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C O N T E N T S

No. 6152

February 26 2021

the-tls.co.uk

UK £4.50 | USA $8.99

T H E T I M E S L I T E R A R Y S U P P L E M E N T

Catherine Taylor Elizabeth Bowen’s war | Mia Levitin Sex and consent Lesley Chamberlain All the Russian devils are here | David Kynaston British meritocracy?

Austere American beauty Joyce Carol Oates on the photography of Walker Evans

Cover image: “Barbershop Facade, Vicksburg, Mississippi” by Walker Evans © Sepia Times/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

3 PHOTOGRAPHY &

HISTORY

6 BIOGRAPHY &

MEMOIRS

8 LETTERS TO THE

EDITOR

9 JEWISH STUDIES

In this issue

Whenever we try to visualize the rural America of the Great Depression we most likely see images created by Walker Evans. His understated portraits of poor Alabama sharecropping families, published with a passionate text written by James Agee in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, have become part of collective visual memory. Even people who have never heard of the great photo- grapher recognize his gaunt, dignified subjects when they see them staring out from magazines and dust jackets. Yet it is easy to forget that a classic that has inspired composers, writers, social ideal- ists and photographers alike began life as a failure. Fortune magazine, which had given Walker and Agee their original eight-week assignment in 1936, declined to publish the finished product because it was too pessimistic and Agee’s prose too subjec- tive. When the pair eventually took their work to a publisher in wartime five years later, the book sold 600 copies, only half its run. Evans had to wait until its reissue in 1960 before his photographs began to take on iconic status. By then, Agee had drunk himself to death.

Evans’s assessment of his work was unsentimental: “I suppose I was interested in calling attention to something, even shocking people. But I don’t think I had the purpose of improving the world thereby ... I like saying what’s what”. In her TLS cover review of Walker Evans by Svetlana Alpers, the novelist Joyce Carol Oates pays tribute to a photographer who exuded “an obvious love of the American vernacular, the democracy of ‘found objects’, the ‘enchantment of the aesthetically rejected subject’”. Evans, who spent an unhappy but formative year in Paris in the 1920s, cited the unconscious influence of Baudelaire and, especially, of Flaubert – “both his realism or naturalism, and his objectivity of treatment”. Alpers, an art historian, also sees an artistic resemblance between Evans and Cézanne: “Both of them ... despaired and rejoiced in the practice of making images that would be in some way equal to the world”.

We rely on photographs taken by the Allies after the liberation of the Nazi death camps for pictorial evidence of the Holocaust. In his review of Wendy Lower’s Ravine, Bryan Cheyette points out that there are only a handful of incriminating pictures taken from the side of the perpetrators because “producing documentary evidence in the act of mass murder was severely prohibited”. The truth “threatened the security of the people”. That’s a phrase with a long life to it.

MARTIN IVENS

Editor

11 CLASSICS

12 EDUCATION

13 MEMOIRS

14 ARTS

16 FICTION

18 RE-READING &

LETTERS

20 SOCIAL STUDIES

21 POETRY

22 CHINA

24 IN BRIEF

26 JOURNALISM

27 CROSSWORD 28 NB

JOYCE CAROL OATES BRYAN CHEYETTE

LEO A. LENSING

Walker Evans – Starting from scratch Svetlana Alpers The Ravine – A family, a photograph, a Holocaust massacre revealed Wendy Lower. Grief – The biography of a Holocaust photograph David Shneer

The Kindness of Strangers Salka Viertel. The Sun and Her Stars – Salka Viertel and Hitler’s exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood Donna Rifkind

ABIGAIL GREEN TOM STAMMERS

Samuel Beckett Studies, Richard Rorty and John Rawls, Ravenna, etc

What Are Jews For? – History, peoplehood and purpose Adam Sutcliffe Jewish Treasures – From Oxford libraries Rebecca Abrams and César Merchán-Hamann, editors

DAN-EL PADILLA PERALTA Roman Cult Images – The lives and worship of idols from the

Iron Age to late antiquity Philip Kiernan

DAVID KYNASTON

The Crisis of the Meritocracy – Britain’s transition to mass education since the Second World War Peter Mandler

JONATHAN BAK

What Does Jeremy Think? – Jeremy Heywood and the making of modern Britain Suzanne Heywood

COLIN GRANT LESLEY CHAMBERLAIN Nomadland (Hulu) Devils. The Jester of Astapovo (BBC Sounds). Uncle Vanya (BBC

iPlayer)

ANNA ASLANYAN LAMORNA ASH DAVID HOBBS

Passages Ann Quin. Three Ann Quin Alexandria Paul Kingsnorth Dissipatio H. G. Guido Morselli; Translated by Frederika Randall

CATHERINE TAYLOR PATRICIA CRAIG

Collisions in the dark – Elizabeth Bowen’s tales of past trauma and present discontents The Shadowy Third – Love, letters and Elizabeth Bowen Julia Parry

MIA LEVITIN MADHAVI MENON

Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again – Women and desire in the age of consent Katherine Angel The Good Girls – An ordinary killing Sonia Faleiro

STEPHANIE SY-QUIA ANDRÉ NAFFIS-SAHELY Cannibal Safiya Sinclair. Letters to America Fred D’Aguiar Every Day We Get More Illegal Juan Felipe Herrera

KATE BROWN

JEREMY BROWN

China Goes Green – Coercive environmentalism for a troubled planet Yifei Li and Judith Shapiro. The New Map – Energy, climate and the clash of nations Daniel Yergin China’s Good War – How World War II is shaping a new nationalism Rana Mitter

A Balthus Notebook Guy Davenport A Dutiful Boy – A memoir of a gay Muslim’s journey to acceptance Mohsin Zaidi The Commonwealth of Cricket – A lifelong love affair with the most subtle and sophisticated game known to mankind Ramachandra Guha Random Commentary Dorothy Whipple Black Sunday Tola Rotimi Abraham Touch of Evil Richard Deming The SS Officer’s Armchair – In search of a hidden life Daniel Lee

A. N. WILSON

The Edinburgh History of the British and Irish Press – Volume Two: Expansion and evolution, 1800–1900 David Finkelstein, editor

M. C.

Writing machines, M. B. Goffstein goes fishing, Correspondence

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The Times Literary Supplement (ISSN 0307661, USPS 021-626) is published 50 times a year, with double issues in the penultimate issues of August and December, by The Times Literary Supplement Limited, London, UK, and distributed by OCS America Inc, 34 W Forest Avenue, Englewood, NJ 07631-4019. Periodical postage paid at Paramus NJ and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: please send address corrections to TLS, PO Box 3000, Denville, NJ 07834 USA. The TLS is a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation and abides by the standards of journalism set out in the Editors’ Code of Practice. If you think that we have not met those standards, please contact IPSO on 0300 123 2220 or visit www.ipso.co.uk. For permission to copy articles or headlines for internal information purposes contact Newspaper Licensing Agency at PO Box 101, Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1WX, tel 01892 525274, e-mail copy@nla.co.uk. For all other reproduction and licensing inquiries contact Licensing Department, 1 London Bridge St, London, SE1 9GF, telephone 020 7711 7888, e-mail sales@newslicensing.co.uk

TLS

FEBRUARY 26, 2021

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