So many famous writers in this issue from 1949! Laurie Lee, Frank O’Connor, Anna Kavan, Patrick Leigh-Fermor and Jacquetta Hawkes! Had John Lehmann’s ship come in? Frank O’Connor’s ‘The Landlady’ is one of the most readable stories Lehmann published in Penguin New Writing, and it’s not gloomy, or cruel to women, or about tight-lipped privilege. … Continue reading Penguin New Writing 37: The embrace of the weird
I must be one of the last people among the middlebrow fanciers to have read Beverley Nichols. He is perfect bedtime reading: light, frivolous, witty, of an earlier period so there won't be anything nasty in the woodshed, and unexpectedly moving. I first noticed his existence in a delightfully poisonous parody in Leonard Russell's immortal … Continue reading The shrine of Beverley Nichols: should one worship?
We’re well past the Labour victory in the post-war general election now, heading towards a Conservative revival in 1951. Notable Conservative novelist Angela Thirkell wrote about this period of British history with loathing and resentment. John Lehmann writes about it in his Foreword to this issue in terms of a strong desire to earn a … Continue reading Penguin New Writing 34: Life in 1948
Some time ago in Penguin New Writing John Lehmann asked for funny stories to print. He also suggested that both women and men would be leaping to their desks at the end of war to write the fiction they’d been bottling up during the war years. None of this is showing in what he’s publishing … Continue reading Penguin New Writing 33: Getting over the war
I’m a bit behind the pack in reading Simon Morden’s novel Down Station (2015). I’m not sure I’m going to stay on board for its sequel, The White City, published in 2016, but there are a lot of very good things about this London fantasy novel. 1: It isn’t about London. It starts there, in … Continue reading Simon Morden’s Down Station
New Writing, John Lehmann’s influential British literary magazine, first appeared in 1936, and fostered politically Left writers and artists. It stopped publication in 1950, with issue 40, just as Tennessee Williams and John Wain (for example) joined the contributors. I found issues 27 to 40 in an Oxfam shop, and bought them for a fiver. … Continue reading Penguin New Writing 29, autumn 1946
Here’s a bit of Second World War literary and theatrical history I had no idea existed. T S Eliot’s main theatrical collaborator was the actor and director E Martin Browne, who was the first to produce Eliot’s play Murder in the Cathedral (1935), about the murder of Thomas à Becket, and The Family Reunion (1939) … Continue reading Pilgrim Story