Thursday, 7 May 2015


My local polling station is at the church up the road. I went on my way home from work. There was a long line of people outside, but it turned out they weren't waiting to vote, but queueing for the Thursday evening soup kitchen. That's politics for you.

Monday, 4 May 2015


1. Soon after writing my blog entry on Exclusion and 'In the Light of What We Know' I read Joyce Carol Oates' 'The Accursed'. Stephen King said of it that it "may be the world's first postmodern Gothic novel", overlooking that Oates herself has already written several postmodern Gothic novels, but you can't really blame him for not being familiar with her oeuvre because she is scarily prolific, and produces a new book about twice a year. Anyway I enjoyed 'The Accursed' hugely, but I did wonder how African American readers would find it. The narrator, unreliable to the extent that he even appears in his own narrative as a baby possibly sired by the devil, tells of terrible hauntings and supernatural crimes in early twentieth-century Princeton, starting when no one will speak out against the lynching of a young black man and his sister. The book concerns itself entirely with the white and variously privileged members of the Princeton community, and I wondered whether it might be offensive to a black reader that the black people in this book are there only to be transgressed against. On the other hand Oates does make it clear that the refusal of the WASPs to engage with the African Americans as human beings is the terrible flaw that destroys their ordered society, and there didn't seem to be any such awareness in 'In the Light of What We Know'. Heigh ho. I expect everyone has different reactions.

2. I'm rereading Neal Stephenson's 'Baroque Trilogy', a series which comes to the conclusion that the continued existence of slavery will undermine even something as fine as Hanoverian England. It's hard from this perspective of now to see Hanoverian England as such a great thing, but I suppose it was better than having the Jameses back. I love these books but have not so far managed to persuade anyone else how great they are.

3. It turns out that K.J. Parker is a man. I feel a bit disappointed by this, though I know that's sexist of me. On the plus side he chose 'Parker' because it's a pen name... The books are great, especially the Engineer Trilogy, which starts with 'Devices and Desires'. Not many people convey the amazingness of precision engineering -- I suppose he has a lot in common with Neal Stephenson in that regard.