a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Not settling for mediocre in the arts


In pursuit of precision
Frederic Raphael Writer
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

I don't write angry letters to people and then feel good about it. I don't actually even want to hurt them very much. I don't much like having my time wasted by people who tell lies. And this critic, for whatever reason, was lying. You cannot seriously believe that the Chapman brothers are the apex of modern British art and that's what he said. You are saying that because you wish to reassure the crap readers of a newspaper that's gone a long way downhill that they're not missing anything by not knowing anything about art and not caring about it. Because what you're telling them is, anything that gets stuck in a museum – it's just as good as anything else. You don't have to worry. You don't have to worry. Go and buy an ice cream and have a good time. It's just not honest. Honesty does matter. It does matter. Lying matters. I don't mean you have to keep going around calling people liars, particularly if they've only said something you don't agree with. No, that's not lying. But some people lie. They lie about their motives and they lie about... about what they've seen. And that, I think, is always worth pointing out. Unless you say to me, it isn't real – just go away and write your stuff. No, there's an edge to what I write. And the edge has to impinge on something rather than just air. It impinges on cant. And cant always needs to be attacked. It doesn't mean you have to hurt people's feelings. I mean, if you do, you do. But it has to be attacked. Some things just aren't as good as certain people say and you are allowed to say: why are you saying that that is good when it...you know it's not? You have to say lots of things.

There's a guy called Dominic Lawson who writes the whole of the bloody Sunday Times that isn't written by John Carey and Bryan Appleyard. And a few weeks ago he published a piece saying that anti-Semitism had been imported into Germany from Austria. Well, have I done this? I don't usually write to these people who put their addresses at the bottom of their columns because they're so self-important, they think you're going to send them roses all the time. But I did on this occasion write to him. And I do know Dominic Lawson, like, hello, and say, 'Have you ever heard of Luther? Have you ever heard of the whole history of the Wilhelmine dynasty and its advisors, Baron Stockmar, whatever his name was, and the... I mean, do you know anything about Germany?' Well, he did have the grace to say that he had written the piece in a bit of a hurry or whatever it was. But the answer – I mean, he's peddling bollocks. You're not allowed to peddle bollocks. Doesn't mean nobody does it, but you do have to point it out. I don't know what drives one to be like this and it may be that there are motives. But I don't think it matters much what motive one has in getting things right. Anal? If you say so. Revenge? Okay. Self-importance? Could be. But all the same, that comma should be a semicolon.

Born in America in 1931, Frederic Raphael is a writer who moved to England as a boy. He was educated at Charterhouse School and was a Major Scholar in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge. His articles and book reviews appear in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times and The Sunday Times. He has published more than twenty novels, the best-known being the semi-autobiographical The Glittering Prizes (1976). In 1965 Raphael won an Oscar for the screenplay for the movie Darling, and two years later received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Two for the Road. In 1999, he published Eyes Wide Open, a memoir of his collaboration with the director Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's final movie. Raphael lives in France and England and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1964.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Dominic Lawson

Duration: 3 minutes, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014