Boris Johnson has denied that the party took place, but hasn’t bothered to provide an alibi for the evening in question, so it looks likely that when firmer evidence emerges (as it surely will), he’ll frame it as a different kind of gathering. Probably not a ‘business meeting’, because Allegra Stratton has already chortled over that fib in the leaked clip, but some other euphemism. Like most antisocial behaviours, lying tends to be self-limiting: people who lie can’t cause harm for long because they lose credibility, and lying only works if people are inclined to believe you. But as with most things, Johnson is an exception to the rule. He lies effortlessly, without any apparent cognitive dissonance or regard for plausibility, and with little effect on his credibility or popularity.
We have an eyewitness account of the 1646 eruption in the form of a letter from the governor of Tenerife, Alonso de Yclan y Valdès, to the king of Spain. I consulted the copy in the British Library; it was almost like reading the news. The eruption began on 4 October, the feast of St Francis. After some small earthquakes (‘algunos temblores de tierra’) a huge noise was heard, as if from thick artillery and musketeer skirmishes (‘artilleria gruessa, y escaramuças de mosqueteria’). Then observers saw rivers of fire (‘rios de fuego’) running down into the sea, where they slowed and thickened into material like stone.
Identifying with the characters is a normal part of going to the theatre. With Stephen Sondheim, though, it goes further than that. You find yourself identifying with the composer, feeling that he is speaking directly to you as a friend or teacher or relative, almost, though never actually, bypassing the plot and the characters with an unending fusillade of brilliance.
Virgil Abloh, the artist and fashion designer, died on 28 November of cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare cancer. He was 41. The news was unexpected, as Abloh had chosen to keep his diagnosis private. An exhibition of his work at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 2019 was called Figures of Speech. One of his best jokes was to put the words ‘FOR WALKING’ in bold, all-caps lettering on a pair of women’s cowboy boots.
It’s ten years since Christopher Logue died. His archive was recently acquired by the British Library and there’s going to be an event on Sunday afternoon, The Arrival of the Poet in the Library: A Celebration of Christopher Logue, with Tariq Ali, John Hegley, Rosemary Hill, Christopher Reid, Harriet Walter and Astrid Williamson, hosted by Andrew O’Hagan. It also marks the publication of the audiobook of War Music: The Author’s Own Recording. As August Kleinzahler wrote in the LRB, Logue’s ‘considerable work in theatre and film as actor, playwright and screenwriter nourished the poetry, much of which was dramatic in nature, and also helped make him one of his generation’s finest readers of verse’. You can listen to him reading an extract from Book 19 here.
Elon Musk is a dick. At least, that’s the image the Tesla and SpaceX CEO likes to project on Twitter. His profile picture is a photo of a rocket, elongated and cylindrical, silhouetted against the sky. It’s a nod to his work with SpaceX, but it’s also clearly a penis. It’s a sly wink at his stans, the fanbase who make up the core of his 64 million Twitter followers. Musk is a master at publicity, and the image is a provocation, to encourage more admirers or haters to pour into his timeline. Rich men – and no one is currently richer than Musk – still flaunt their wealth with overpowered cars or yachts, but they also now have Twitter, and we have to decide how to respond to Musk’s vanity rocket thrusting into our feeds whenever he says something clever, mean, childish or self-serving, which is every day.