Bookcase Blues

A few years back, someone brought a small wooden bookcase to work and left it in the canteen. An assortment of secondhand paperbacks began to fill the shelves; two volumes of ‘Tales of the City’, novels by Alan Massie, Terence Stamp and Iris Murdoch. I contributed a few items: Mason and Dixon, Martyn Pig, Eight Minutes Idle, and Lullaby. I was reminded of this by the recent announcement that we were to see the Transit of Venus – not visible again for 105 years.

Of course, devout Catholics will realise that all this is an illusion: the Sun travels around the Earth, and therefore so does Venus. Heliocentricity equals heresy, Galileo was wrong, sweet Thames run softly till I end my song, I see a little silhouetto of a moon, we can’t make out the craters but the waiter’s brought a tray.

After laughing helplessly through ‘Tales of the City’ I decided to look at ‘The Night Listener’, the plot of which involves the question of whether or not a person is real, based on their mention of Thomas Pynchon. In ‘Mason and Dixon’ Pynchon raises the idea of transubstantiation and the eating of the divine body, which itself is an element of the plot of ‘Tales…’ while Messrs Mason and Dixon spend many pages musing on the anticipated Transit of Venus.

Journal entry, Sun 8 Apr 2001:
In the Observer Sports Magazine, bitter sporting feuds – Ali and Frazier, Coe and Christie. Long interview with Lineker; nice, gd looking, clever.
Article about Total Fighting, includes interview with Chuck Palahniuk, author of ‘Fight Club’, who doesn’t own a TV.
Dancehall fights in Rio; Peru fight festivals.
Interview with Meijer Stad, brilliant footie player & athlete ‘executed’ by the Nazis. Marat Safin, Russian tennis player. Fulham women’s footie team. Buster Mottram used to be an NF supporter.
And Ian Bradshaw’s wonderful photo of a naked Michael O’Brien surrounded by coppers on the pitch at Twickenham in 1974.
Other news: 20,000 jobs expected to go in London’s financial industry.
Sophie Rhys Jones has dented monarchy.
F- and M- disease still spreading; Apparently (allegedly) a sample of virus was stolen from Porton Down. Current total: 1120 cases.

Journal entry, Sun 15 Apr 2001:
Easter Sunday. 7.45 am, outside it is bright with half the sky dirty grey and the other half a vivid, hope-coloured blue.
Just bumped into James Twigg in papershop: ‘Got a job yet?’
He looked puzzled when I said no.
‘I heard that you were working for Spencer Coatings.’
‘No,  I don’t think they wanted to risk someone going all the way up there and not liking it’ I replied.
Other news: Business pages, US and UK companies carry out staff losses at diff stages of economic crisis, which is why share prices rise or fall.
BT to demerge Yellow Pages.
George W Bush has turned his back on environmental issues, so catalytic converters are way down the agenda and Pt metal price falling.
Next genetic mapping: ‘proteomics’, action of genes on protein and impact on bio-functions.
Cammell-Laird called in  receivers.
1290 cases of F- and M- disease; Tamworth is one of the sites chosen for landfill disposal of animal carcasses.

Journal entry, 17 May 2001:
Tuesday morning went up to Scotland on train; bought ‘Mill on the Floss’ and read half of it on way. LK bungalow. Pizza. Chips. Red wine (3 bottles, v bad.)
Next day interview Avecia; hammered down with rain, I sheltered at Falkirk High Station.
Interview dreadful, him and her, personnel and technical, dimensional analysis (decision making) and questions about organic synthesis.
Pair of them utterly lifeless and devoid of interest; reading questions from a sheet, no discussion or flow of ideas.


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