Free State redux

The main news is, of course, the launch of the first issue of Free State, which Martin and myself have been working on for months. Martin emailed it off to all our subscribers and contributors this morning. From small beginnings, great things can be achieved; from tiny acorns do mighty oaks, etc etc. If you are so far unaware of this bold new interdisciplinary journal of the arts/science/politics/travel then direct yourself to and sign up. I hope you won’t be disappointed.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I follow keenly the travails of Waterstone’s Booksellers, my former employers, and the last chain bookshop standing on the high street. Things seem to be going from bad to worse to possibly slightly better these days, with the latest speculation that MD Dominic Myers might lead a management buy-out (which worked so well for Borders … ) HMV have more or less thrown in the towel, so by this stage I think doing anything would be better than doing nothing. Tim Waterstone is tentatively putting his hat back in the ring, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll manage to wrest back the company that bears his name. There’s an article all about it on The Bookseller’s website. I’ll continue to write about this as it develops, but whatever happens the company is going to have to close a significant proportion of their physical branches, which means lots of people out of a job and lots of readers without a bricks-and-mortar bookshop on the high street. I don’t see who wins at all in that situation, but hopefully Waterstone’s could use it as an opportunity to get back to what they used to be good at – selling and recommending books.

Finally, it was Tennessee Williams’ centenary on Saturday, a date that shamefully passed me by until I read about it online. Williams was one of the most daring and original writers of the American century, an artist who cleaved to his own authentic vision with fidelity and grace, and who significantly altered the art form in which he worked. Most literate people will be familiar with his plays, or with the film adaptations of the 1950s and 1960s. I leave you with this scene from one of my favourite TW films, which also features a performance from the late, great Elizabeth Taylor:


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