I’ll Give Last Year a B-. Next!

I thought about putting together some end-of-year thoughts, but really I don’t have too much to say about 2006. I didn’t read too much contemporary fiction or, in fact, contemporary anything – I taught myself Attic Greek instead. It seemed a fun and practical thing to do. Against The Day was inevitably the this-year-book I liked the most.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to be grave reflections on the past year, but a cheerful hello to a new one, in which many fine people fall out of copyright.

I feel especially pleased to welcome A.E. Housman, G.K. Chesterton, M.R. James and J.R. Kipling to the free world. (That last one’s more usually known as Rudyard, but I’m sure you appreciate that the important thing here is making sure they all have two initials. It’s tidy. Funny thing about Kipling – can’t stand his poetry, but think he might be the best old-school short-story writer there is. And I’m suddenly awfully worried that this paragraph makes me sound like a shrapnel-lobotomised retired major who writes in to the Telegraph deploring the pass the literary world has come to when an alumnus of Jesus deems it necessary to evince an unlikely admiration for Association Football and Negro Popular Music in order to make a name for himself (Though the case of Hornby may go to show that despite producing a number of honourable and brave men – with many of whom I have had the pleasure of serving – the Grammar School is not a healthy institution for the sons of hard-working Britons. Also, please note the split infinitive on page 3 in column 2, paragraph 2 of your story ‘Return of the English Rose’. This is not America. Yours, etc.) So I should make the Kipling-love a little hipper-looking by saying that I can’t see how, if you like Borges, you wouldn’t like the Kipling of ‘Electricity’, ‘The Finest Story in the World’ and so on.)

If I try to picture it, I see them walking out of the gates of a prison, bundles under their arms, looking around, lighting cigarettes and wondering what to do with their freedom.

No. Pipes. They’re actually lighting pipes.