Posts Tagged ‘London’
December 12, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
I do realize it must feel like map week around here, but how could we not share this literary street map, loosely based on Victorian London? To quote the Dorothy studio, the map
is made up from the titles of over six hundred books from the history of English Literature (and a few favourites from further afield). The map includes classics such as Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Bleak House, Vanity Fair, and Wuthering Heights as well as twentieth and twenty-first century works such as The Waste Land, To the Lighthouse, Animal Farm, Slaughterhouse 5, The Catcher in the Rye, The Wasp Factory, Norwegian Wood, and The Road.
October 8, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
I bought my first early-eighties Harlequin Romance—actually, it was a Mills & Boon—when I was working at a thrift store in London. This was, without question, the worst job I have ever had. Does it count as a job if it’s volunteer work? Anyway, it was bad, that time with Help the Aged. I was a junior in college, studying in London, and feeling down; I had thought that perhaps helping others would pull me out of the doldrums. And, since my volunteer work in the States had always centered around Meals on Wheels and visits to local nursing homes, an organization so-named seemed like just what the doctor ordered.
It wasn’t. Or at least, the way I managed it wasn’t. In retrospect, I probably should have called some central office or at least gone to the Web site to research volunteer opportunities. What I did instead was walk into the local branch of the thrift shop (“charity shop,” in the UK) and ask if they needed any volunteers. I’d imagined visiting with homebound pensioners, as I had at home (they would regale me with tales of the Blitz, rationing, etc.); I’d been game for paperwork too, if that’s what was needed.
“Could you work in the shop?” asked the girl behind the counter.
I allowed as how I could, if they needed help, and added to the bargain that I had quite a bit of retail experience. Good, she said; I could come back on Thursday. Thursday rolled around and I duly reported for duty. It was then that things became clear.
This was my job: to go through the trash bags of donations people contributed and sort the salable clothes from the dross. This is not in itself such a horrible prospect, but I soon learned there was a reason I had been given latex gloves: the donations were often filthy, and not-so-occasionally mixed amongst them was a piece of rotten food or a dirty diaper.
One of the few perks was being allowed to keep any books I wanted, although most weren’t exactly tempting. The first and last one I ever picked up was a paperback romance called The Road to Forever, by one Jeneth Murrey. This is the plot of The Road to Forever: Lallie has been Owen’s stepsister since she was four. When their parents died, Owen raised her and her younger siblings. They had a contentious relationship. When Lallie was a young woman, she was framed, accused of having an affair with an older married man, in fact a publicity stunt (don’t worry about this plot point too much.) Owen, her stepbrother-guardian, believed the lies, and banished her from the family home. He also forced her to live with some horrible couple in lock-down. She escaped, and hasn’t spoken to him in six years. Got it? Read More »
September 26, 2012 | by Jon Canter
An old Jewish man is hit by a car. As he lies in the road, dazed and bleeding, a woman rushes over, takes off her jacket, folds it, and puts it under his head.
“Are you comfortable?” she asks.
“Meh. I make a living.”
I was eight when my father told me this joke. I wasn’t sure I understood it. Jews worried more about making a living than being run over. Was that it? One thing I was sure of was that the road was in Golders Green, in northwest London, where I grew up and was bar mitzvahed.
Golders Green made me. Jews made me, with their jokes and their food and their pride and their warmth and their anxiety and their love of scholarship. I cannot be unmade, even though I haven’t been inside a synagogue since my bar mitzvah.
How far can you go from Golders Green and still be Jewish?
August 9, 2012 | by Jacques Testard
Last August, I interviewed Will Self—whose latest novel Umbrella has just been long-listed for the prestigious Man Booker Prize—in his London home. I had been given two weeks to prepare and I was quite terrified. My terror was warranted; I had spent the last ten days immersed in his hallucinatory fictional worlds, composed of seven novels, three novellas, and countless short stories. Through these parallel and often overlapping fictions, Self has constructed a relentless critique of our institutional failings, hypocritical cultural mores, and political inadequacies. My fears, notwithstanding being intellectually dwarfed, were largely to do with the sheer madness of many of his writings. Here was the writer who, over the years, had invented:
1. A man who wakes up with a vagina behind his left knee and has an affair with his (male) GP (Bull: A Farce);
2. A parallel Earth populated by nymphomaniacal and exhibitionist apes seen through the eyes of its most prominent experimental psychiatrists (Great Apes);
3. The afterlife taking place in the purgatorial London district of “Dulston,” a suburb populated uniquely by senseless, chain-smoking dead people, haunted by their aborted fetuses and old neuroses, and living out the rest of infinity in dire office jobs (How the Dead Live);
4. A postapocalyptic London governed by a religion based on a cab driver named Dave’s insane writings to his estranged son in the 2000s (The Book of Dave).
And then there was the public figure—an acerbic satirist of towering intellect, a giant man of letters with a rhetorical bite strong enough to tear a lesser being apart. By the time I rang on the doorbell, Will Self had, to my mind, transmogrified into The Fat Controller—the Mephistophelian antihero in his My Idea of Fun—ready to shred me from limb to limb for my idiotic questions and inadequate readings.
July 31, 2012 | by Rafil Kroll-Zaidi
At the 1904 St. Louis Olympics, to which Britain did not send a delegation but at which it did earn two medals by virtue of owning Ireland, the first-place finisher in the marathon, a New York City bricklayer, was disqualified for having covered eleven miles of the course by automobile. The runner-up, a British-Bostonian brazier competing for America, whose trainers had administered him strychnine and brandy and egg whites and who had been borne along by officials for part the race, was declared the victor. At the 2012 London Olympics, in a video clip shown during the opening ceremony, the comic actor Rowan Atkinson (as Mr. Bean) was digitally inserted into the beach run that opens Chariots of Fire; imagining the scene as a race, Atkinson flags, veers offscreen, then overtakes the other runners in a car, rejoining the pack just in time to win.
Such filmed-to-order interludes, which cutely recontextualize iconic personages for special occasions, are familiar from Academy Awards broadcasts, and their appearance in a live Olympic commencement marked conspicuously the London show’s direction by British filmmaker Danny Boyle. Read More »
July 16, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
When I was twenty, I traveled to London to study for a year at University College. It was shortly after 9/11 and the flight was so empty that I was able to lie down across four seats and sleep. My dorm turned out to be a dreary, brutalist, self-catered affair in Camden Town, and it would take me a while to work out that the pervasive gloom that dogged me day in and out was a product not of my environs but of the onset of the clinical depression which I would not have diagnosed and treated for another two years.
I’m sure I romanticized my former self during this time, but I knew I had changed. I had always taken pleasure in a thousand small things every day: a good cup of coffee, a furious baby, a funny typo, a teenager who couldn’t smoke a cigarette properly, a bizarre exchange on the subway, the fact that neck ties serve no practical function. Read More »