March 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

My education was split between the library in Bournemouth town centre & the local charity shops. Certainly, if learning is supposed to consist in the fashioning of ourselves as creatures of independent powers of thought, as opposed to the memorising of atomised facts & the experience of unstinting social brutalisation, then these are the places I learned. Whoever looked after the music section of the library had great taste, a sense of mission or both: the shelves contained histories of post-war jazz that turned me on to Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry & Cecil Taylor, collections of Mahler’s letters, Adorno’s musicological writings, Paul Morley’s Words and Music, Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming &, perhaps most important of all, Greil Marcus’ Lipstick Traces; in the magazine department I read The Wire, Sight & Sound, the LRB. There weren’t really any charity shops in the town centre (aside from the Samaritans shop where I never found anything except a copy of A Visit From The Goon Squad one summer years later, back from university), they were all in Boscombe, a half hour walk past some of the most expansive & palatial houses in town. Ian Penman remarks that charity shops in London have taken much of the trade & most of the stock that used to go to secondhand & junk shops, but it never seemed that was a problem in Bournemouth: the handful of secondhand book & record shops still open when I was a teenager were obscure, walled-in with insider knowledge, claustrophobic & intimidating, invisible to anyone who didn’t already know them. By contrast those running the charity shops that ran the length of Boscombe High Street on down Christchurch Road towards Pokesdown couldn’t glare at customers as they never seemed to have enough idea what was going on in their own shops. There were at any one time about ten or eleven such shops, although it’s difficult now to remember which ones’ length of time open overlapped with which others. (A couple have weirdly persisted the entire time, most obviously Floggit & Leggit, on the most rundown bit of Christchurch Road, its dank & vast interior stuffed with racks of clothes even Bournemouth’s hipsters could turn to no use, trestle tables of 60s hardbacks, shelves of glass & ceramics in grotesque configurations. The guy who worked behind the counter had a leg wrapped in a stained & slightly smelly dressing & only grunted as he reached for your change.) Waves of prosperity & decline have seemed to roll in & recede in Bournemouth since the 1960s, the last time the town was thought of as a major resort; the council’s ill-considered regeneration plans for Boscombe (centred around attracting & retaining surfers & young professionals who liked the sea & brunch) were just being put into place around 2006-7, although they’ve never had any more than a limited & peripheral effect (a slightly more upmarket cafe at the end of the high street, a bunch of vintage openings near Pokesdown station). When I think of it, almost every book I own was bought in a charity shop or from library sales, mostly for a pound or less; even those shops wh/ had generally very poor stock could yield up a gem after repeated visits: a copy of Foucault’s Pendulum & Cat’s Eye from Sue Ryder in between all the Freya North books, Catch-22 for 10p from Hospital Radio Bedside, Gyorgy Konrad’s The Loser from (I think) Help The Aged, which mostly sold piles of crap clothing, decayed audio-books & the Hornblower series. It’s difficult to say here, as Owen Hatherley says of Shirley, that one can psychoanalyse the area through these pile-ups of commodities: they seemed to have no connection with the life of the borough, hidden or otherwise. Who, I wondered, living in Boscombe would have piled-up back copies of Poetry Review or David Toop’s Haunted Weather, except for me as, so I thought, the only frustrated intellectual for miles around? (Of course, as time went on I met more than a few of the others.) It was an astonishingly narrow world, its very texture withered, infected by exactly the wrong kind of poverty (provincial, homogeneously white, drug-saturated, broken-toothed, unaesthetic, unexploitable dilapidation), but I knew every nook & depth of pleasure or thought it hid (usually not at the Basement Bar, next to Iceland on Christchurch Road, wh/ never had their good beers on, & wh/ my father claimed was a favourite haunt for sellers of knocked-off goods). & a curiously silent one: there was almost no music both good & reasonably priced in them; the Oxfam shop stocked vast numbers of CD singles from the 90s & early 00s from such luminaries as Reef, Atomic Kitten & All Saints. (Maybe if they did have decent music, or if I’d gone in the secondhand record shops earlier, I wouldn’t be as one-sidedly cerebral as I am.) When I visit Bournemouth now I usually don’t come away w/ anything unless it’s from one of the secondhand book shops (the obvious example being the excellent Crooked Book, where Mencap used to be, wh/ as far as I can tell pays the rent through cake & vintage furniture rather than books). The Salvation Army, where I bought vinyl of Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Schubert (& Christian folk singers whose LP sleeves I used for the ground of collages), closed months ago. The other charity shops have almost all raised their prices, though not, contra Penman, the standard of their stock: even in RHB you can only get a book for under a pound on sale days.



March 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

“Mostly his time was filled with un-urgent study. The long days of classical reading sometimes produced projects that absorbed Gray in a way that reminds one a little of Casaubon. His researches in Greek literature and history were put to the compilation of a huge chronology – an elaborate table of the dates of writings and public events. It was, of course, never completed.

Even Mack sometimes seems dispirited at the months his subject seems to have spent in ‘the stasis of a hopeless melancholy’, reading gardening dictionaries or a reference guide to English peerages. In 1759 he moved to London, but this did not speed the pulse of things. He stayed in Bloomsbury and spent much of each day in the newly opened British Museum. ‘I live in the Museum,’ he told Thomas Wharton. He described to another friend how the hours seeped agreeably away ‘in the stillness & solitude of the reading room’, where he was ‘uninterrupted by anything but Dr Stukeley the Antiquary, who comes there to talk nonsense, & Coffee-house news’. Even in the metropolis, he found seclusion. […]

he did not put himself to much, and the Elegy now remains his claim to fame. Some who knew him, knowing also his talents, regretted this. Walpole, in other places an advocate of dilettante attitudes, complained, after Gray’s death, that his friend would spend hours annotating his copy of Linnaeus’ Systema Natura rather than composing English verse. ‘Mr Gray often vexed me by finding him heaping notes on an interleaved Linnaeus, instead of pranking on his lyre.’”

John Mullan on Thomas Gray

March 27, 2013 § Leave a comment


James McNeill Whistler, Nocturne in Black & Gold, oil on canvas, 60.3cm x

Notebook (temps perdu)

March 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

“The historical predictions about the fate of bourgeois society have been confirmed. In the system of the free market economy, which have pushed men to labour-saving discoveries and finally subsumed them in a global mathematical formula, its specific offspring, machines, have become means of destruction not only in the literal sense: they have made not work but the workers superfluous. The bourgeoisie has been decimated, and the majority of the middle class have lost their independence; where they have not been thrown into the ranks of the proletariat, or more commonly into the masses of the unemployed, they have become dependents of the big concerns or the state. The El Dorado of bourgeois existence, the sphere of circulation, is being liquidated.”

Notebook (Savoy)

March 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

“If any one had conceived the idea of writing from the outside the inner history of the political emigres and exiles… in London, what a melancholy page he would have added to the records of contemporary man. What sufferings, what privations, what tears… and what triviality, what narrowness, what poverty of intellectual powers, of resources, of understanding, what obstinacy in wrangling, what pettiness of wounded vanity!…”

March 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

Strange, flicking through the style mags in WHSmith, to note that, in spite of their self-image as trackers of the vanguard of fashion, most of the edgier mags – Love, iD, AnOther, Tank & whatever – feature musical personalities at least a year after having dropped out of general favour. So, Au Revoir Simone are mentioned on the front of the new AnOther, who Plan B featured back when their first & best singles came out, nearly five years ago; iD features, as their hot new thing, A$AP, when he hasn’t done anything decent since ‘Peso’, which came out nearly two years ago (is it that they’ve only just figured out he wears Raf Simons?)

March 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

wattsy 001

Carol Watts, from Mother Blake (Equipage, 2012)

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