Monday, 28 June 2021

A song-and-dance man

‘So who was ever going to remember Jack Robinson? Especially as that summer, Jack Robinson simply ceased to be, simply sidled away, his time was up, never to return. Who was going to remember? Except himself of course, publicly but cryptically, every time he said, “Oh just an old song-and-dance man.”’That’s from Graham Swift’s Here We Are, one of whose main characters has the stage name Jack Robinson. I’ve used the pen name Jack Robinson myself over the past dozen years but in The Other Jack I’ve let him sidle away, his time was up. Readers have commented on Twitter that the book is variously ‘a marvellous romp’ and ‘faintly nihilistic’. The book is available here.

From the back cover: ‘My granny used to say, when she saw me getting teary over a film we were watching on TV, “It’s only a story.” When Robyn’s bike was stolen and I offered sympathy, she responded, “It’s only money.” A woman once said to me, grinning from ear to ear, “It’s only sex.” To someone despairing of the judges’ decision, I want to say, “It’s only a book.” But it is never only anything.'

Another finishing off, this time with Finland. Tony Lurcock’s Not So Barren and Uncultivated: British travellers in Finland 1760–1830 was published by CBe in 2010. It grew into a trilogy: two more volumes followed, each of extracts from British observers of Finland with introductions and linking commentaries by Tony Lurcock. And now there are four: the final, wrapping-up volume is published this week. It include Finns in England as well as Brits in Finland and perspectives on the sauna and Finnish education. Finish Off with Finland: A Miscellany is available here.

The Lockdown Subscription continues: 10 books for £70, post free in the UK. Available from the website. It’s not a vaccination but it’s still worth having.

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