As I begin to write this, innumerable other reviews are being born. Some are being word-processed in paper-free offices, others handwritten in the Club lounges of intercontinental jets and others still dictated over breakfast on luminous southern terraces. But the reviewer I feel closest to is the lonely midnight scribbler - aching for his bed, dreaming of his cheque and as familiar with his emerging sentences as a ploughman is with his latest furrow. Not for this fellow the long-nursed grievance finding outlet at last in a venomous tirade; not for him the careful think-piece upon which a career may depend, or the glittering parade of witticisms, or the tessitura of erudite references. The night is too short and tomorrow already belongs to another review. What I like most about this companionable creature is his readiness, once his column inches have passed briefly before the public gaze, to bid each of his reviews farewell. Not only does he not impede their journey into oblivion, but he thinks of ephemeral things as having their own dignity. And he will be puzzled and saddened, I like to imagine, by attempts to arrest the flux in which his editors, his readers, his copy and himself are borne along. The turning of reviews into books will particularly appal him. Why place a preservation order upon l'écume des jours? Why delude oneself into thinking a Temple to Minerva can be built from the columns and capitals of periodical literature?
LRB 5 July 1984 | PDF Download