Let's go backwards. Backwards in time, all the way to the beginning. Back to a country that neither of us would recognize, probably. Britain, 1973.
-Was it really that different, do you think?
- Completely different. Just think of it! A world without mobiles or videos or Playstations or even faxes. A world that had never heard of Princess Diana or Tony Blair, never thought for a moment of going to war in Kosovo or Afganistan. There were only three television channels in those days, Patrick! Three! And the unions were so powerful that, if they wanted to, they could close one of them down for a whole night. Sometimes people even had to do without electricity. Imagine!
- Jonathan Coe, The Rotters Club
At the moment, I'm making a concerted - if slightly reluctant - effort to bring my reading up to date. Indeed, if you glanced at the stacks of books currently gathering dust in storage back in the UK (ie. toppling precariously off my Dad's ad hoc book shelves) you might be forgiven for thinking that the novel ceased existing some time around 1978 (which it didn't, did it? Might as well have done, though. Arf arf. A little "situation of the novel" humour for you there. Jeez.)
Anyway, after a happy couple of days counting the erections in The Line of Beauty, I'm now onto Jonathan Coe's The Rotter's Club. I'm, oh, about 50 pages in, so not much cohesive to report at present, except this: Now, I've long held that English culture seems to develop unevenly around a series of time-lags, that there are certain manifestations or practices that persist, long past their appropriate chronology. However, it's pretty disconcerting to find that Coe's mid-seventies Birmingham, with its homemade light ale, Big School, prefabs and Black Forest gateau, meshes so easily with the 1990s Hull of my childhood.