By the end of the nineteenth century, the stereotype of the ugly American – voracious, preachy, mercenary, and bombastically chauvinist – was firmly in place in Europe.
It’s not right to think about all of Jewish-German history as shrouded by the smoke of the crematorium.
Growing up in Britain as a rather loose Jew, the two things that didn’t belong together were freedom and religious intensity. In America, they do. The Founding Fathers made a bet that if you didn’t force everyone to profess religion in their own particular way, you could protect intellectual freedom, and religion would flourish.
The Elephantine papyri – written as some of the books of the Bible are being written – is true social and legal documentation, and to historians overwhelmingly powerful and moving, even when ostensibly about trivial things.
History is admirably dangerous. It is not the soft option. Teachers need to be grown up and brave. Sensitivity is fine, but it stops at the door of honest narrative.
The default mode of modern writing about art is to despise any notion of singularity as so much overheated genius-fetishism.
I have this magpie instinct for the next glittering object. There are one or two things I know I can’t write about, though: DIY, cricket, automobile repair. I could study it for a lifetime and not produce a word on the carburettor.
Somehow, the words don’t have any vitality, any life to them, unless I can feel it marking on a paper. That’s how I start. Once I’m off, then I switch to the laptop. I think it would all just be prose if it started on a laptop – not that what I do is poetry.
Sculptures created from found materials like ice and thorns, driftwood, and even bleached kangaroo bones all presuppose that artistic design will yield to the cycles of time and climate, whether over an hour or a decade.
I would want the British reader to feel that religion in America isn’t an absurd thing – a sign of a pin head athwart a gigantic body.