“I sat around with a bunch of other middle-aged men and failed to say anything useful about Radiohead.”
PS: And hey, look, there’s even a poster...
I know we have to coordinate and organise to fight a no deal Brexit but it can’t hurt to pray for a well timed intervention in the form of an autoerotic accident.— Mark Thomas (@markthomasinfo) August 29, 2019
I was lucky with my teachers (a few grisly exceptions, obviously) but the finest I had was a lugubrious, chain-smoking Glaswegian who got me into Joyce and Beckett and Burgess and all that good stuff, not through earnest, Dead-Poets-style breast-beating but by reading a bit and quietly asking, “What do we make of that, then?” I sent him an email when he retired, to thank him and let him know what I'd done with my life. He replied, “I‘m glad you stuck with words.” He died the following year. Thanks again, Campbell.Now, most of these contributions stand alone, perhaps enhanced by a *like* or five. But mine, for whatever reason, drew a response from Ian Jack, former editor of the Independent on Sunday and Granta, who I know of but don’t know:
I think you must have been taught by my old friend Campbell Mackay, whose flat I shared in Glasgow long before he took the trail south and then west. I'm glad to hear he was a fine teacher, though I'm not at all surprised. He took it seriously.And he was right. I found it both moving and a little unnerving that with so few specific details (there must have been dozens, maybe hundreds of Scottish teachers called Campbell over the years), Mr Mackay’s essence, a doleful Estragon through a nicotine haze, was so immediately identifiable to someone else who’d had the pleasure of knowing him. And I thought for a moment about how lovely social media can be if we let it, how it can build bridges, make friends, join up disconnected memories, maybe even for a moment bring the dead back among us; as well as spreading strife and hate and fake news and all that cal.
My invention for the book jacket means that someone can have the complete works of Jane Austen, but in a certain Pantone chip color that matches the rest of the room or with a custom image. People have invested in how their home looks: They chose the cabinets, the carpets, the paint, and the window coverings. Why settle for books that a publisher designed? Books can have as much style as anything else in the room.Which does make me yearn just a tiny bit for the glory days of actresses who actually read stuff.
In today’s all too real world, Captain America’s most nefarious villain, the Red Skull, is alive on screen and an Orange Skull haunts America. International fascism again looms large (how quickly we humans forget – study these golden age comics hard, boys and girls!) and the dislocations that have followed the global economic meltdown of 2008 helped bring us to a point where the planet itself seems likely to melt down. Armageddon seems somehow plausible and we’re all turned into helpless children scared of forces grander than we can imagine, looking for respite and answers in superheroes flying across screens in our chapel of dreams.And then this, from an old friend in Hong Kong:
A group of disaffected teens with terrible lives do not want to be studying Dickens and Shakespeare last thing on a Friday... We should be encouraging these pupils, not boring them half to death – why not study literature that is relevant to their lives?(From an article today about the decline in popularity of English Literature A-level)
“She was brought here last night,” replied the old woman, “by the overseer’s order. She was found lying in the street. She had walked some distance, for her shoes were worn to pieces; but where she came from, or where she was going to, nobody knows.”(Oliver Twist, Chapter One)
“You are to be in all things regulated and governed,” said the gentleman, “by fact. We hope to have, before long, a board of fact, composed of commissioners of fact, who will force the people to be a people of fact, and of nothing but fact. You must discard the word Fancy altogether. You have nothing to do with it. You are not to have, in any object of use or ornament, what would be a contradiction in fact. You don’t walk upon flowers in fact; you cannot be allowed to walk upon flowers in carpets. You don’t find that foreign birds and butterflies come and perch upon your crockery; you cannot be permitted to paint foreign birds and butterflies upon your crockery. You never meet with quadrupeds going up and down walls; you must not have quadrupeds represented upon walls. You must use,” said the gentleman, “for all these purposes, combinations and modifications (in primary colours) of mathematical figures which are susceptible of proof and demonstration. This is the new discovery. This is fact. This is taste.”(Hard Times, Chapter Two)