Arts Matters

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Classics

This week I had cause to look again at Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, a book from which I used to teach but had not read for around 20 years. Wanting to lay hands on a copy in the middle of town, I went along to the book shop in the near certain knowledge that …

Books for Prisoners

In 1981 I saw the TV premier of A Sense of Freedom, a film about violent convict Jimmy Boyle. Serving a life sentence for murder, the Glasgow gangster faced down one attempt after another by the prison authorities to crush his spirit. Perhaps they thought they could beat the bad out of him. But it …

Perfection

Knowing when to stop is one of the most difficult decisions of the creative process. It is not always easy to judge when a work is finished. Perhaps a painting needs one or two more brush strokes in a few places, a poem could do with an extra word added and a couple of them …

Character and Plot

A recent film left me a little mystified. What was it about? What was the meaning? How did it all make sense? The story seemed to end inconclusively and many of the events depicted had led nowhere. What were we to make of it? My theatre companion suggested it was best seen as a character …

What Science Cannot Teach Us

If I had a hammer, there’s lots I could do with it. I could crush a walnut, for one thing. But I might hang a picture on the wall, knock a bulge out of my car’s wheel arch, break some toffee, start a carpentry project. I could also use it to bash someone’s brains in. …

Paper or Digital?

I don’t know if it’s because both my father and mother worked in the printing trade but I have to confess I have developed an increasingly passionate love affair with paper. I like new paper a lot when it is glossy, pristine and colourfully printed. But old paper is what really does it. I love …

True Stories?

Yesterday was a remarkable day. It was not just that it lasted 32 hours, spent mainly on my way from Kuala Lumpur to Nottingham with an 8-hour time difference. But on the flight and since, I have come to think afresh on the question of truth in fiction and the place of storytelling in our …

Solitude

A precondition for much great art is solitude. We all have a tendency towards sociability, communication and laughter, yet this tendency must be curbed if one is to make progress on worthy artistic endeavours. Writing, painting, composing, sculpting, choreographing, philosophizing and designing will all require deep concentration at some point, best achieved in loneliness. For …

The PhD

A few years ago I was ‘first opponent’ at a PhD defence in Norway. The procedure of the viva voce exam was very different from the UK. The candidate was to give a public lecture and then I and another opponent had to engage him in a protracted debate, all in front of a sizeable …

Reviewing Reviewers

My son was listening to a film review on You Tube last week. I found the reviewer to be smug, sniping and self-satisfied, poking fun at a movie that he wouldn’t have had the talent to produce in a million years. If internet reviewers really knew what they are talking about, wouldn’t they be working …