Gräbner's piece on performance is the one in which Cobbing gets not much of a mention even though he is absolutely crucial to the development of performance and sound poetries (no ABC in Sound!) (despite there being a list of later women poets, like Maggie O'Sullivan, who directly worked with Writers Forum - note no apostrophe). There was no cultural mandarin called Brian Mills. The critic means Barry Miles - and Dave Cunliffe's Poetmeat (I thought Tina Morris was also involved) hailed from Blackburn, not Blackpool... (See Geraldine Monks' Cusp, which Simon mentions.) These are localised irritations in an otherwise great book.
See my takes on Cobbing here and the British Poetry Revival here.
Today's Writing Exercise (I'm gearing up for a bit more fiction-writing)
Even though he'd declared himself the Scott Walker of criticism, the Greta Garbo of reading, the Howard Hughes of literary theory, he couldn't believe his eyes. Barry Miles - the 1960s hustler and diarist - had become Brian Mills in this account of the Indica Bookshop, Dave Cunliffe's Blackburn had become Blackpool, and Bob Cobbing merely ran a press whose name had acquired an apostrophe that had been typographically dispensed with in its earliest years.
He threw the book down. (Actually he didn't; he placed it down gently. There were more precious pages than these in it.)
How many other mistakes did the article contain? To not realise the role of Cobbing in 'performance', the ostensive subject of the chapter, was more than the carelessness suggested by the first two errors - this was a woman who couldn't read her own handwritten notes was his most generous construction of the disaster - it was a dereliction of the duty of the critic.
Had he never made such errors?
He had, but never so egregiously, and he'd always noticed in time. 'The role of the critic is a holy office at the altar of books,' he found himself writing on his blog.
Come on, he didn't believe that, surely? In fact, seeing his own book through the press (somewhere he feared there was a de Bollas' he skimmed doing the index that he couldn't remember correcting in the proofs), he realised that this was the last book of literary criticism he intended to write (excluding collecting fugitive pieces). It was the last book with a thesis and theme. Walker, Garbo, Hughes.