Sodomy’s low profile in Lady Chatterley trial | Letters

It is not clear how many understood they were defending a book that centred on illegal acts that could draw severe prison sentences, writes Sue Roff

In 1960, heterosexual sodomy was illegal. But it was central to the plot of the third version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover that was on trial at the Old Bailey for being obscene. Oddly, the prosecution counsel, Griffith-Jones, made only a slight reference to it, saying, somewhat unfortunately: “Not very easy, sometimes, not very easy, you know, to know what in fact he is driving at in that passage.”

In his commentary on the 50th anniversary edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, in 2010, Geoffrey Robertson QC, who wrote your obituary of Lord Hutchinson of Lullington (15 November), wrote that “Ignorant of the facts as well as of the facts of life, Griffith-Jones failed even to recognise Lawrence’s paean to anal sex.” According to ...

Peter Hitchens: my column did not refer to ‘squawking women’ | Letters

The Mail on Sunday columnist says Deborah Orr is wrong. He was using the term ‘squawking’ in a ‘gender-neutral, equal-opportunity’ way

Deborah Orr (Don’t blame victims for this toxic debate, 10 November) says, using quote marks to indicate a direct quotation, that I referred to “squawking women” in my Mail on Sunday column. I did not. No such phrase appears there. This is partly because I would never write such a thing, but mainly because I was in fact attacking the headless mob mentality of the witch-hunting frenzy then taking place. Anyone who actually read the column could see that, though mobs and their facilitators tend not to read very much or very carefully. Ms Orr may perhaps have sexist prejudices which lead her to associate the verb “to squawk” with the female sex, but I do not. I use it in a gender-neutral, equal-opportunity way. I can ...

Boris Johnson, Agent of Chaos | Letters

John Davies finds an entertaining book in a secondhand shop

I haunt secondhand shops, looking for books from the golden age of science fiction. Last week I found Agent of Chaos by Norman Spinrad, the New English Library edition of 1972, described on the jacket as “A new novel by the mind-toppling author of ‘Bug Jack Barron’.”

Continue reading...

The literary life of voices from the dead | Brief letters

The end of automobiles | Myanmar and Buddhism | Pilning footbridge | Conversations among the dead | Emmanuel Macron’s dog

I sincerely hope John Harris is correct and “the age of the automobile” is indeed “drawing to a close” (Owning a car will soon be a thing of the past, 23 October). I have a driveway outside my home and in it there is a car. But I have never learned to drive; it is my wife who faces up to that bothersome chore. She occasionally loses patience with me, imploring me to “man up” and learn. But it looks terribly scary out on the roads. The quicker “the use of cars is … overtaken by altogether greener, more liberating possibilities” the better, I say.
Joe McCarthy
Dublin

• As a leaner towards Buddhism myself, I appreciate Pam Stanier’s comments on the lack of sila within Westminster (...

British novelists need not fear an American takeover of the Booker prize | Letters

American writers won’t scoop up every prize, says former Man Booker judge Alastair Niven; while Robynn Ormond puts in a word for Mártín Ó Cadhain’s literary experiment

Tibor Fischer argues (Opinion, 17 October) that by opening up the Man Booker prize to writers from countries other than the UK and the Commonwealth – ie to Americans – there is no longer a level playing field. It’s true British authors are not eligible for the main US awards, but isolationism on one side of the Atlantic need not be met by timidity on the other. I was a judge of the Man Booker prize in 2014 when American books were first admitted, and all the panel felt this had brought wonderful new energy to it. I was able to compare it with an earlier year when I had again been a judge, but without any American submissions. Second ...

This be the place… Larkin flats to get second plaque

The plaque on a building where Philip Larkin lived may be joined by a second, for another acclaimed occupant, as Stephanie Wilson explainsNot all plaques are blue! The one already in place at 32 Pearson Park, Hull, recording Philip Larkin’s time in the flat of High Windows is green, erected by the local Avenues and Pearson Park Residents’ Association some years ago. We celebrate local residents with green plaques on their houses (criteria: they have to be of national renown and dead – though exceptions to that rule have been made, notably for Ian Carmichael, who also came to unveil the plaque for Dorothy L Sayers, to whom he was indebted – he said – for the best part of his acting life). Plaque debate and decisions – as a continuous, but not always prominent, part of our work as a committee – are usually, alas, now prompted by a ...

Hawes bookseller’s critics are the ones at Fawlt | Letters

Some of those who complained about Steve Bloom were merely sheltering from the rain, writes Owen StewartI think your article on Steve Bloom, the Bookseller from Hawes (New chapter opens as Basil Fawlty of booksellers quits, 18 July) slightly misrepresented his position. In my experience, the 50p charge wasn’t payable in advance and was refundable on purchase of a book. For me, the issue of not buying a book never arises, which is another story. Also, consider the situation in the bookshop. The premises are very small, and there is little space to move about. Further, Hawes is a tourist town where it seems to rain a lot. If I had to put up with a lot of passersby merely sheltering from the rain, dripping over the stock and preventing legitimate customers perusing, I might well become a curmudgeon myself. To the cheese factory with them!
Owen Stewart
Cheadle, Cheshire Continue reading...

Templates for an economic ‘church’ that does not exploit selfishness | Letters

Responses to John Rapley’s long read on how economics became a religion, from John Airs, Saville and Barry Kushner, Geoff Naylor, DBC Reed, William Wallace, Robin Le Mare and Martin London John Rapley quotes the belief of Nobel laureates George Akerlof and Robert Shiller that “storytelling is a ‘new variable’ for economics, since ‘the material frames that underlie people’s decisions’ are shaped by the stories they tell themselves” (Greed is God, 11 July). Rapley refers to one story that the “comfortable” tell themselves about their privileged existence being the “reward of life in a meritocratic society”. Raoul Martinez in his Creating Freedom counters that story with a far more convincing one. Rapley then quotes the American economist Wassily Leontief, also counselling against the dangers of self-satisfaction, calling for economists “to work more closely with other disciplines”. Kate Raworth in Doughnut Economics does just that, offering, for example, a lovely ...

Philip Larkin wasn’t as bad as all that | Letters

David Cairns thinks the poet has been unfairly portrayedAnna Farthing, curator of Hull University’s Philip Larkin exhibition, retrospectively diagnoses the poet as “clearly a narcissist with a borderline personality disorder” (Philip Larkin exhibition in Hull offers fresh insights into poet’s life, 6 July). Even Jake Balokowsky, the fictional biographer conjured up by Larkin’s remorseless self-loathing, was kinder than that. And, while some of Larkin’s critics may well see him as a misogynist, to call him a womaniser with “many lovers” is unfair: he is only known to have had six lovers in his lifetime, none of them casual. Finally, you say Larkin’s lost diaries are “commonly thought to have contained mostly pornography”. If so, it has escaped his three biographers.
David Cairns
London • Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com Continue reading...

Divisive Brexit vote has unleashed something very ugly | Brief letters

Brexit referendum | As seen by Tacitus | Jacob Rees-Mogg | Henry Blofeld and David Cameron | Asterix in SwitzerlandThis week’s BBC Question Time was depressing viewing. It showed just how divisive the EU referendum was and how unwilling the Conservatives and Labour are to tackle the fallout. Given the politics of the last two decades this is not surprising. However, the most depressing aspect was that the loudest audience applause was for the most extreme views on both sides of the argument. Something very ugly has been unleashed and I wonder if we have politicians with the personality, will and ability to do anything about it.
Sylvia Roberts
Saintfield, Co Down • Tacitus foresaw our current political situation. We have a prime minister who is capax imperii nisi imperasset: capable of ruling if only she had not ruled; and a foreign secretary who is tam stultus quam ...

Divisive Brexit vote has unleashed something very ugly | Brief letters

Brexit referendum | As seen by Tacitus | Jacob Rees-Mogg | Henry Blofeld and David Cameron | Asterix in SwitzerlandThis week’s BBC Question Time was depressing viewing. It showed just how divisive the EU referendum was and how unwilling the Conservatives and Labour are to tackle the fallout. Given the politics of the last two decades this is not surprising. However, the most depressing aspect was that the loudest audience applause was for the most extreme views on both sides of the argument. Something very ugly has been unleashed and I wonder if we have politicians with the personality, will and ability to do anything about it.
Sylvia Roberts
Saintfield, Co Down • Tacitus foresaw our current political situation. We have a prime minister who is capax imperii nisi imperasset: capable of ruling if only she had not ruled; and a foreign secretary who is tam stultus quam ...

Purple passages make for bad nature writing | Letters

Writing about nature demands more than a delicate balance between poetry and science, argues Nicholas UsherwoodIt was good to see that unresolved 2015 debate between Mark Cocker and Robert Macfarlane on the “new nature writing” given another airing in Alex Preston’s review of The Way of the Hare by Marianne Taylor (Review, 24 June). It needs sorting out more than ever, but to put it in terms of a “reanimation of CP Snow and FR Leavis’s old ‘Two Cultures’ argument” only skirts an issue which really has much more to do with language and purpose than obsolescent arguments about poetry versus science. Good nature writing, almost by definition, needs both, and is informed by both. New nature writing’s current problems lie largely in the lack of recognition, or acknowledgment, of that old truth, that you write to find out what you think, often relying instead on too ...

Cat lovers will always remember Judith Kerr | Letters

I would like to assure Judith Kerr that she will certainly be well remembered in our cat-loving family, writes Giles OakleyI was very touched by the wise and kindly words of Judith Kerr, author of so many delightful children’s books, as she contemplated death and old age: “I just wanted to say: Remember. Remember me. But do get on with your lives” (Mog author to publish Katinka’s Tail - 50 years after her first cat creation, 21 June). I would like to assure Judith Kerr that she will certainly be well remembered in our cat-loving family. One powerful memory is of my mother, Margaret, a couple of days before she died, sitting on the sofa reading Mog books to my daughter Katherine, then nearly two. Kat’s other much-loved and doting grandmother, Ada, was a Jewish refugee from Berlin at the age of 14, much like Ms Kerr. ...

When the truth of Donald Trump’s presidency is stranger than fiction | Letter

Published 82 years ago, It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis was the perfect script for Donald Trump’s takeover of the US, writes Graham StocksOne dystopian novel omitted from Jane Martinson’s article (Media, 19 June) is the remarkably prescient It Can’t Happen Here. Published 82 years ago, this work was the perfect script for Donald Trump’s takeover of the US. The back cover blurb on the Penguin edition reads: “Vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected … He was an actor of genius. A vain outlandish, anti-immigrant, fear-mongering demagogue runs for President of the United States – and wins. Sinclair Lewis’s chilling 1935 bestseller is the story of Buzz Windrip, who promises poor, angry voters that he will make America proud and prosperous once more, but takes the country down a far darker path. As the new regime slides into authoritarianism, newspaper editor Doremus Jessup can’t ...

Don’t think twice, it’s only Bob borrowing | Brief letters

Hollie McNish | Helmut Kohl | Guardian letters | Bob Dylan’s Nobel speech In Alice O’Keefe’s profile of the poet Hollie McNish (‘I always attracted mums and midwives. Now I get poetry lovers,’ 17 June), I note that “She was educated at the local comprehensive, but went on to Cambridge University.” Surely the word should be “and”?
John Murphy
Carshalton, Surrey Related: Hollie McNish: the politics and poetry of boyfriends, babies and breastfeeding Continue reading...

Anthony Burgess’s slang not so ‘horrorshow’ after all | Letters

Peter Taylor suggests the idea that the author of A Clockwork Orange created a comprehensive slang vocabulary for the novel is wide of the markAnthony Burgess did not “invent a futuristic slang vocabulary” for A Clockwork Orange (Report, 3 June). He merely borrowed a few common words from Russian, such as “gulliver” for head (голова) and “droog” (друг), and he had a very simplistic view of how languages develop. If there had been a war and a Russian occupation (Burgess does not explain this), it is likely that linguistic borrowings would have started with words that have no English equivalents. Thus we already have perestroika, balaclava, pogrom and samizdat. It is unlikely that we would borrow any of the notoriously complicated Russian verbs of motion, such as Burgess’s “yekhat” (ехать), when we already have a serviceable English equivalent: “go”. Burgess was a wonderful writer, but on this ...

Anthony Burgess’s slang not so ‘horrorshow’ after all | Letters

Peter Taylor suggests the idea that the author of A Clockwork Orange created a comprehensive slang vocabulary for the novel is wide of the markAnthony Burgess did not “invent a futuristic slang vocabulary” for A Clockwork Orange (Report, 3 June). He merely borrowed a few common words from Russian, such as “gulliver” for head (голова) and “droog” (друг), and he had a very simplistic view of how languages develop. If there had been a war and a Russian occupation (Burgess does not explain this), it is likely that linguistic borrowings would have started with words that have no English equivalents. Thus we already have perestroika, balaclava, pogrom and samizdat. It is unlikely that we would borrow any of the notoriously complicated Russian verbs of motion, such as Burgess’s “yekhat” (ехать), when we already have a serviceable English equivalent: “go”. Burgess was a wonderful writer, but on this ...

Roger Zelazny was genre-defining, not obscure | Letters

Joseph Arnaud writes that many of today’s authors owe a debt to Roger ZelaznyWhile I found Andy Beckett’s article (Accelerationism: how fringe philosophy predicted how we live, The long read, 11 May) informative and insightful, I must object in the strongest possible terms to the depiction of Roger Zelazny as obscure and the Lord of Light as forgotten. Zelazny was a genre-defining author whose works are still in print and in demand half a century after he wrote them. Lord of Light is an award-winner and regarded as an absolute classic of the genre. His name and his work are well known by anyone who pays attention. Many of our current crop of top authors acknowledge their debt to him. For example, Neil Gaiman dedicated American Gods to Zelazny.
Joseph Arnaud
Canterbury, Kent • Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com Continue reading...

JK Rowling’s use of social media poses no threat to literature | Letters

Joanna Trollope’s assault on JK Rowling (‘She’s a threat to literature,’ 6 May) puts the bizarre proposal that engagement with social media poses a threat to literature. Examples proliferate of authors who were active social critics, perhaps the most obvious being Dickens, who wrote to Wilkie Collins: “Everything ... shows beyond mistake that you can’t shut out the world; that you are in it, to be of it ... that you must mingle with it, and make the best of it, and make the best of yourself into the bargain.” However, it’s hard to resist the suspicion that behind Trollope’s attack lies a familiar literary snobbishness. Rowling’s unashamed practice of popular fiction and its prose style has been criticised before, notably by Harold Bloom in the Wall Street Journal. It was just as vigorously – and rightly, in my view – defended by Stephen King in the New York ...

Ebooks undermine your freedom and privacy | Letters

Dr Richard Stallman, Pam Watson and Joanne Swenson on the problems and disadvantages of ebooksIt was disappointing to see yet another comparison of physical books and ebooks that focused on convenience, style or mere taste (Kindles now look clunky and unhip, G2, 27 April). There are substantive differences that affect the freedom of people who read. For many titles, the only copy you can buy is a printed one. The ebook versions are “licensed”, not sold, and the licence says you agree not to give away or lend “your” copy to anyone else, nor to make and redistribute more copies. These requirements drive me away from them. My conscience balks at carrying out an agreement to be unhelpful to others; breaking the licence is a lesser evil, but I don’t want to make an agreement I know I would be obliged to break. I therefore refuse ...