Alice Dryden (huskyteer) wrote,
Alice Dryden

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The Suburbs Dream of Violence

I'd been meaning to go to Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands at the British Library for ages, but if my Bromley writing buddy hadn't suggested it I would probably never have got round to it. Which would have been a pity, because it's ace.

The exhibition is divided into areas showcasing different aspects of Britain: the Rural Idyll, the industrial Dark Satanic Mills, the sinister Wild Places and equally sinister Suburbs; Metroland; the seaside of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock and the riverbanks of Three Men in a Boat and The Wind in the Willows. Lots of London, of course, and also more of Dorset than I expected.

There are things to listen to as well. I pronounced to my companion that I didn't like Simon Armitage's accent, which turns out to be the whole point of Simon Armitage. Oops. Stella Gibbons talking about Cold Comfort Farm on a 1974 episode of Woman's Hour was well posh, John Betjeman reading one of his own poems was touching as usual.

I cooed over part of the manuscript of Crash and some original drawings from Posy Simmonds's Tamara Drewe, but I think my favourite thing was a novel called The Beetle, about a clerk who loses his job and spirals downwards to sleeping in dosshouses and eventually life as a tramp. While robbing a suburban villa he stumbles upon a giant Egyptian beetle that eats people. And there was me thinking it was going to be an allegory about working pointlessly hard and never seeing daylight.

Loved it, recommended. It's just a shame there were no cuddly J. G. Ballards in the gift shop along with Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde.
Tags: books

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