Cities, spirits and Possession

I’ve been reading AS Byatt’s Possesion the last few weeks — lingering over it, because it’s a rich enough book to spend time over, and because I can’t think of anything else that could have the same effect. This passage (p.395) is a little at odds with the rest, but feeds into a big unspoken (and not terribly original) rant of mine on urban mythology — that mesh between Hobsbawm, Grant Morrison, Hogarth, Mike Davis, Erik Davis, and a whole lot more:

A spirit may speak to a peasant like Gode, because that is picturesque, she is surrounded by Romantic crags on the one hand and primitive enough huts and hearths on the other, and her house is lapped by real thick mortal dark. But if there are spirits, I do not see why they are not everywhere, or may not be presumed to be so. You could argue that their voices may well be muffled by solid brick walls and thick plush furnishings and house-proud antimacassars. But the mahogany-polishers and the drapers’ clerks are as much in need of salvation-as much desirous of assurance of an afterlife-as poets or peasants, in the last resort. When they were sure in their unthinking faiths-when the Church was a solid presence in their midst, the Spirit sat docile enough behind the altar rails and the Souls kept-on the whole-to the churchyard and the vicinity of their stones. But now they fear they may not be raised, that their lids may not be lifted, that heaven and hell were no more than faded drawings on a few old church walls, with wax angels and gruesome bogies-they ask, what is there?

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