Oh What A Night

Summer evening reading from the LRB archive by Anne Carson, Rosemary Hill, John Gallagher, Zoë Heller, Anne Diebel and Patricia Lockwood.

Poem: ‘Oh What A Night (Alkibiades)’

Anne Carson, 19 November 2020

A symposium was usually a gentleman’s drinking party. This is an unusual one. It has been going on for hours with no drinking. The participants agreed at the outset to forego wine in favour of entertaining one another with speeches in praise of love.

Bigger Peaches: Haydon

Rosemary Hill, 22 February 2001

The party was a success. Wordsworth was not too much on his dignity, Lamb was not too drunk. The talk was of Milton and Shakespeare, Voltaire and Newton. Lamb and Keats agreed that Newton had ‘destroyed all the poetry of the rainbow’ and the company drank a famous toast: ‘Newton’s health and confusion to mathematics.’

Fear the fairies: Early Modern Sleepe

John Gallagher, 18 May 2017

When woken in the night restless sleepers prayed and sewed and engaged in pillowtalk, as satirised in a text published in 1640 and entitled Ar’t asleepe husband? A boulster lecture, which opens with the image of a wife who ‘a wondrous racket meanes to keep,/While th’Husband seemes to sleepe but does not sleepe.’ They had sex, though it’s an activity that receives surprisingly little attention in Sasha Handley’s account. And they read: aloud or silently, by moon or candlelight.

There’s something grim about asking parents to resign themselves to the end of paltry bliss-seeking in order to concentrate their energies on the higher satisfactions of duty, service and sacrifice. Let’s by all means concede that parenthood isn’t a trip to the funfair, but does it have to put the funfair off-limits? And can it only be appreciated if the funfair is dismissed as having been a rather childish and squalid diversion?

Worm Interlude: What is a guy for?

Patricia Lockwood, 17 November 2022

Why is George Sanders’s work – winner of the Booker Prize, lauded in every conceivable quarter – still attended by the scent of failure? It must be, in order that he can overcome. At some point, the source of poignancy stopped being the characters, and started being the desire of the stories to rise above themselves.

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