Friday, 19 February 2016

Yabba Dabba Doo

I have a letter in the current issue of the Times Literary Supplement and here it is:

Yabba dabba doo
Sir, – In his absorbing review of Eric C. Brown’s Milton on Film (February 12), Neil Forsyth mentions two chapters in which the author “explore[s] the appropriations of Milton in sci-fi and horror films”. Does this study extend to a Miltonic presence in other branches of popular culture?
It was Armando Iannucci who first pointed out that the opening lines of “Paradise Lost” (“Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit / Of that forbidden tree . . .”) can be sung to the theme tune of The Flintstones, a discovery that reportedly prompted him to abandon his PhD in seventeenth-century religious language and get a job in television, a decision for which his many admirers have reason to be grateful. 

I hope I don't come across here as a 'Mike Giggler' type - the imaginary Private Eye correspondent who makes humdrum wisecracks about current affairs, the magazine equivalent of the chortling and unbearable office joker. My letter appears in the bottom right hand corner of the page, the spatial equivalent of the upbeat 'And finally . . ' report on the telly news, or the sports pages of a national daily (which in turn correspond, surely, to the idea of desert, or pudding, or sweet, or afters (depending on your background), a consolation after the unpalatable nourishment of news and current affairs).
This week a new editor of the TLS was announced who will take over from Sir Peter Stodhardt when he retires in April. The new man os Stephen 'Stig' Abell, former head of the Press Compaints Commission and managing editor of The Sun. I wish him well, although I confess to having a slight wobble at the prospect of any TLS editor being young enough (at 35) to be my son. I've grown up (so far) in a world dominated by my elders in politics especially, but also the arts and sciences. Suddenly I seem to have been promoted (or demoted) into the outgoing generation, and have a sense of premature usurpation or disenfranchisement. I hear that Abell is a bookish type (and so was I at his age, but am glad nobody entrusted me with editorship of 'the leading international forum for literary culture').

A question: in the event of the TLS appointing a female editor (and this hasn't happened yet) what convention would apply in correspondence? Should a letter to a female editor begin 'Madam'? Surely not! But what . . .?

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