Lazy winter hours with the TLS

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carnochanAhhhhhh, the long winter break.  One of its underrated luxuries: the opportunity to slog through piles of the magazines, newspapers, and journals that accumulate, unread, on one’s sidetable, or chair, or bed.  So I discovered in the December 4  Times Literary Supplement a review of Bliss Carnochan‘s new book, with the unlikely title, Golden Legends: Images of Abyssinia, Samuel Johnson to Bob Marley.

Reviewer Felipe Fernández-Armesto found it a “capricious little book,” and “jolly reading.”  Though he chides Carnochan blissfor overlooking works in Latin and Portuguese that had an English-speaking audience before the publication of Job Ludolf’s 1681 History of Ethiopia, he is intrigued by Carnochan’s account of those early travel writers “escaping reality, creating or burnishing golden legends of a land almost as isolated or enclosed as Johnson’s imaginary Abyssinian valley…”

“Against this background, the Rastafarian project of ‘return’ to an Ethiopia that never existed, ‘thou land of our fathers’, where Haile Selassie was a god ‘who liveth and reigneth I-tinually’, seems hardly more mad than those of the white pilgrims who preceded it.”

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The TLS also features — in an issue that has yet to reach California mailboxes — an article about the latest book of Timothy Garton Ash, “the scholar of velvet revolutions.” George Brock’s review of  Facts Are Subversive is online here.

ash2Particularly cheering words for those of us in the word trade:  Ash has “placed himself at the intersection of journalism, history and literature … If not quite no-man’s-land, this frontier territory is sparsely populated; few writers succeed in the delicate balancing acts involved in working there. Quite apart from the unusual talents required for what he calls this ‘mongrel craft’, employers with patience and resources are vital; the longer pieces in this collection appeared in the New York Review of Books. Those anxious about the businesses that sustain journalism in print should pray for the continued health of the small band of periodicals that fund such long-form reportage.”


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