With Them in Herland

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (1915)

Sociologist and activist Charlotte Perkins Gilman is probably best known for her story about a woman driven made by writing.

Well, no, maybe not, it’s a woman has been told not to write or she’ll have a breakdown.

But she is writing and the story of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is her writing and her grip on reality is loose — so much so that she seems to switch places with the woman in the wallpaper. Clearly patriarchy is a factor — man’s fear of thinking/creative woman.

There’s some ambiguity, mind.

Herland is one of a number of utopian novels she wrote and serialised in The Forerunner, her magazine. A group of male explorers go on a expedition to South America and hear that there is an all-female society hidden away, producing superior textiles. They decide to go the, using a biplane, and find themselves first captured and then getting to know this new society. These men, the first in this culture for centuries, all fall in love and connect up with individual women. But their patriarchal tendencies don’t sit well in a matriarchy.

There’s a problem with utopia — it tends to be dull. Thomas More set the tone in 1516, with his Henrician satire or his hidden reform blueprint, where a European tourist is given a guided tour of the island. The tendency is to have the guide lecture the visitor, and the tourist to be sceptical or embarrassed, and slowly be convinced of the wisdom of this new world. Jack Lodon’s The Iron Heel is still doing this in 1908, even if there is a fascinating conversation about the end of capitalism.

Herland does have a degree of this, as Ellador tells Van Jennings their history and their societal structure. The three are captured, escape, are held captive again and start their relationships. Whilst their agency is limited, the plot does become about them. But there is more forward plot than I recall from an earlier reading some years ago.

The society was formed as the result of a volcanic explosion some centuries earlier — many of the men were killed and a slave rising killed more of the men. With the male population severely depleted, the women fought back and killed the slave. Then came a point when five key women gave birth to five daughters and those daughters in turn had five daughters. Since then, only women have been born. This seems to be by some form of parthenogenesis.

Is the history true? Is two thousand years long enough to breed the women like this — as well to make cats leave birds alone but chase mice and rats? We only know what they tell Jennings, of course.

Before the three men find the society, they have speculated on what it would be like. One of them thinks it will be like some kind of pornotopia, a holiday camp of sun, sea and sex, another that it will be a abbey-like austere structure. The women they find show solidarity and cooperation, with the key values being motherhood and education — with individuals educated toward their strengths.

Education had been a topic of women’s writing since at least the eighteenth century, with Mary Wollstonecraft arguing for coeducation, in part so that women were not strange erotica captures to men. Wollstonecraft feared reproduction — child birth could be deadly (and she died from complications a few days after becoming mother to the future Mary Shelley). But here, presumably, midwifery is a key art and contraception or sterilisation seems a taboo. ETA: I need to revisit this comment on contraception.

On the one hand, then, this is a radical book, with a possibility of an all female society that would be explored again in 1970s feminist utopias; on the other hand there does seem to be an essentialism of women as nurturing and fulfilled by motherhood. It’s not the be all and end all of the society, but it is a key activity. There is also a celebration of eugenics.

But the key thing, of course, is to raise the theme of the differences between the sexes and to reveal, through estrangement, the degree to which these are cultural rather than natural.

A Boy’s Best Friend is his…

L. S. Lowry: The Art & the Artist (The Lowry, Salford Quays)

A few years ago I was lucky enough to have the Tate Britain exhibition of L. S. Lowry to myself for my birthday.

Well, maybe for a minute.

Ten seconds.

But it was mine.

About twenty years ago I went to Salford for a job interview and looked at the Lowrys on display in the Salford Museum and Art Gallery, which was since moved to a purpose-built gallery on Salford Quays. In the meantime I’d visited Berwick on Tweed and South Shields — Lowry holiday spots — an exhibition of drawings (at Sunderland?) and the Jerwood Lowry and the Sea exhibition.

All of this showed he was more than the naive artist of the matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs claim; for a start he was taught painting for a number of years in the Manchester and Salford area.

Going to the Lowry — the largest public collection of his art — reveals an even richer story, although there are perhaps too many pieces of work to deal with in a single trip.

It all hangs on the mysterious Portrait of Ann and his repeated claims that his art — even of phallic columns in the sea — is a series of self portraits.

He was born into a reasonably well off family and lived in a nice part of Manchester — his father a lay preacher and a clerk expecting to become a partner and his mother a piano teacher. But they were living beyond their means and moved to Pendlebury, with Lowry having to get a job as a rent collector rather than becoming an artist. He used his first wage packet to pay for lessons, but his growing interest in representing the industrial north west did not win him British customers — although he was successful in mainland Europe. The death of his father left him in debt and led his mother to take to her bed until she died.

Lowry had found his vision after a Manchester Guardian critic had told him his paintings were too dark — he started priming his canvases with layers of white paint to create a lighter background. Frequently he adds a railing or a curb or a brown shade along the bottom edge of his canvas as if it is a proscenium arch.

At the Tate Britain show, they were selling copies of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author without any explanation – apparently it was a favourite play and it expires a certain amount of meta drama and the issue of representing the real.

Meanwhile we have the Portrait of Ann,his offering to a Royal Academy show and atypical of how he was thought. Who was this woman? Sometimes he said she was a model, a daughter of a Yorkshire industrialist, a god daughter, other times a prima Donna ballerina, presumably for the Rambert. She was Ann Herder or maybe Ann Hilder. But apparently she has never been traced and yet she appears across dozens of paintings.

An ex? A model glimpsed in the streets?

In footage shown at the gallery, a suited Lowry — looking for all the world like a William S. Burroughs — explains his favourite composers are Donazetti and Bellini, the latter recommended to him…

…by Ann.

Once Lowry started earning money from his paintings he started buying art — an early Lucian Freud, various late Dante Gabriel Rosettis. These, apparently, were hung in his bedroom and were mostly portraits of Jane Morris.

These were perhaps his impossible girl, a woman forever out of reach.

The guide to the exhibition pointed to a painting The Funeral Party (1953) with nine distinct and disconnected figures — possibly Lowry’s father to the far right, a Lowry as child on the left, apparently wearing a dress. The boy is looking at a young girl in shorts. Cross-dressing or a phenomenon of hand me downs, I wonder? Nine figures in search of an artist.

Would this make one of the women his mother?

There’s a double portrait where a Lowry-like figure over laps with an Ann; male and female. His nightmarish self portrait Head of a Man is apparently painted over an earlier self portrait on top of a portrait of a woman, possibly of his mother. There is, apparently, a portrait of Ann of the same dimensions.

It seems as if Lowry could never quite please his mother, could never be the son she wanted — more to the point, could never be the daughter she wanted. The Anns and the later pictures of miniskirted young women clearly offered an erotic charge for him — given a comment in the gallery’s documentary about “innocent girls playing tennis”, I wonder if he ever saw that Athena poster of a tennis player — but we also need to remember that he saw all of his art as a self portrait. He also painted erotica, found after his death, destroying or tearing up some of it.

Whilst we must not ignore the class analysis at the heart of his art — the thoughts of a friend that Salford gallery or art school was not the place for the likes of them, the social climb and fall, the thin line between making do and poverty, the snobbery of the London sophisticates — there seems to be an attempt to heal a wound in his art. This seems to have failed.

Lowry never married — perhaps he was too involved in supporting his mother, perhaps he wasn’t interested in women that way… It’s a wild kind of speculation, but was there some kind of masquerade or cross dressing, did he try to become — in art or reality — the daughter? Was Ann an imaginary friend?

I honestly don’t know. Maybe Ann was just Ann, but why mislead so often and wildly about her in interviews?

And meanwhile, crazily, I hear the strains of a Bernard Herrmann score and a vision of Mrs Bates….

Don’t Confuse Her With the Actor

Lee Miller: A Woman’s War (Imperial War Museum, London, 15 October 2015-24 April 2016)

Do you know you are not allowed to drink beer in the Imperial War Museum? Or – given that I’m fairly surely they sell it in their café – you are not allowed to drink beer you’ve brought with you in the IWM? Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen themed beers in the shop.

I was forced to use a locker for the bottle of Solaris I’d bought for the train home.

I think the last paid exhibition I saw at the Imperial War Museum was Don McCullin – his fantastic war photography. Other photographers, of course, specialise in fashion, or in art, or landscapes or people.

Lee Miller (1907-1977) does art, people, landscape, fashion and war. A rare combination, especially, one might say, for a woman. I’ve seen various exhibitions of her work of late – as if her son Antony Penrose is a man on a mission – most recently her photos of Picasso and her family at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and there’s a vast website at www.leemiller.co.uk. She’s shown up among women surrealists, too.

I don’t think I’d picked up before that she’d been raped as a young child, nor that her father had photographed her in the nude. I recalled nudes of her, including self-portraits, and some of these are on display, along with Paul Homann’s cast of her torso (1939) – an echo of Man Ray’s photo of her – and this suggests an apparent degree of bodily freedom that seems a little odd. Exhibitionism as defence?

She’d worked as a model in New York for Arnold Genthe, George Hoyningen-Huene, Nickolas Muray and Edward Steichen, before going to Europe in 1929 and working with Man Ray as muse, model and photographer. She experimented with the solarisation process – which was also to be used by Barbara Hepworth. On her return to New York in 1932, she set up her own studio, but married wealthy businessman Aziz Eloui Bey and moved to Cairo. Her photography shifted from surrealism to landscape, focusing on the desert and ruined villages in the sands. On a trip to Paris she met the collector and artist Roland Penrose, beginning a long affair with him that would eventually become a marriage. She took photographs in the Balkans, as well as Syria and Egypt, before war broke out.

In theory she should have gone back to the United States, but she had taken a job with British Vogue. Initially she was working as a fashion photographer – it was Vogue, after all – and part of the work was to keep spirits up with the keeping up of standards. But as the war went on, it intruded on the photographs. Models posed in bomb sites or wore gas masks – fashion colliding with surrealism. She took photographs of women in uniforms and doing war work, as well as nurses.

By 1944, she was accredited as a war correspondent for Vogue — there’s an intriguing photograph by David E. Sherman of her in uniform in front of the Vogue cover with a soldier, women and a stars and stripes flag – and she got more involved in the war. The way she tells it, it was almost a lark, but that might be a survivor talking.

She was meant to go to Normandy, after the landings, and to avoid trouble, but she ended up in Saint-Malo, still under German control but heavily shelled by the American army. Unlike other journalists, Miller mixed with and apparently had affairs with the military, and didn’t buckle down to follow the official itinerary. She ended up in liberated Paris – where she photographed fashion shows – and went into Germany. The photographs on display include some of Dachau and Buchenwald, the concentration camps, one being feet in boots, somewhere between a dancer and a fashion shoot. In Munich she entered Hitler’s apartment, Scherman taking a photo of her in Hitler’s bath, nude of course, her muddied boots on the mat, a photo of Hitler on one side, a statuette on the other. It is a grim jest.

That was almost it – she returned to Britain in 1946 and took more photos of Budapest, finally reconciling with and marrying Roland. In 1948, Antony was born; Picasso continued to visit and remained a friend of the family. Miller gave up photography almost entirely – there’s a 1946 photograph of Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning, with Ernst as a giant and she had photos in the 1955 The Family of Man exhibition curated by Steichen at MOMA, New York – in favour of becoming a cordon blue cook and writing about it for British Vogue.

Antony apparently didn’t know about the war photographs until after her death, which seems incredible. Miller was also focusing on helping Roland with his various biographies of artists.

But the body of work is remarkable – black and white, sharp, often square and remarkably well framed. Sometimes the fashion influence is discernible in the reportage, sometimes there is staging, but a dark humour and sense of surrealism often bubbles through. She wasn’t the only female war photographer – the exhibition mentions Margaret Bourke-White (1904-71), who was also with the US Army and had been in the Soviet Union in 1941 when the Germans invaded – but hers remains an impressive body of work.

Remember You Will, Um, Thing

Muriel Spark, Memento Mori (1959)

So I haven’t read any Muriel Spark, aside from the one with Maggie Smith, or for that matter any Bainbridge or a raft of female British novelists. I decided to out this right when I spotted a shrink wrapped pile of her novels in a The Works type location for £2. This rather invokes my two-pound-rule and so I bought them. I read her debut, The Conformists, but for some reason I didn’t write it up and so I will reread. It is, at least, short.

I’m kind of assuming that at the heart of Spark is our old friend the Caledonian anti-syzygy, the divided consciousness … we see that in Hogg, the justified sinner, in Jekyll/Hyde, in Banks’s Frank/Eric, in Rebus… Somewhere I guess there’s a sense of Calvinism, of the saved and the damned, but I suspect there’s a healthy dose of Catholic guilt.

Memento Mori has a mix of amnesia and liars. David Lodge seems to think it one of the best British novels of the 1950s and a hoot, but warns you the first laugh will only come on page two. It’s a cracker.

The characters are pretty well all pensioners — most over seventy — and they have a tangled history together. There is Godfrey Colston, of the brewers, his sister Charmian a novelist, his sister Lettie a prison reformer and their former housekeeper Jean Taylor. There is a poet and a scheming housekeeper and estranged children, and a sociologist wanting to keep notes on all of them.

The story begins with Lettie getting a series of anonymous phone calls with the message: “Remember you must die.” Memento Mori, if you weren’t paying attention. This could be revenge for past deeds or a sadistic relative — or she may be simply imagining it. The police are unable to track the caller. Meanwhile, the other characters receive the same call, although no one seems to hear the same voice and one of them even has a female caller.

Is this the voice of conscience? They all have long histories, and must have out a foot wrong in those times, with infidelities covered up. Blackmail is always just around the corner.

As indeed is death.

Death, when it comes, is random and unexpected and PROBABLY SPEAKS IN SMALL CAPITALS. A number of characters are in a geriatric wing of a hospital — the step beyond the nursing home Charmian thinks of visiting — and subject to the random sadism of overworked nurses. It is never clear if the deaths there are of natural causes or punishment for complaining. Those outside the home are just as at risk. The humour is clearly of a macabre nature. I can’t say I did a lot of laughing.

In fact I found it annoying — when presumably I should have been taking pleasure in the unreliable narrators (the viewpoint can shift mid paragraph) and the amnesia and the confusion. I just didn’t feel enough to care.

Art vs Empire

Artist and Empire (Tate Britain, 25 November 2015–10 April 2016)
The initial question was, which artist, which empire?

Well, of course, this is Tate Britain, so the British Empire, but you don’t want to ignore the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Belgian, the Ottoman, the Viking, the Roman … And that is to limit ourselves to a Eurocentric model. African and Asian empires… My history knowledge is insufficient. Is there a league table of evil empires?

Am I assuming the British Empire is evil from the get go?

And here, of course, we are in the heart of the Tate, a space built on the profits of the sugar trade:

The Tate Gallery Liverpool is based in the Albert Dock complex, on the north bank of the river Mersey. In order for the dock to be opened in 1846, a public house, several houses and a previous dock had to be demolished. One of its major commodities was sugar, and Henry Tate was one of those who used the docks to import the sugar needed for his business. The sugar initially came from cane cut by slaves on the plantations of the Caribbean, though formal slavery was gradually abolished throughout the nineteenth century. In 1889, Tate donated a collection of 65 contemporary paintings to the nation, together with a substantial bequest for a gallery to show them, and 1897, the National Gallery of British Art opened in Millbank, London, on the north bank of the river Thames.

As far as I can tell — and the exhibition is silent on this — Tate’s business was built in the second half of the nineteenth century and thus after the slave trade as such. It is in the era of indentured labour and apprentices, better than pure slavery but clearly in an infrastructure that was first built with slavery in mind. There are few depictions of slavery that I recall from the exhibition — perhaps only part of one landscape and in the margins of Walter Crane’s supposedly radical map. I don’t think there are any depictions of sugar or tea or cocoa or tobacco or even bananas — the cash crops of empire.

The first room, “Mapping and Marking”, shows the various charts that filled in the blank parts of the world for the British explorer, the unveiling of Australia, the breadth of the pink parts of the world and views of exotic climes. In applying cartography, a western politician convenience is imposed upon existing indigenous models of land use and land ownership, existing names are subsumed under British toponyms. There is a nod to Ireland, too, perhaps the first British colony, if Wales is excluded…

(And Scotland? Are we Trainspotting‘s bunch of effete wankers or did the invitation to James VI mean the Scots colonised us? In any case, the early part of exploration was an English-and-Welsh-colony. Oh, but what about the chunks of France we had?)

There are African flags, relics of colonising, but their creators are speechless.

In “Trophies of Empire” we see the purpose of empire — to find objects to fill zoos and museums and botanical gardens, public spaces and entertainments sometimes aside asylums, sometimes in the cause of temperance. The spoils of empire here are not sugar or tea or cocoa or tobacco or even bananas, but plants and animals; the dingo, the Tasmanian tiger, the crane, flowers… There are also the carvings and niknaks of anonymous tribes people, rarely ascribed to an actual maker. I recall looking around the Brenchley collection in Maidstone Art Gallery and Museum and wondered how much of it was plundering and how much the Victorian equivalent of “They went to the Pacific Northwest and All They Got Me Was This Lousy Headdress”. The objects are literally from all over the world, but without the rigour of the Pitt-Rivers Museum classification by function. It is not at this point clear what the sorting narrative of the exhibition is — but there’s a broad chronologucal approach.

The third room, “Imperial Heroics”, is a space for eighteenth and nineteenth century history painting, with accounts of massacres and last stands and slaughtered colonists. Little of it, frankly, is any good and the answer to the question not quite posed by the exhibition’s title is that we were not good at looking at empire. The best that can be said is the art undercuts its own messages — the symbolism of Queen Victoria giving a bible to a native leader (Thomas Jones Barker (c. 1863)) or Britannia slaughtering a tiger (Edward Armitage’s Retribution (1858)) cries out for critique. Are some of these paintings depictions of people rightfully defending themselves from invasion?

One representation that clearly requires further head scratching is William Blake’s The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan (c.1805–9), which I don’t think I’ve seen before and perhaps needs to be located in his cosmic history of the world that links Biblical to British history. Nelson for him would be current affairs — Blake does do satire too — but odd to see Nelson as a Hindu god and a mannacled slave ready to be rescued.

The fourth room, “Power Dressing”, has depictions of colonists in nature dress and natives dressed in colonial dress. Inevitably there’s going to be issues of appropriation, patronisation, various levels of Orientalism, and again there’s a low quality threshold. I suspect the colonialist cannot win, as it were, in terms of ethics. I wonder also if there’s a problem with using the term “power dressing” — which I associate with women trying to be successful in the workplace in the 1980s — in the curation and the term “cross-dressing”, with its gender connotations, in the booklet.

The penultimate room, “Face to Face”, is a series of portraits, some by westerners of the indigenous, some by the colonised of the coloniser. I don’t recall if there were any self-portraits of the natives. There are also figurines or statuettes, but again there’s uneasiness from the anonymity of the artists (a legacy of the looter or the commissioner or the purchaser) and the geographical spread of the objects. Australasia melts into India melts into Africa. It’s all the same empire.

The final room is divided in two, “Out of Empire” and “Legacies of Empire”, I suspect the smallest space of the six. This covers the century of decolonisation and independence, a period when colonial artefacts had reached western museums and influenced (read: were appropriated by) western artists. Henry Moore springs to mind, but he isn’t here. Artists came to Britain from the colonies having studied art or to study art — a Sidney Nolan I don’t recall seeing before springs to mind as an exemplar. A handful of artists get to represent the Commonwealth artists’ commentary on empire — centrally Donald Locke’s Trophies of Empire, an open cabinet of curiosities of jars and pots and objects almost shaped like sex toys, with shackles and handcuffs. This is one of the few representations of slavery in the exhibition. There are also photos by Locke’s son Hew Locke, statues of colonial figures, Edmund Burke and Edward Colston, overlaid with bling.

I don’t think in the end that the artists here really faced up to empire – the “postimperial” ones, maybe, but I think the exhibituon needs a lot more contextualisation than the casual observer who hasn’t bought the catalogue can give it. In the bookshop, you can buy Franz Fanon or read about King Leopold’s slave, but that kind of discourse isn’t in the show.

Contains Moderate Violins

Music of the Heart (Wes Craven, 1999)

This is perhaps the most disturbing of Craven’s films.

It’s heart-warming.

I mean, what the fuck?

This is based on a true story of Roberta Guaspari, here played by Meryl Streep, dumped by her Navy SEAL husband for a younger model, picked up and speedily dropped by a writer, but not before she’s argued her way into a job at a East Harlem school. Well, not exactly a job, but a programme to teach a few of the children to play the violin.

It’s about the redemptive power of art, innit.

Some of the kids don’t want to be there and one of them is killed and there’s a nasty trad music teacher who hates her guts but doesn’t seem to age in ten years. Slowly, she makes progress, overcoming resistance, opening eyes, battling low expectations and the programme expands to other schools.

It’s about the redemptive power of art, innit.

And then the authorities cut the budget, so the programme is doomed unless the kids and Roberta can raise the money. Fortunately, photographer Dorothea von Haeften (Jane Leeves, showing the talent for accents she brings to Daphne in Frasier), knows a few proper fiddlers and the day might be saved.

It’s about the redemptive power of art, innit.

Craven resists the temptation to throw in a few nightmares or inbred families, and even the corruption of the central family thanks to Charlie leaving them is explicitly celebrated towards the end of the film — sometimes it’s better for daddy to go.

It has to be noted that the kids are a diverse bunch — African American, Hispanic, Latino/Latina, with a few more white faces in later years, a character in calipers — and Streep here is presumably Greek-American rather than Jewish. A mother is given an apposite speech about white knights coming in to save the underprivileged, and asked her to name any non-White composers (she can’t, or doesn’t), but somehow she endures. Angela Bassett, as school principal Janet Williams, is given a frankly better role than the one she has in Vampire in Brooklyn: tough, caring, hard ass, wise.

It’s about the redemptive power of art, innit.

In the hands of a Scorsese, we might have been clearer about the passage of time — she seems to use same classroom for over a decade and may have slight changes of hair, but it’s not clear if it’s 1975 or 1985 or 1995. Her sons suddenly turn from adorable tots to lanky teens, ready to pimp her out for a new boyfriend, but the film is less epic than its two hour plus running time might suggest.

This is, perhaps, Craven’s most overtly political movie and is, “Pére-Lachaise” in Paris Je t’aime (2006) aside, pretty well his only venture out of the horror genres. Whilst based on a true story, it seems almost too easy. The jeopardy never seems as high as when a character’s soul is at stake.

That being said, my eyes were distinctly moist for the last fifteen minutes.

The horror, the horror.

London Leaves

Occasionally I come across a publisher that looks so interesting that I’d secretly like to buy everything they print. Five Leaves Publishing is one such — I either found their collection of essays on Utopia or on Maps and then of course there was a pamphlet about Malcolm Hulke… There’s a second edition of a book on utopian communities I’d really like to read as well.

They’re in my old stamping grounds, which feels, uncanny as it is, and they’ve opened a bookshop. This is good news — as far as I can tell Mushroom Bookshop survived through the years of Thatcher and Major but died under Blair, so it’s good to see a radical bookshop open outside London.

They weren’t the easiest place to find, in part (no) thanks to Google Maps, and I’d gone most of the way up to Hockley and down past slab square to where Pearson’s was in search of something claimed to be opposite tourist information. I clearly missed the A-board outside the twitchell that led up to the shop. Twice.

And when I got in the shop named for the small press, I failed to find a section of the shop devoted to the small press. You’d think it’d be a no brainer, really. The book I wanted is out of print, but I brought a copy of Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014) to support bricks and mortar, and an anthology on essays on London novels:

  • Andrew Whitehead on The Nether World by George Gissing
  • Andrew Lane on The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Nadia Valman on Children of the Ghetto by Israel Zangwill
  • Angela V. John on Neighbours of Ours by Henry W. Nevinson
  • Sarah Wise on A Child of the Jago by Arthur Morrison
  • Anne Witchard on Limehouse Nights by Thomas Burke
  • Heather Reyes on Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • Zoë Fairbairns on This Bed Thy Centre by Pamela Hansford Johnson
  • Rachel Lichtenstein on Jew Boy by Simon Blumenfeld
  • John King on May Day by John Sommerfield
  • John Lucas on Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton
  • Susan Alice Fischer on Farewell Leicester Square by Betty Miller
  • Jane Miller on The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen
  • Andy Croft on Rising Tide by Jack Lindsay
  • Bill Schwarz on The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon
  • Jerry White on Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes
  • Cathi Unsworth on The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks
  • Ken Worpole on The Lowlife by Alexander Baron
  • Susie Thomas on The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi
  • Gregory Woods on Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall by Neil Bartlett
  • Lisa Gee on White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  • Valentine Cunningham on The Hard Shoulder by Chris Petit
  • Courttia Newland on Dead Air by Iain Banks
  • Sanchita Islam on Brick Lane by Monica Ali
  • Jon Day on Capital by John Lanchester
  • Philippa Thomas on NW by Zadie Smith

It’s an interesting list of which I have six — somewhere — and have read maybe three, so before I read the collection I need to go away and read twenty-eight (is it?) books. This will take some time, and library hopping. The Gissing is in UoK library, but I am sat close to the Zangwill. But maybe I need to read in chronological order?

Note, of course, a huge gap between Baron and Kureishi. No one wanted Ballard?