AS Byatt on religion, realism and social media

The Guardian has a wonderful interview with AS Byatt, in which she takes a decent shot at a combined critique of social realism in novels, the narcissism of facebook and big brother, and the death of God. There doesn’t seem yet to be any transcript or article published, alas. Some (possibly inaccurate) quotes:

  • on realism: “My life as it really is consists of reading Shakespeare in bed at one in the morning” (i.e. this and other shared, commonplace activities are at least as real as the grittier horrors)

  • “I don’t believe in God. I believe in Wallace Stevens”

    — partly for the thoughtful way she comes out with it, partly because (when she explains what she means) it’s not just a throwaway line

  • /”interest in life as it is has supplanted religion”

And all this with a roll of sellotape balanced on her knee. I can’t figure out if this is a carefully-placed detail, in either the style of Old Masters portraiture or ARGs, or just One Of Those Things that happens when you’re focussed on sharing ideas.

Buck Rogers

Ah, nostalgia. The internet currently seems to function as an enormous engine for encouraging and amplifying nostalgia, providing endless information with which to peer into every crevice of our upbringing.

Music, today. Grooveshark and some light googling helped me recover Buck Rogers, which was ubiquitous around my school in 2001*. The kind of thing that was once ubiquitous and I now hardly ever hear. G has said that trance is her Volksmusic, having been all over Israel as she grew up (and still, I suppose). Certain kinds of rock are in a similar position for me: not actually very


, but psychologically imprinted at a particular moment.

Now, looking back at it, I get to puzzle over the details you don’t notice until you stop and look from afar. Why is it called ‘Buck Rogers’? What is with the lyrics? Even songmeanings can’t make much out of it.

* actually, I’d imagined it being a few years earlier than that, but I trust wikipedia more than i trust my memory.


Chroniques de la rentrée littéraire are again trying to crowdsource reviews of all* the French novels published this autumn.

* ‘all’ being understandably somewhat limited. No space here, for instance, for Dmitri Bortnikov’s novel of the Territory.


BooksWeLike seems now to be entirely dead. Pity. I guess

Library Thing

is now occupying much the same space, and better. Still, I have a bunch of reviews in there, and it’s always sad to see sites vanish when you turn your back for a couple of years. Sic transit gloria mundi, I guess.


“Heute abend findet am Berliner Hauptbahnhof so etwas wie ein Flash Mop statt.”

[maybe it’s how you clean up after a flash flood?

Spiky park benches

Anybody remember the benches in


, that heated themselves overnight to stop people sleeping on them? Somewhere in China has gone one step further:

Park officials in China have found a way to stop people from hogging their benches for too long – by fitting steel spikes on a coin-operated timer.

If visitors at the Yantai Park in Shangdong province, eastern China, linger too long without feeding the meter, dozens of sharp spikes shoot through the seat.

[Caution about the limited reliability of ‘funny old world’ type stories about China, of course]

RHPS as religion

Just been to a RHPS showing. Remain somewhat astonished by how unknown it is in Berlin; it’s the kind of import you would expect to be overdeveloped here compared to its condition in country of origin. Not so.

Still, even here it has the makings of a secular ritual. The music, the comforting ritual, the morality almost as screwy as the Old Testament. Or maybe that’s just me

cross-generational love

Once again, Rhian speaks truth about the silliness of intergenerational warfare, which IMO is only one step above blaming immigrants for everything.

I am indescribably hard-pushed to feel a shred of sympathy for any ‘generation’ I might be part of. My generation is wildly overprivileged, entitled, solipsistic and drowning in conspicuous consumption, and the majority of us have done absolutely nothing but take what we have for granted.