Friday, 16 May 2008

Nothing If Not Critical Quarterly

This week I have been mostly reading the 50th Anniversary edition of the scholarly journal Critical Quarterly, edited as it has been since 1987 by my friend Professor Colin MacCabe. Colin first put me into CQ in 1996, publishing a thesis of mine about the Italian film/opera set designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti. These days I'm listed among two-dozen CQ Contributing Editors (among the others are Simon Frith, Christopher Hitchens, Isaac Julian, Denis MacShane MP, and Jon Savage.) That said, I've not actually written anything for CQ since about 2002. (Where does the time go? But then nor has Nigella Lawson, whose name is also on the masthead for reasons I can never quite remember.)
CQ makes for great reading on the London underground (much better than some free paper with the latest on Amy Winehouse's flea-hive) and the other morning I glanced up from Colin's essay 'Towards A New Cambridge Philology' and thought I saw George Steiner sitting some way down the carriage. If Colin is the cleverest man I know (and he is) then I daresay Steiner is the cleverest I've never met. Both men, funnily enough, have in the past endured unfathomable academic slights from Cambridge University - which seems to me queer, since I thought cleverness was meant to be Cambridge's Big Thing. I know that when Colin taught there c. the late 1970s he had some highly brilliant students, because I keep running across them in their developed incarnations, and not just at CQ events such as last week's 50th anniversary dinner, where one such alumnus - the actor Simon McBurney - read in memoriam (and superbly) a poem by CQ's founder Brian Cox, who died recently. (Of course Colin taught a few twerps there too, some of whom still went on to make their way in the meeja world, but then such are the wages of a Good University.)
This week I think Colin is in Cannes: now unofficially retired from film/TV producing but still drawn to the Great Festival, from which he routinely reports for CQ and where he is usually Treated Right on account of having done some jury service in the past. So in the hope he is having a good one, and perhaps bumping into Sean Penn at some well-lubricated function, I will tonight raise a glass of rosé (or maybe retsina? Whenever I've dined with Colin a la Grec he's usually ordered a bottle of same while pointing out that this was the stuff Homer drank...)

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