Alan Morrison on

The London Magazine - A Review of Literature and the Arts

Shortlisted for Outstanding Contribution to Literature 2008 (Incwriters)
Last ACE-funded Issue October/November 2007
Edited by Sebastian Barker
[Debited by Peter Hewitt]

The latest – and last ACE-funded – issue of The London Magazine is poignantly an impressive edition to go out on. Most poignant of all, in light of its pre-disinvestment appearance, is the inset of a brilliantly moving painting by featured artist Walter Sickert on the back of the cover: a man sat on a bed looking down at the ground, face averted, as an apparently moribund figure of female beauty lies sprawled behind him – this could be a metaphor for the fate of The London Magazine itself at the hands of a gross solecism. To top the irony, The London Magazine has also just come No. 11
(only just missing the top 10) in the Incwriters' national shortlist of the top 20 journals that have in their eyes given an outstanding contribution to literature. Congratulations to Sebastian Barker and his team in this achievement.

Particularly inspiring in this last Barker-edited issue for me is a fascinating article by Kate Edwards on David Jones and Jacques Maritain – Art, Scholasticism, and Sacrament – which posits that art and the act of creation has a theological dimension, the two sharing a symbolic system (semiosis) denoting deeper meanings. Catholicism in particular, with its heavy use of signs and symbols, is cited – and indeed practised – by the two kindred theorists here, both of whom converted to the faith on intellectual as well as spiritual grounds. It’s hard to precis this article, so I can only advise to purchase a copy of this issue to fully appreciate its depth and breadth.

This is exactly the kind of article I have come to expect from The London Magazine, and would be hard-pushed to find in any other literary journal of today – yet another example of The London Magazine’s innovative excellence.

Breadth and variety of content is epitomised by this issue of The London Magazine. Everything from theories on the holiness of art through to a candid study of its pornographic strain from antiquity to now, by Annie Blinkhorn. Only in The London Magazine would a religious treatise on creativity and an oriental picture of an Octopus performing cunnilingus on a prostrate woman share the same binding. The poetry too is typically varied and unfashionably lyrical and musical: from the refreshingly direct and sententious ‘Homily for a Prodigal’ by Jim Greenhalf through to the colourfully tangential verbalesque of John Whitworth’s ‘Gorgeous George’ and ‘On the Death of Philosophers’.
A brilliantly cosmopolitan read.

It is puzzling as it is shocking that a journal with such a brilliant eclecticism and trans-generational reach as The London Magazine should lose its ACE funding. Especially in light of such well-deserved tributes as this from the Incwriters' shortlist: "...this magazine continues a long heritage of nurturing new and established names. The artwork strengthens the quality of the magazine, creating a challenging publication that is accessible to new audiences".

ACE take note. Newly funded ACE darlings also take note of the key word here: 'nurturing'. In this cut-and-thrust, ruthless new arts culture we have, it appears so in vogue to arbitrarily pick up and put down, pump up and cut off, that the true nurturing of artists, writers and their outlets is of paramount importance in ensuring the creative and spiritual well-being of our continually bombarded literary and arts community. No journal genuinely nurtured its contributors as compassionately as The London Magazine under Sebastian Barker's editorship, and as a recent contributor myself, I speak from personal experience.

Alan Morrison © 2008

For the Recusant's statement in opposition to the recent Arts Council cuts, click here.