exobiology & letters
In central London it’s coming on to rain. The streets already look dark at half past one in the afternoon. You can tell it’s December. You can tell there’s a recession. A group of exobiologists wrangle half-heartedly in an empty Pret a Manger. “I think physics is telling us that though life evolved in a cheap beach hotel in Sri Lanka, it will end in Mansfield.” Central London is always a comfort. Look around in central London & there’s always someone weirder than you. “Most of the new topology is telling us that if the universe has an arse-end, that’s where it is.”
2010 books: I loved The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris. Will Self’s Walking to Hollywood represented the upside of professional reviewing–a book you’d pick for yourself after reading the first two pages. John Wyndham’s extraordinarily incompetent Plan for Chaos represented the downside. But The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge by Patricia Duncker was possibly the least likeable novel I’ve ever read. Smug, self-congratulatory yet much less clever than it imagines itself to be, exactly what you’d get if Julian Barnes began to think he was Daniel Pennac: a collection of complicit nods & winks to an equally smug audience.
Best re-read: Let It Come Down, Paul Bowles. Biggest indication, other than the excoriation of Nick Clegg, that there may yet be justice in the world: David Constantine winning the BBC short story award. Best TV adaptation: William Boyd, Any Human Heart, but the book is in all ways more satisfying.
Most laughable TV adaptation: the Moffat & Gatiss Sherlock Holmes; though I hear that Neil Cross’s “Oh Whistle & I’ll Come To You My Lad” was in a class all its own. UK low-pomo is old now. I predict a decline of the audacious revisionary manner (the glibly blinkered celebration of culture as Markov process). & if it’s replaced by eye-watering textual & historical fundamentalism, you’ll know who to blame.