Could anything be more delightful and relaxing, at the present tumultuous moment, than peacefully meandering along an English canal overhung with willow? While we nowadays have overwhelmingly positive associations with canal boating, it was a subject that aroused deep distrust and moralising impulses in our forebears, as Mary Thaler shows in her surprising and entertaining investigation of the English canal boat literature genre.
Further lighthearted diversion is provided by Mark Jones's sometimes uproarious evaluation of the new Beatles tome, One Two Three Four by Craig Brown, as well as his review of Michael Hunter's The Decline of Magic, in which the strange tale of the ghostly Drummer of Tedworth takes centre stage. Neil Jackson evokes the chaos and glamour of the Britpop era in his review of Brett Anderson's latest, elegantly self-aware volume of memoir, Afternoons With the Blinds Drawn, while two other, very different phases of English history are the focus of my review of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms (the catalogue to the dazzling show at the British Library), and Mark's exploration of a new book on that obscure early nineteenth-century episode of attempted insurrection, the Cato Street Conspiracy. Paul appraises Peter Lake's examination of politics in Shakespeare's history plays, which suggests that, for their time, they were often daring in their implied criticisms of Elizabethan policy. The here and now is the focus of Hashi Mohamed's startling People Like Us, an engaged critique of structural disadvantage which provides a fascinating insight into often hidden experiences, animated by a refreshing conviction that improvement is possible.
In Art, Paul reports on his visits to two recent exhibitions: a Bomberg show at the National Gallery, which highlighted the talent of this still little-known English artist, and the recent British Surrealism exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which brought together some well-known and some more surprising names to explore how surrealism was received in a more insular artistic environment.
Cinema contains my review of the re-release of John Schlesinger's Sunday Bloody Sunday, which fascinates today for unexpected reasons. In music, James focuses on two female singer-songwriters, Emily Breeze and Laura Kidd (previously known as She Makes War), and Em evaluates new recordings of material by Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Bliss, and Harriet Cohen.
We hope that your summer is as enjoyable as possible, under the circumstances. Beginning with the next edition, we will be reverting to our previous Spring and Autumn publication timetable. So nil desperandum and KBO until Spring 2021. --The Editor