At 10:35 on an early summer's morning, John Lanchester sat down at his study desk, switched on his new Dell computer, opened up the word processing programme that the computer had come with and began

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Because I didn't want to clutter up the What Are You Reading thread with the way this book perpetually perks its folly in my face.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:18 (nine years ago) link

On a rainy morning in early December, an 82-year-old woman sat in her front room at 42 Pepys Road, looking out at the street through a lace curtain. Her name was Petunia Howe...

Don't be absurd! Also, reader wonders whether she is distantly or even closely related to Geoffrey.

The proprietor of 51 Pepys Road, the house across the road from Petunia Howe's, was at work in the City of London. Roger Yount sat at his office desk at his bank, Pinker Lloyd, doing sums.

I hope you're already getting a sense of fatigue at the toiling rhythm and progress of his sentences, the way he leaves nothing to chance.

It was late afternoon. Roger sat on one of the sofas in his office,

Stop telling me the time of day.

Ahmed Kamal, who owned the shop (sorry thomp) at the end of Pepys Road, number 68, came awake 3.59 in the morning, one minute before his alarm was set to go off.

Please stop telling me the time of day. Also - came awake?

Shahid Kamal, who was due to work a shift at the family shop between eight o'clock in the morning and six o'clock in the evening, walked down the street at a brisk clip.

ffs

At number 51 Pepys Road, Mrs Arabella Yount...

At ten o'clock Shahid was stacking...

Two weeks before Christmas, Petunia sat...

I've reached Part 2. Things are going to start happening!

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:19 (nine years ago) link

You can't buy this sort of publicity. Will read (this thread).

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:23 (nine years ago) link

Didn't bring the book with me today, of course.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:29 (nine years ago) link

I was on the verge of ordering this yesterday, will hold off on that one then.

Homosexual Satan Wasp (Matt DC), Friday, 9 March 2012 11:47 (nine years ago) link

Can tell you the characters of course.

You just have to insert ffs or 'oh god' after each one:

Petunia Howe - an octogenarian lady who notices how young people like doctors are etc.

Roger and Arabella Yount - a wealthy banker and his wife who likes shopping and spas and says 'dahling'.

Quentina Mkfesi BSc MSc - a Zimbabwean refugee (escaping political death squads), who can't be deported, and who has a job as a traffic warden.

'Bogdan' Zbigniew (can't remember his surname) - a Polish builder who is saving up money to give to his father back in Poland. He saves this money up by playing the stock market (??).

Ahmed, Usman, and Shahid. Brothers who collectively run a corner shop. Shahid has dabbled in terrorism, and a shady terrorist friend from his past has just appeared on the scene. Goes to a militant mosque in Brixton. Can't remember what Usman does.

Freddy Kamo(!) - Young African footballer with lanky legs (Lanchester is an Arsenal fan right?) who plays for a thinly disguised Chelsea. Always smiling. Stern father.

Smitty - a 'concept' artist, who leaves anonymous graffiti around the place, and who Lanchester somehow manages to get talking in a faux faux-Cockney/Mockney.

All of these behave exactly as you'd imagine they'd behave if you a) had no imagination b) got all your information from Sunday Supplements/daytime tv? apart from 'surprising' gestures towards 'civilised' or nuanced (ie white male) thinking.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:49 (nine years ago) link

read you talking about this in the reading thread and am glad this hilarious spin-off exists

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 11:53 (nine years ago) link

Why isn't there a racist taxi driver? I demand a racist taxi driver.

Homosexual Satan Wasp (Matt DC), Friday, 9 March 2012 11:53 (nine years ago) link

further comments from here, Matt. Just couldn't be bothered to cnp them all in.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:54 (nine years ago) link

Ah, with Lanchester the 'racist taxi driver' would in fact be a surprisingly tolerant racist taxi driver who has a copy of the Economist on the front shelf of his taximetered cabriolet.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:55 (nine years ago) link

Q. Is the problem with "state of the nation" novels usually that they are written by people far removed from most of the nation?

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 11:56 (nine years ago) link

Q. I though Lanchester's steez was a kind of sub-Banville aestheticism. Wtf was he thinking?

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 11:57 (nine years ago) link

A little surprised there are no media types, unless that's Smitty's role of course. There should also be a harassed woman juggling kids with running some sort of poorly-funded third-sector body.

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:58 (nine years ago) link

Must have fancied it after everyone loved Whoops!, I guess. Once you're thinking 'I get bankers, I've talked to a lot of bankers', and you've written abt London property, it must be p much irresistible to write a 'city of do-you-see contrasts' novel.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:12 (nine years ago) link

Also - came awake?

It's when someone has a nocturnal emission so violent that it wakes them up.
The cover of this book annoys me the way the cover of 'Cloud Atlas' does.

Is there any detailed exposition of what bankers actually do, other than having three computer screens? Ian McEwan, even if being tedious, would always have some of this to redeem it.

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:19 (nine years ago) link

xpost to NV.

thomp p much nailed The Debt to Pleasure on the what are you reading thread - 'debt to pleasure' = would maybe have like to have been nabokov when it grew up, narrator has poisoned some dudes, envies his brother's career as chef, is self-described gourmand, presents memoir of dudes he has poisoned as a series of menus. it's aight i guess.

Problems with this state of the nation novel, with a star by problems that I think are possibly generic pitfalls:

The characters attempt to be 'representative' and of course are pure ciphers and representative of nothing.*

Lanchester isn't very good, in fact is very very bad at filling his book with material.

The need to fill your book with situations that, again, are representative, makes it feel like satireless satire.*(unless its actual satire)

Capital is extraordinarily badly written on a sentence by toiling sentence basis, which makes me wonder whether he's even capable of doing the sub-Banville aestheticism, on any level.

Insights of daily life barely merit the name insight, apart from a couple of occasions where I said to myself 'yeah, I guess that's just about a thing'.

The interior monologues of the characters are utterly utterly dreadful, full of truly mundane material that should never be in a book. 'So and so looked at the Prius and its leather seats, he wished he could afford a Prius but in the meantime would continue to take the tubefghk;lsfb;hadfjghvflk;sxnhjnhj'

It is a book whose messages come as a clearly attached post-it at the beginning of each chapter. *(I guess - message novels have to stay on message, rather than let the imagination of the writer take them in places that are interesting or entertaining. You just feel like you're being shown things that you've read a thousand times before in longer-form journalism.)

What it reminds me of most is The Information by Martin Amis, which isn't an amazing book, but is world's classics status compared to Capital. Amis wouldn't call a bar 'Uprising' but he might do something similar, better, but similar. Likewise there are the shady figures, the underclasses, the outsider figures, presaging doom for the main power characters.

But MA was probably the best recent State of the Nation novelist? He was funny and he was a very good writer, which helped. Still easy to come a cropper, with the all CAPS text messaging in Yellow Dog for instance. And everything from The Information onwards has been increasingly flawed, and is probably a continuation of the things that made London Fields weaker than Money?

Any other candidates for good recent State of the Nation novelists? (Or any time - would George Eliot have counted? Probably?)]

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:21 (nine years ago) link

xp

His dad was some kind of banker iirc, & he does seem to have actual friends in the city, so you think it'd be his strong suit.

Feel like this is going to be a MAJOR NEW DRAMA on BBC1 at some point.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:22 (nine years ago) link

What a Carve Up? I remember it being good, but don't trust 90s me as a judge tbh. It also doesn't quite take the cross-section of society route iirc.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:24 (nine years ago) link

Amis also had a couple of Zbigniews in I think London Fields.

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:25 (nine years ago) link

McEwan's Saturday is clunky-as-hell but basically alright.

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:26 (nine years ago) link

Is there any detailed exposition of what bankers actually do, other than having three computer screens? Ian McEwan, even if being tedious, would always have some of this to redeem it.

― Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:19 (2 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

There isn't, perhaps surprisingly. There's some rather awkward handwaving towards types of trading, and bankery things, to indicate he knows what he's talking about (which he does), but it's kept at a minimum, I suspect because Lanchester feared (prob rightly) that going too much into it would a)be disproportionate b)reveal that he knows rather less about the working detail of everyone else.

I think a fictional account of a banker by Lanchester, or a group of bankers, would have been far more interesting than this 'terrorist', 'immigrant', 'old lady', 'young artist' media stereotype bollocks.

Things where you can tell Lanchester feels more comfortable:

Talking about football (this isn't good, but it doesn't feel RONG).
Bringing up small children (this isn't funny, but " " " ")

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:26 (nine years ago) link

er 'of a banker or a group of bankers by Lanchester' not 'by Lanchester or group of bankers' obv.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:27 (nine years ago) link

xp

aesthetic saturday objections aside, I think a state-of-the-nation has to be significantly longer than that, 400pp minimum.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:28 (nine years ago) link

Heh, I like the idea of a group of bankers writing as Luther Blisset.

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:29 (nine years ago) link

is Hensher's Northern Clemency in this vein? Anyone read that?

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:32 (nine years ago) link

Wasn't Amis' new book originally going to be called The State Of England? A better title than Lionel Asbo, anyway.

I enjoyed Theo Tait putting the boot into Ali Smith's last, vaguely S-o-E book: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n02/theo-tait/the-absolute-end - doesn't happen often enough, presumably because of the very small world of London publishing. Read the kindle sample of the Lanchester and couldn't believe how slack it was, yet I haven't read a bad, or even mixed, review yet.

Stevie T, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:51 (nine years ago) link

Have the feeling this is going to belong on this thread soon:

http://fivedials.com/images/672.jpg

Stevie T, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:58 (nine years ago) link

private eye gave captial a stinky review, fwiw

x-post

― Ward Fowler, Thursday, 8 March 2012 14:25 (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:05 (nine years ago) link

I am actually looking forward to Lionel Asbo.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:05 (nine years ago) link

xp

I also saw a mixed somewhere serious, but can't remember where.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:06 (nine years ago) link

How about a state-of-the-nation novel not set in London? Is there such a thing?

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:07 (nine years ago) link

oh, theo tait again, Guardian.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:07 (nine years ago) link

If the Northern Clemency is that sort of thing, it seems to be Sheffield-based. But I think most SoN-type novels would try to do London a bit maybe? At least have one character moving/working there?

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:11 (nine years ago) link

Actually, I may be imagining it, but is there something of Adam Curtis's faux-humdrum tone to some of those opening sentences up top? Like how all his BBC blogs begin with sentences like "One September night in 1945 three British mathematicians and astronomers went to see a new film at a cinema in Cambridge". I can almost hear Curtis reading the one about Petunia Howe.

Stevie T, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:13 (nine years ago) link

i was a fan of What a Carve Up when i read it but when i've flicked through it since i thing i was mostly wrong, and the clumsiness i excused as Dickensian at the time just reads like clumsiness to me now.

interesting to think of Middlemarch as a state-of-the-nation novel because of course it's addressing "middle England" before the fact, at a time when it was far from central to English notions of England maybe?

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 13:13 (nine years ago) link

iirc Lanchester has too many friends in the journalism trade to get many bad reviews?

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 13:15 (nine years ago) link

Wasn't Amis' new book originally going to be called The State Of England? A better title than Lionel Asbo, anyway

Should have just gone the whole hog with 'I Hate The Fucking Proles'.

Homosexual Satan Wasp (Matt DC), Friday, 9 March 2012 13:38 (nine years ago) link

don't think he realises his dad was sometimes joking

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 13:39 (nine years ago) link

I quite enjoyed that Ali Smith book as I was reading it but some of its sympathetic characters are more annoying than its unsympathetic characters and it descends into caricature rather a lot. Also it doesn't really go anywhere.

Homosexual Satan Wasp (Matt DC), Friday, 9 March 2012 13:40 (nine years ago) link

oh, theo tait again, Guardian.

― woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:07 (31 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

"Actually it was a good sandwich," runs a typical sentence

Good job the review has forewarned me of this particular sentence, otherwise I might have hurled the book across the room.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:44 (nine years ago) link

That review is spot on about the 'drone' of the prose. Also:

And there's a lot of slightly lazy repetition: "Parker, the boy she had been going out with ever since they kissed at a sixth-form dance on a hot June night back at sixth-form college."

This! Who on earth let this sort of thing through? It's like the weird repetition of the business about the skips and builders in the first chapter and the 'Transport for London card charging device'.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:54 (nine years ago) link

There was an interview I skimmed through that did say L's dad was banker. But so what? Isn't part of the 'story' how the system almost took on a life of its own and no one really has any control/understanding?

Part of the reason why I never got round to Whoops! anyway was that all of a sudden this novelist that is never on your radar acquires an interest over these topical matters - except that in this case, as I've said, my impression is that even the so-called experts are no experts when it comes to the financial system, so what chance does this guy have? The other reason is that unemployed/laid-off bankers started writing a mountain of these so cynicism set in.

Related but separate thing is you have other novelists I think I'd hate - Geoff Dyer and Adam Mars-Jones writing bks on things I really like: on Stalker and Late Spring, whereas I would like to see these being written by film writers that would bring wider knowledge on Japanese and Russian cinema instead of what I think it would be (= too many boring personal reflections...its for the fans you know). Its depressing that this might be the only way for bks to get published on really interesting films/topics and this seems like the only way to get any shelf-space/coverage.

I guess they've done their 'research', ffs.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:01 (nine years ago) link

'the system' took control -- this is SF material of course, fuck 'station of the nation' bullshit.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:04 (nine years ago) link

otm.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:05 (nine years ago) link

iirc Lanchester has too many friends in the journalism trade to get many bad reviews?

yes, I get the impression he's well-liked; also bad reviews aren't really done that much anymore (there was some fuss about this recently, maybe centred around that hatchet-job award?). The notable thing is how much attention it's getting - I got the impression that Lanchester was slipping into the terminal midlist zone before this, releasing also-reviewed, diminishing-returns novels every few years. Now he's a hit! I guess that's partly Whoops!, partly a canny topic, partly a very quiet literary spring in the uk, partly book-page need to have some literary middle-aged men to take seriously.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:18 (nine years ago) link

Actually, I may be imagining it, but is there something of Adam Curtis's faux-humdrum tone to some of those opening sentences up top? Like how all his BBC blogs begin with sentences like "One September night in 1945 three British mathematicians and astronomers went to see a new film at a cinema in Cambridge". I can almost hear Curtis reading the one about Petunia Howe.

― Stevie T, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:13 (56 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

there is a little bit. But I think the thing that annoys me about these specific sentences is the way he smuggles in other information. The 'brisk clip', and another one where after the usual time and season bollocks, Lanchester puts in a 'slightly out of breath'. I wouldn't mind so much if it was as formulaic as Adam Curtis' 'I'm going to tell you the story of x. It's a remarkable story that involves x,y,z,π and ك'.'

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:23 (nine years ago) link

Idk, should this be changed into a 'State of the Nation' novel thread? Change title one of these maybe?

'Actually it was a good sandwich' - State of the Nation novels and what is in them

'fuck 'station of the nation' bullshit'

'I am actually looking forward to Lionel Asbo'

'Why isn't there a racist taxi driver? I demand a racist taxi driver'

'I also saw a mixed somewhere serious'

'i'm assuming the copies i saw in waterstones were some britain-wide conspiracy'

'wonky textspeak'

' I guess it looks like what broadsheet journalism likes to believe novels are'

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:44 (nine years ago) link

ah, 'I also saw a mixed review somewhere serious'.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:44 (nine years ago) link

I dunno, enjoying the title as it stands, above all "that the computer had come with"

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:53 (nine years ago) link

i got this far before snorting outright: "As with a mirror-gazer, we have a tendency to want everything to be about us."

(meaning i managed to clamber through his forced outrage at homo floresiensis being termed the "hobbit" without throwing my LRB across the room)

leaving the rest for later as i actually have paid work to get on with today

mark s, Thursday, 10 December 2020 11:16 (ten months ago) link

ok i lied i read a bit further and came to this and now i can't stop laughing:

(In the case of H. floresiensis, Indonesia’s leading palaeoanthropologist took the first skeleton away for himself, kept it for a period of months, and returned it severely damaged.)

mark s, Thursday, 10 December 2020 11:28 (ten months ago) link

another day volunteering at the betsy ross museum. everyone keeps asking me if they can fuck the flag. buddy, they wont even let me fuck it

— wint (@dril) February 20, 2012

mark s, Thursday, 10 December 2020 11:29 (ten months ago) link

The Lanchester neanderthal piece is not great. As Mark says: forced outrage at 'hobbit'; he says he feels much more distant from neanderthals than the neolithic tribes in britain and ireland 'but that's bollocks' - no need for profanity John, and it's not bollocks, the neanderthals were 30-40,000 years before the neolithic tribes and a different species. And wtf is this: lithics – the sciencey word for stone artefacts, used in preference to ‘tools’? 'Sciencey'? And yes it's used in preference to 'tools' because that could mean anything from a stick for getting termites out of a tree to a cordless power drill.

ledge, Thursday, 17 December 2020 08:49 (ten months ago) link

jesus.

Fizzles, Thursday, 17 December 2020 08:51 (ten months ago) link

Excellent post from Ledge!

At last someone takes on Lanchester's unnecessary, offensive (and here just misleading / mistaken) use of obscenity in print and his charmless colloquialism!

the pinefox, Thursday, 17 December 2020 09:25 (ten months ago) link

i class his charmless colloquialisms as 'blokey simplification' to make something sound unthreatening. and as you say, here mistaken. i think it's possibly more insidious than it looks, as it belongs, effectively to the world of Boris Johnson, and male workplaces where people (often middle-aged white men) feel threatened by difference, and need reassuring about it in comforting language.

Fizzles, Thursday, 17 December 2020 09:57 (ten months ago) link

its also the notion that you (a pleb) need this 'blokey simplification' to ease you into this concept that I (Lanchester) understand perfectly well

plax (ico), Thursday, 17 December 2020 10:53 (ten months ago) link

I can see how he might have got that notion with some of his financial pieces, where there might have been some particularly recondite concepts in need of simplification, blokey or otherwise; the worst bits in this piece read like they're written for ten year olds.

ledge, Thursday, 17 December 2020 11:08 (ten months ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emvySA1-3t8

mark s, Thursday, 17 December 2020 11:59 (ten months ago) link

lol, greatest 4th wall breakage

ledge, Thursday, 17 December 2020 12:31 (ten months ago) link

it's not even a good explanation of what commodities are

mark s, Thursday, 17 December 2020 12:43 (ten months ago) link

in the directors cut they spend half an hour arguing about the grundrisse

plax (ico), Thursday, 17 December 2020 13:05 (ten months ago) link

I've read it again (why?) and where he says "but that's bollocks", I think he's talking about the sense that the Neanderthals lived more remotely, "their very existence ... seems contingent and marginal" - and it's bollocks because we only find their remains in remote sites because those are the only places where remains survive and haven't been "built over or crushed underfoot". But it's right on the heels of talking about the emotional and empathic distance of the Neolithic tribes. And I think that's ok, going from emotional to physical distance, he's talking about his own immediate thought process and the 'bollocks' is a more considered judgment on that process. But that reversal muddies the fact that they were very different - distant - from us and our neolithic ancestors.

what a lot of time to waste on this.

ledge, Thursday, 17 December 2020 14:20 (ten months ago) link

he has a knack of making you waste time on his sentences.

Fizzles, Thursday, 17 December 2020 14:44 (ten months ago) link

a real sweet spot where you epistemological satisfaction is permanently deferred despite it seeming in reach initially. It's very subtle.

Fizzles, Thursday, 17 December 2020 14:45 (ten months ago) link

I have the sinking feeling that JL is currently in the process of writing the Great British Covid Novel.

that's a hard e-no from me (Matt #2), Thursday, 17 December 2020 14:47 (ten months ago) link

oh no why did you have to say that.

Fizzles, Thursday, 17 December 2020 14:48 (ten months ago) link

it will be full of people interpreting epidemiological data in their heads; bin men surprisingly familiar with the lancet.

plax (ico), Thursday, 17 December 2020 14:54 (ten months ago) link

LADS LADS LADS

CHRISTMAS UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE

IT'S OUR HERO

Uptown Top Scamping (Noodle Vague), Monday, 21 December 2020 20:37 (ten months ago) link

lolol. i will need to give this a festive viewing.

Fizzles, Monday, 21 December 2020 21:16 (ten months ago) link

Thank god for iplayer! Please say one of the answers was rău rău.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Monday, 21 December 2020 21:58 (ten months ago) link

Without spoiling I am afraid that no, that was not one of the answers

Uptown Top Scamping (Noodle Vague), Monday, 21 December 2020 22:34 (ten months ago) link

I have to say it was difficult to square the avuncular type on UC with the almost mythic figure evoked on this thread

this is not to excuse his crimes

Number None, Tuesday, 22 December 2020 11:51 (ten months ago) link

when you're in deep, his avuncularity becomes part of his criminal method.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 22 December 2020 12:04 (ten months ago) link

his general knowledge was still woeful even if he was the least worst of a bad lot

Uptown Top Scamping (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 22 December 2020 13:04 (ten months ago) link

also he gave off that misplaced confidence in his own lack of knowledge vibe a lot

Uptown Top Scamping (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 22 December 2020 13:05 (ten months ago) link

its normally really hard right? these questions are weirdly easy, like easier than most quiz shows

plax (ico), Tuesday, 22 December 2020 13:08 (ten months ago) link

im not even good at this kind of thing and im getting more than they are

plax (ico), Tuesday, 22 December 2020 13:08 (ten months ago) link

the Christmas "celeb" ones always feel a lot easier than the regular show, and with good reason, cos look how badly they do even at this level

Uptown Top Scamping (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 22 December 2020 13:10 (ten months ago) link

i know that your knowledge becomes professionally more constrained as you get older but the easiness of the xmas university challenge and the poorness of the performances always make me wonder about the hinterland of these avatars of public life.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 22 December 2020 13:14 (ten months ago) link

exactly, and i don't get the impression they're feigning ignorance out of some sense of modesty

Uptown Top Scamping (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 22 December 2020 13:16 (ten months ago) link

come on, when even intellectual nobodies like this lad are constantly shitting out takes like this with no effect on earnings or security of work

The shitposters who start frothing everytime I tweet really make me laugh, I have to admit.
I've been discussing politics on forums for 25 years. You're just kids. I've seen it all. Save yourself some time and fuck off to 4chan.

— Sunny Hundal (@sunny_hundal) December 22, 2020



... why would the people you’re talking about need to be significantly better than that? People either stay curious or buy their own hype and there’s a lot of people out there quite happy to stay comfortable and unquestioning, because they can.

scampish inquisition (gyac), Tuesday, 22 December 2020 13:23 (ten months ago) link

two months pass...

For sheer Lanchester thread completism I post here my comment from LRB thread:

--
Started on LRB 17.12.2021, reading Lanchester on Neanderthals. This has been discussed before - perhaps by Fizzles the Neanderthal? - so I will be brief:

Lanchester can communicate. He can inform - including, I suppose, about subjects that are quite technical. I suppose this is a skill.

But I hate his ready recourse to vulgarity and how the LRB lets him get away with this (or, presumably, anything).

And this article heavily includes a bad feature: positing 'what you think you know' and then saying it's wrong, without any evidence that his reader does think it.

There is also a strange contradictory moment near the end when he says, in effect: 'Neanderthals are utterly different from us, so it's *amazing* to think that science shows that we are part-Neanderthal'. But surely this scientific finding would suggest that Neanderthals are *not* entirely different from us, and therefore it becomes less amazing. We need to think of them as part of our make-up rather than a strange 'other' - and if we do that, then it's not strange that they're part of our make-up?

Possibly these points were alreeady made by Fizzles and others.

Lastly, btw, Lanchester's article ends surprisingly badly, with a sentence that doesn't have a main verb. I understand that rhetorically we use such formulations all the time, especially in speech; but one would think that (especially from an ... experienced author) the last sentence of a quite long article would want to end on a resonant note, not an abbreviated one that feels off-key.
--

the pinefox, Monday, 15 March 2021 09:56 (seven months ago) link

I now recall that these posts were very accurate:

The Lanchester neanderthal piece is not great. As Mark says: forced outrage at 'hobbit'; he says he feels much more distant from neanderthals than the neolithic tribes in britain and ireland 'but that's bollocks' - no need for profanity John, and it's not bollocks, the neanderthals were 30-40,000 years before the neolithic tribes and a different species. And wtf is this: lithics – the sciencey word for stone artefacts, used in preference to ‘tools’? 'Sciencey'? And yes it's used in preference to 'tools' because that could mean anything from a stick for getting termites out of a tree to a cordless power drill.

― ledge, Thursday, December 17, 2020 bookmarkflaglink

jesus.

― Fizzles, Thursday, December 17, 2020 bookmarkflaglink

Excellent post from Ledge!

At last someone takes on Lanchester's unnecessary, offensive (and here just misleading / mistaken) use of obscenity in print and his charmless colloquialism!

― the pinefox, Thursday, December 17, 2020 bookmarkflaglink

i class his charmless colloquialisms as 'blokey simplification' to make something sound unthreatening. and as you say, here mistaken. i think it's possibly more insidious than it looks, as it belongs, effectively to the world of Boris Johnson, and male workplaces where people (often middle-aged white men) feel threatened by difference, and need reassuring about it in comforting language.

― Fizzles, Thursday, December 17, 2020 bookmarkflaglink

its also the notion that you (a pleb) need this 'blokey simplification' to ease you into this concept that I (Lanchester) understand perfectly well

― plax (ico), Thursday, December 17, 2020

Pretty dreadful, indeed, when Lanchester talks about 'sciencey word'.

the pinefox, Monday, 15 March 2021 09:58 (seven months ago) link

But Mark S's post also reminds me of a ridiculous para about 'mirror-gazer'. Here Lanchester starts on a metaphor and completely loses his way; the metaphor doesn't do what he wants it to do at all, and quite distracts from, rather than confirms, his argument, such as it is.

the pinefox, Monday, 15 March 2021 10:00 (seven months ago) link

one month passes...

LRB recently landed in my inbox: "John Lanchester almost gets stuck at Suez".

Admitidely an amusing mental image.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 15 April 2021 12:33 (six months ago) link

was probably trying to write a sentence.

Fizzles, Thursday, 15 April 2021 17:22 (six months ago) link

re Condition of England novels:

https://tribunemag.co.uk/2021/04/you-can-never-go-home-anymore

the pinefox, Saturday, 17 April 2021 23:45 (six months ago) link

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/aug/03/perfidious-albion-sam-byers-review

Come back John Lanchester all is forgiven.

― Matt DC, Monday, 27 August 2018 13:20 (two years ago) bookmarkflaglink

i'm reading this guy's new book after seeing juliet jacques being enthusiastic about it sadly its not very good and quite lanchestery

plax (ico), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 10:23 (five months ago) link

or maybe like an episode of black fucking mirror

plax (ico), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 10:24 (five months ago) link

i think its not helping that i recently read a joy williams book that covers some quite similar things but is startling and hypnotic and this feels so ploddingly mediocre in comparison. it reminds me of this thing she says in a paris review interview where she's talking about boring 'issues' writing. i keep thinking about how derrida talks about the irreducible excess of language but there doesn't seem to be any of that here, everything is so easily parsible (this is how i think of lanchester too, very mechanical analogies, nothing volatile within the writing or reading of it)

plax (ico), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 10:27 (five months ago) link

I read and really liked Perfidious Albion, did you read that one plax?

Scamp Granada (gyac), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 10:52 (five months ago) link

no i just heard about this on suite 212 and thought it would be fun to read something 'new'

plax (ico), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 11:02 (five months ago) link

The author is 31

Scamp Granada (gyac), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 11:10 (five months ago) link

I would like to read this tbh but I suspect if you didn’t like this you might not like Perfidious Albion, which was mostly quite appealingly clear in what it set out to do but the characters were a bit lacking

Scamp Granada (gyac), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 11:16 (five months ago) link

there's lots of stuff that's depressing me about this book. it was supported by arts council money. like given his last book was a big success seemingly, why aren't faber and faber who are publishing this one not just paying him well? there's something really depressing about this, like i'm keenly aware of how difficult it must be to get to write a novel 'these days' but this is so uninspiring and plodding. nobody has said anything so far that was not expository and usually in the service of making some aspect of the plot that was already clear MUCH CLEARER.

plax (ico), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 11:21 (five months ago) link

Lots of paragraphs like:

"the particular room in which I found myself contained two men. The desk between us was less a working surface than a barrier, stretching from wall to wall and bolted at both ends, meaning I had to enter through a separate door and hallway. It was a neat statement, I thought: the clearest signifier of bureaucracy, repurposed as a blunt communication of division: the men across from me were protected: I was held at bay."

I feel like this paragraph could do without the narrator interpreting the scene for us in such an obvious way. there's a lot of this iron grip stuff, where we get a fairly obvious metaphor and then its laboriously parsed. (I literally picked this paragraph at random now) I wouldn't have minded so much if the interpretation was something surprising like a conveyor belt of bearing statuary of martyrs in agony or something to be limboed under or

plax (ico), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 11:33 (five months ago) link

its like why live in the imagination of this person if their interior world is so uncluttered with unruly associations

plax (ico), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 11:36 (five months ago) link

"The room contained two men. The desk between us stretched from wall to wall and was bolted at both ends. I had to enter through a separate door and hallway."

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Tuesday, 27 April 2021 11:43 (five months ago) link


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