Saturday, July 05, 2003

A young CLR James sailed to London from Trinidad in 1932, and wrote nine essays recording his responses for the Port of Spain Gazette. You could hardly imagine anything more ephemeral, more tied to its place and time, less likely to achieve the reaction "blimey, this could have been written yesterday". And on the surface it is very much of its time. The prose may have been written by an intellectual, but it is simple to the point of artlessness. It describes the present and is not primarily given to making timeless statements that will ring down the ages. It is as concerned as a photograph with what is going on. James's task is to be a meticulous observer. Yet this is what makes the book seem, by the end, strikingly contemporary.

-- Nicholas Lezard, reviewing C.L.R. James's Letters from London ("my" book!) in today's Guardian Review.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Possibly because she got to me so young, her effect is rather out of proportion with what any movie star should mean to anyone, but I am immensely grateful for it. The kind of woman she played, the kind of woman she was, is still the kind of woman I should like to be, and an incidental line of hers, from the aforementioned The Philadelphia Story, remains my lodestar every time I pick up a pen to write anything all: "The time to make your mind up about people is never!" This line was written by Donald Ogden Stewart, but in its utterly humanist commitment to the peculiarity and beauty of individuals, it was 100% Hepburn.

-- From Zadie Smith's moving tribute to the late Katherine Hepburn, in today's UK Guardian.