Friday, April 03, 2020

About coronavirus

2016 was the last year that seemed to be characterised by lots of famous people dying and now as then the relative significance given to one dead celeb over another speaks volumes, dragging into its orbit issues of taste and class and the dreaded canon. Who, ultimately, matters more, the bass player of Fountains of Wayne or the fat one from Little and Large?

And if you don’t think there’s anything worse than death...

Friday, March 27, 2020

About Bob Dylan


Twas a dark day in Dallas, November ’63 
A day that will live on in infamy 
President Kennedy was a-ridin’ high
Good day to be livin’ and a good day to die 
Being led to the slaughter like a sacrificial lamb 
He said, “Wait a minute, boys, you know who I am?” 
“Of course we do. We know who you are.” 
Then they blew off his head while he was still in the car. 
—Bob Dylan's new song, his first in eight years, ‘Murder Most Foul

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay! 
Alas! I am very sorry to say 
That ninety lives have been taken away 
On the last Sabbath day of 1879, 
Which will be remember’d for a very long time. 
—William McGonagall’s old poem, ‘The Tay Bridge Disaster’

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

About reading

Wondering whether the world will die first of a virus or claustrophobia, I suddenly have time to read and plot the end of society. Where should I start?

Sunday, March 15, 2020

About The Decameron

The latest tranche of Dickon Edwards’s online diary brings us up to date with Covid-19 and mentions The Decameron, Boccaccio’s collection of tales purportedly told by a group of people holed up in a villa to avoid the plague in 14th-century Florence – a reminder that social distancing has a long and noble heritage.


I remember flicking through my mother’s Everyman edition, in which parts of the naughtiest tale – that of Alibech and monk Rustico – were left in the original language, which I always felt was a particularly half-arsed flavour of censorship, suggesting that we are all potentially corruptible, with the exception of those who have taken the trouble to learn medieval Italian.

About chapter headings


The greatest ever. From Greil Marcus’s In The Fascist Bathroom.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

About a plague

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

About k-punk

Cultural Snow staggered into life in 2005 and once I’d got my head round how to link and comment and all that jiggery-pokery, I actually became part of a little community, some members of which I actually met in what passes for real life (or meatspace as I still like to call it, although that seems to baffle anyone under 40). Of course, we were a mere fragment of what was called the blogosphere and despite the medium’s aspirations to inclusivity and democracy, there was clearly a hierarchy at play. But in those halcyon days, it wasn’t just down to follower numbers or clicks or eyeballs. A blog such as k-punk, the online home of the late Mark Fisher, certainly had more followers than I did, but that wasn’t the important bit; it was the sort of blog that changed minds, changed lives, that would continue to prompt this sort of discussion (in the Sydney Review of Books: Part One/Part Two) years after its creator had stopped posting. Key take-out quote: “If, reading it, you have the feeling of being plunged into a conversation that began some time ago, and might carry on for ages yet — well, that’s what the blogs were about.”

The old gang has mostly dispersed, their blogs shut down or at least mothballed. And yet I still bugger on, blogging about blogging about blogging, a digital ouroboros, almost too scared to put this thing out of its misery.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

About tsundoku


I love the Japanese word tsundoku, the practice of buying books and never actually reading them, the most profound retort to bloody Marie Kondo. And now the legendary journalist Jan Morris prompts the question, appropriate for St David’s day: what’s the Welsh for tsundoku?
“People always say: ‘Have you read them all?’” she says. “No. but I have an emotional attachment to them all. I pick an old book out and if it is interesting I read a few pages. I put letters and photographs and cards in them to find later.”