Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Settle down

Credit to Sebastian Shakespeare in the Mail for identifying BBC executive James Purnell's partner, Alexis Kirschbaum, mother to an infant Purnell this July.  The diarist says Jim's trip to Paris this weekend (he dreams in French) was a stag-night, which lasted until 3am as his chums were locked down in L'Alsacien restaurant, near Le Chatelet, in the wake of the bombings and shootings of Friday night.

James idled some of the time away with Tweets of his favourite French songs.

Alexis is American, raised in San Francisco, and learned. She is Editorial Director of Penguin Classics, and has a range of entertaining credits. In 2009, she edited a book of poetry selected by celebrities to run alongside a BBC Poetry Season (commissioned by one George Entwistle).  In 2010, she repackaged 10 volumes of Victorian Bestsellers, commissioned Peter Ackroyd to deliver a new version of The Death of King Arthur, and published a new translation of the Kama Sutra, with updated chapter titles including "Making a Pass" and "Why women get turned off". In 2012, she deemed Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch, written only twenty years earlier, was a Classic. In 2014, she published a translation of Mai Jia's novel Decoded - the author has been dubbed the Chinese Dan Brown.

But her principal passion is Nabokov, 'the high priest of desire'. She was proud of publishing the unfinished "The Original of Laura", in 2009. Nabokov was an interest shared at Oxford with Thomas Karshan, now a lecturer at UEA. Thomas thanked 'his wife Alexis' in the preface to his 2006 D Phil thesis.

Alexis boasts an M Phil for studies of works of Edmund Spenser, but I can't track down where she acquired her cap and gown. It's possible she met Thomas while he was a Kennedy Scholar at Harvard, and she was studying English at Smith College in 2000.

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