Thomas Jones

Thomas Jones edits the LRB blog, and presents the LRB podcast, from Orvieto.

From The Blog
2 June 2022

On 2 and 3 June 1946 a referendum was held in Italy with a simple choice on the ballot: ‘republic’ or ‘monarchy’. On a turnout of 89 per cent – with not quite universal suffrage; men over 21 and women over 25 – the republic won with 54.3 per cent of the vote. 

From The Blog
2 February 2022

In 1982, when James Joyce, had he lived, would have turned a hundred, William Empson wrote a piece for the London Review of Books on ’the ultimate novel‘, which begins with some backhanded praise for Hugh Kenner – ‘it is wonderful how Professor Kenner can keep on about Ulysses, always interesting and relevant and hardly repeating himself at all’ – and then almost immediately takes issue with a ‘new idea’ of Kenner’s that ‘urgently needs refuting’. According to Kenner, Stephen Dedalus ‘is practically blind all through the book’; Empson demonstrates not only how that can’t be true, but also how Kenner came to fall into error. ‘The explanation is simple,’ Empson writes. But ‘this is not quite the end of it …’

From The Blog
15 October 2021

The bespoke recording apparatus that Milman Parry took to Yugoslavia in the summer of 1935 – manufactured by Sound Specialties Inc of Waterbury, Connecticut, it had two turntables and a toggle for switching instantaneously between them – got me wondering about the history of such devices. Parry used his equipment for recording rather than playback, but it’s the same principle that later allowed generations of DJs to keep a dancefloor grooving indefinitely.

The illiterate performers who recited or sang epic poems in Ancient Greece did not learn them by rote. (Boris Johnson’s botched renditions of the Iliad are a double failure: failing to learn it by rote and trying to learn it in the first place.) Rather, a poet would improvise his song using formulaic words and phrases. Every performance was in some sense a new composition, but also a seamless continuation of the tradition.

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