Sam Byers published a rather broad state-of-the-nation novel last year called Perfidious Albion, regularly cited in surveys of the fiction trying to respond to the plight we’re in, alongside similarly themed books by Jonathan Coe and Ali Smith.
Now, cutting straight to the chase, Byers has written an article for The New York Times that goes further. In “Britain is Drowning in Nostalgia”, Byers forthrightly explains to readers what’s going on in this country. He tells them, in an unarguable present tense and first-person plural, just what we’re all doing right now.
He speaks for us. “It’s not just our political life that feels suffused with the toxicity of Brexit, but also our cultural and even personal lives too… As we walk the supermarket aisles, speculating as to the continuing availability of our favourite foods, as we sit with our European loved ones and try to convince ourselves of the security of their stay, as we lay out the day’s medicines and fret about the continuing viability of their procurement, Brexit is inescapable,” he says.
Well, perhaps. That seems like quite a demanding programme of activities for us already — but Byers takes his spokesmanship a lot further. “With nothing meaningful to say about our future, we’ve retreated into the falsehoods of the past, painting over the absence of certainty at our core with a whitewash of poisonous nostalgia,” he assures readers.
And that’s not all. “At the same time, in our determination to rekindle the embers of our cooling significance, we seem perfectly happy to burn the future of our young for fuel.”
Naturally he finds this voice of choric self-condemnation hard to keep up for the entire article, but he returns to it forcefully for his peroration.
Alluding to our famous taste for a cuppa, the best remedy for a real pea-souper, he warns that “cups of tea will neither turn back time nor show us, in their cold and increasingly bitter leaves, the future we’ve failed to imagine…”
At least New Yorkers will be able to imagine us all, as one, peering dimly into those proverbial cuppas.
Women’s football is pure class. The Gooner you see it the better
Thrilling news for all of us north Londoners: Arsenal have returned to the top of the Women’s Super League with a 5-1 away victory over Liverpool at the weekend, which included two super goals by England star Beth Mead.
The match was enthusiastically covered everywhere, and in considerable detail — perhaps too much, because in some reports it was upsettingly revealed that the attendance at this key game was just 506, despite an offer of free tickets.
Given the high excitement there is about the women’s game at the moment, the figure seems baffling, almost incomprehensible. Surely it cannot be that this sport is not as closely followed by actual fans as it should be?
Those literary geniuses are working in overdrive now
It really is all go in the world of books. Sir Elton John has just revealed the cover and title of his autobiography, due in October, so hotly awaited that it is already a number one forward bestseller on Amazon. The title? You’ll never guess. Me.
Meanwhile, Fifty Shades of Grey author E L James is launching a stand-alone novel next month at Chelsea Old Town Hall, promising fans a glass of prosecco. Described as “a Cinderella story for the 21st century”, it’s a modern romance set in London, Cornwall and Eastern Europe, introducing a “privileged and aristocratic young Englishman, Maxim Trevelyan,” as its hero, and, as the heroine, “the mysterious, talented and beautiful Alessia Demachi, who has recently arrived in London owning little more than a dangerous and troublesome past”. Owning? The title of this corker: The Mister.
*Getting on the Victoria line at Finsbury Park in rush hour is a terror. You must wait out several trains, so by the time you can board, you are inches from the oncoming train, with a press of people behind you. Any push would be catastrophic. There’s such restraint, though. We’re in this together, at least.