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NB by J. C.

A walk through the Times Literary Supplement

James Campbell

Categories: 20th Century, 21st Century, Art, British, Film, Humour, Language, Memoirs
Imprint: Lives and Letters
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (320 pages)
(Due Dec 2022)
£15.99 £14.39
  • Description
  • Author
  • The N.B. column in the Times Literary Supplement, signed at the foot by J.C., occupied the back page of the paper for thirteen years. For a decade before that, it was in the middle pages. That's roughly 60,000 words a year for twenty-three years.

    The purpose of the initials was not to disguise the author, but to offer complete freedom to the persona. J.C. was irreverent and whimsical. The column punctured pomposity, hypocrisy and cant in the literary world – as one correspondent put it: 'skewering contemporary absurdities, whether those resulting from identity politics or from academic jargon'. Readers came to expect reports from the Basement Labyrinth, where all executive decisions are made, and where our annual literary prizes were judged and administered. These included the Most Unoriginal Title Prize – for a new book bearing a title that had been used by several other authors (eg, The Kindness of Strangers); the Incomprehensibility Prize, for impenetrable academic writing; the Jean-Paul Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal, and the All Must Have Prizes Prize, for authors who have never won anything.

    The book begins in 2000 and proceeds to 2020. The substantial Introduction offers a history of the TLS itself from birth through the precarious stages of its adaptation and survival. James Campbell began writing for it in 1980 and acted as an editor for thirty seven years, with six different editors: John Gross, Jeremy Treglown, Ferdinand Mount, Peter Stothard, Stig Abell and Martin Ivens.
    James Campbell was an editor for many years at the TLS, where he also wrote the paper's NB column. His books include Invisible Country: A Journey through Scotland, Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin, This Is the Beat Generation, and, most recently, Just Go Down ... read more
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