list three years ago. Many critics, I discovered, were happy to call a book great: few were as enthusiastic when it came to qualifying their praise. I have thus spent the majority of my days as editor chasing and poking people to follow up on their rash promises. And it is a task – oh what a task! – from which I feel that I deserve a break. To say, however, that the Greatest Novels List stands proud in a finished state would be an erroneous statement. Now begins the process of reviewing the reviews, of re-reading, re-editing and restructuring that violent mess of words that I have called into being. No, there is no end to the critical process. ‘This interminable ring-road of academia’ as someone once called it. Well, indeed…