Selected Writing 1988-2020.
I would read (and watch) pretty much anything by Jonathan Meades. Pedro and Ricky Come Again is an excellent, satisfyingly lengthy collection of reviews, essays, and opinion pieces written over a 32-year period.
As you might expect from Meades, there’s plenty about architecture and ‘Place’ in this collection, but it also covers a broad range of other thought-provoking topics. As always, Meades is opinionated, irreverent, erudite, and witty—and he’s usually right. Even on the few topics where he opines through the wrong orifice (Received Pronunciation, wind turbines, northern humour, what ’form following function’ means), Meades is immense fun to read. If I have one minor complaint about this collection, it’s that Meades really likes the word ‘cynosure’. (No, me neither.)
A few, mainly aphoristic, snippets to give you a feel for the sort of thing to expect:
- Believe in god and you’re deemed fit to run a country. Believe in fairies and you’re deemed fit for an asylum.
- No work of art has or should have any point other than to be.
- According to the author note she graduated from Oxford with a degree in modern languages: one must assume that English was not among them.
- In 1917 Kenneth Wood was five and Marcel Duchamp was thirty, going on five. That year Duchamp notoriously signed a urinal ‘R. Mutt’. It was a dull jest then and it remains a dull jest, but it has for a century been treated with reverence by morons.
- amateurism is routinely considered to be inimical to professionalism, rather than its foundation.
- God is the most successful, most enduring, most pervasive and most banal of all fictional creations.
- A world without tattoos might not be a better place but it would look cleaner.
- I write before I think, I write to find out what I’m thinking.
- France in 1944 was a nation of 40 million people of whom 45 million had been résistants.
- The [Teutonic] Order’s evangelical assault suggests that a religion is no more than a cult with an army attached to it.
- We live in houses, they live in housing.
- [Boris Johnson’s] demeanour makes the sentient wince, constantly. He provokes species shame.
- [Anthony Burgess] wasn’t drinking an awful lot when I met him. That was at nine thirty in the morning.
- It’s a writer’s job to be interesting in language.
On this final point, Meades succeeds magnificently.