Meanwhile, At Litro: Victorians Decoded at Guildhall Art Gallery


Despite the radio silence over the summer, I do still write for Litro. Last week I went to a review a TOTALLY FREE exhibition at London’s Guildhall Art Gallery, focusing on Victorian art and how it was affected by the advent of the telegraph. Here’s how it starts:

The curator in the pink dress is fielding my halting questions with aplomb. We have stopped in front of a medium-sized oil painting of a scene on board ship. It is a tangle of unnameable emotions and undefined relationships: a woman in a bath chair, perhaps an invalid, gazes into the middle distance as a sailor wearing a wedding ring addresses her from slightly behind and to the side, his arm curled around her chair in a manner that feels distinctly Mephistophelean. On a deckside bench nearby, another sailor—older and bearded—holds a newspaper, which he’s not reading, between his knees and looks disgruntled. His seat companion, an elderly gentleman with a top hat and watch chain, glances behind him with irritation at something out of view. Meanwhile, a little girl with a black velvet hair ribbon leans over the back of the bench: perhaps trying to read the newspaper that’s held out of her reach, perhaps importuning the elderly man (a grandfather? A guardian?). Behind them all, the riggings of this ship and a dozen others criss-cross the sky in whip-like lines of black paint. It is unspeakably claustrophobic. The curator is telling me that these lines are a direct allusion to the telegraph cables that had been placed under the Atlantic less than a decade before this painting was made, in 1873, by James Tissot. It is all about communication that cannot be decoded, glances that can’t be explained, eyelines that don’t line up. Everyone in this painting is trying to say something without saying it directly, and mostly, they are failing.

You can read the rest of the review here. I would be so chuffed if you did. (Plus, the exhibition is incredibly interesting – if you’re in London or the South of England, go!)

Meanwhile, At Litro: Hubert and Urban Isolation

My latest column for Litro is up. In it, I talk about Ben Gijseman’s graphic novel Hubert, about loneliness as opposed to being alone, and about how creating art requires a connection with another person. It’s not quite a review. Hope you enjoy it!


Meanwhile, Over At Litro

Since just before Christmas, I’ve been writing a twice-monthly column for Litro Magazine, a London-based outfit (both paper and digital) that publishes a lot of flash fiction as well as essays and writing about arts and culture. It allows me to write less about specific books, and more about general trends within the book world–something I’ve found interesting since I had my first job at age fifteen, in an independent bookshop, and kept note of the curious ebbs and flows of other people’s buying habits.

If you fancy a look, pop over: my most recent column, Why Publishers Love Lists, went up this afternoon.