Saturday, March 17, 2012

Notes from a fairy tale of commerce

One of the things I'm reading at the moment is J. B. Priestley's English Journey. It's curiously out of print (curious, as it's quite a well-known book) but I managed to find a cheap used copy from 1937 which has held up remarkably well.

In any case, I wish I had read this one earlier, as the book is full of excellent writing and quite amusing anecdotes.

I liked, for instance, this, during the opening excursion to Southampton:

The town was making money. At first I felt like a man who had walked into a fairy tale of commerce. The people who jostled me did not looked as if they had just stepped out of an earthly paradise; there was no Utopian bloom upon them; but nevertheless they all seemed well-fed, decently clothed, cheerful, almost gay. The sun beamed upon them, and so did I. Their long street was very pleasant. I noticed that it shared the taste of Fleet Street and the Strand for wine bars. I went into one of these; and it had a surprising succession of Ye Olde panelled rooms, in one of which I drank a shilling glass of moderate sherry and listening  to four citizens talking earnestly about German nudist papers, their supply having recently been cut off by Hitler. Their interest in these papers was genuine but not of a kind to commend itself to the leaders of the nudist movement. (English Journey, London, 1937, p. 13)

One of the other things I'm reading is Norman Collins's London Belongs to Me, excerpts from which will also, I believe, be featuring here in the near future.

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