May’s theme was supposed to be “Routes.”

I was bored with my daily walk to work, and I wanted to find a new route.

I haven’t found a new route yet (taking Madison to work is the fastest way to go.) But I will say: It’s been an impressive month for the “steps” count. I’m averaging 13,319 steps per day. (That’s versus my 10,852 daily average for the year.)

To be honest, I think this month’s theme is “My London Library.”

  1. Up the Junction by Nell Dunn, 1963
  2. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886
  3. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886
  4. The Londoners by Craig Taylor, 2010
  5. Flight into Camden by David Storey, 1961
  6. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, 1838
  7. Rule Three: Pretend to be Nice by Anabel Dilke, 1965 (This book wasn’t very good.)

And I’ve ordered the next London book I want to read: The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi (1990).

This essay makes Buddha of Suburbia sound like the perfect pick:

The opening paragraph announces not only that Karim has emerged ‘from two old histories’ but also that he is from the ‘South London suburbs and going somewhere’. The journey from a boy’s bedroom in Bromley to ‘the centre of this old city’ charts his struggle to ‘locate [himself]’ as a new breed of Englishman, but Karim is also navigating his way around the class system. Each locality in the novel is precisely depicted in terms of class markers: Karim is desperate to escape suburban stagnation but sceptical of pretentious social climbing, hierarchies and authoritarianism.

The Buddha of Suburbia is divided into two parts: In the Suburbs and In the City. It seems at first as if the novel is straightforwardly linear. Karim progresses from the margins to the centre and from the suburban lower middle class (with a future as a clerk or car mechanic) to the growing metropolitan middle class (working in the theatre, media or academia). Moreover, at least superficially, the novel seems to uphold the conventional opposition between ‘suburbia’ and the ‘city’: Bromley epitomises philistinism while London is the cultural capital.

The suburbs which give the book part of its title are ‘a leaving place’ while the city is ‘bottomless in its temptations’. On the eve of his departure from Bromley, at the end of part one, Karim fantasises about London and what he will do there. Although it is only twenty miles away, it is another world entirely:

“There was a sound that London had. … There were kids dressed in velvet cloaks who lived free lives: there were thousands of black people everywhere, so I wouldn’t feel exposed; there were bookshops with racks of magazines printed without capital letters or the bourgeois disturbance of full stops; there were shops selling all the records you could desire; there were parties where boys and girls you didn’t know took you upstairs and fucked you; there were all the drugs you could use. You see, I didn’t ask much of life; this was the extent of my longing.”

The city represents freedom and anonymity: more, 1970s London is breathlessly anticipated as a countercultural cornucopia. It is the absolute antithesis of suburbia most significantly, perhaps, in terms of racism. Moving to London means an end to the painful sense of exposure which Karim suffers in the mainly white suburbs and a new safety in numbers. Unlike many coming-to-London novels, the city isn’t a disappointment: ‘So this was London at last, and nothing gave me more pleasure than strolling around my new possession all day’. But within the novel’s basic framework of suburban dullness and bigotry versus metropolitan, multicultural playground, there is considerably more complexity.

However, I’m not ready to start reading Buddha of Suburbia just yet; I’m still in the middle of reading Oliver Twist—and listening to it on my daily walk to work… !!)

I just finished Chapter 22: “The Burglary.”

Oliver_Twist_10

There was definitely some fun “Overlapping Like Mad” between Chapter 22 in Oliver Twist and the dumb pulp paperback I finished reading this weekend, Rule Three: Pretend to be Nice by Anabel Dilke. In both novels, a trio heads out of London to the suburbs to burgle a fancy house; in Oliver Twist, Flash Toby Crackit, Bill Sikes and Oliver go to a town called Chertsey (about 30 miles south of London), and in Pretend to be Nice, Dominic Beauchamp, Gordon, and Katie go to a town called Hertfordshire (about 30 miles north of London.)

Both break-ins go wildly askew.

Meanwhile, there was also some excellent “Underlining Like Mad” in both books this weekend.

From Dilke’s Pretend to be Nice:

“…they kept a sharp look-out for all the obvious signs of a party: sounds of music, lights, sudden density….”

Sudden Density! That’d be a cool name for a pop-art album about the city.

And then there was this exciting line from Oliver Twist, when Flash Toby Crackit gives Oliver his first glass of wine, (“‘a drain for the boy”) …and says:

“‘Down with it, innocence.'”

In addition to maybe being an excellent theme, “Down with it, Innocence” would also be a fabulous name for a debut album from an 18-year-old revivalist.

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 2.50.32 PM

That’s me, starring in the classic Super-8 movie “Murder in MoonCity Plaza,” August, 1984

P.s. And this is 9353.

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