Letters to Love

Some people read the London Review of Books for the personal ads but I’m an even bigger fan of the Letters column, which frequently boasts the most outré collection of opinions and arguments you are likely to find in one place.  I got behind in my reading recently, so am just catching up on the December 17th issue, a random sampling of which contains this gem, which I would file under the heading “not to put too fine a point on it”:

I cannot agree with Alan Bennett’s catty description of W.H. Auden’s speaking in ‘harsh, quacking tones’ (LRB, 5 November). From hearing Auden speak his poems to packed audiences in November 1966 and 1968 at Great St Mary’s, the Cambridge University church of which my father, Hugh Montefiore, was then vicar, and from meeting him on both occasions when he came for a meal at our house beforehand, I recall the poet’s speaking voice vividly. It was medium-range, neither very deep nor high, rather gravelly because of his heavy smoking but certainly not harsh, and with the usual accent and intonation of the educated English upper middle classes, except for his flat transatlantic vowels (‘măster’ rather than ‘māster’), which did sound unexpected in that accent.

Then there’s this magnificently non-rhetorical question, from a woman who insists she was a “live-in staff” member, not a servant, in a British household of a certain class:

Lady Fuchs had her standards, but what’s wrong with cleaning the brass once a week, using a floor polisher on the hall floor and cooking cauliflower for four minutes in a pressure cooker?

And last but definitely not least, this stunner, about which I can only say—”guess that’s settled, then”:

John Lanchester lays out most of the information needed to show that Jesus was a woman (LRB, 8 October). Women have two X chromosomes; men have an X and a Y chromosome. Some of Mary and Joseph’s children would get an X from Mary and a Y from Joseph, and be male. Others would get an X from Mary and an X from Joseph, and be female. But since Jesus was of virgin birth, Joseph did not contribute – both of Jesus’s chromosomes came from Mary. All she had to give were X’s, so Jesus was XX, a woman.

The letters can be read here in their entirety.

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