From the editor
IT’S a great privilege to return to Review as editor. As ever, this issue is brimming over with stimulating reading, from our cover story — Geordie Williamson’s cry in the wilderness for our lost literary masterpieces — to Lynden Barber’s journey into the shaky world of hand-held cinematography, from Camille Paglia’s thoughtprovoking essay on the state of the visual arts to Iain Shedden’s interview with American singersongwriter Beck. The arts, it is clear, are just as lively as when I departed this role in 2009 to move to the Middle East. In two years living and travelling in that region, I gained unexpected and exhilarating insights into life in the Arab world. I was surprised, for instance, by the energy and excitement of its contemporary culture, particularly in the visual arts and among writers, filmmakers and stand-up comedians. I also witnessed firsthand the hopefulness and tragedy of the Arab Spring. Luckily, it was still possible to travel widely in Syria, to visit its great cities Damascus and Aleppo, and ancient sites such as Palmyra. The loss of life there is an affront to humanity and I wept when I watched the recent footage of Aleppo’s vibrant 17th-century souk going up in flames, saw pictures of its damaged citadel and read an account of Syrian tanks parked in the Roman colonnade at Apamea. We cannot be reminded too often how fortunate we are to live in a peaceful democracy where ideas can be freely debated, books published, films screened, conversation enjoyed. When I visited Bahrain last month, friends were always looking over their shoulder to see who else might be listening. I see Review’s role as engaging readers in a celebration of the arts, books and ideas in all their forms — and our freedom to enjoy them.