Sunday 29 July 2018

This and That

The eagerly awaited return of rain to the scorched earth of Carshalton and environs gave me the opportunity to wheel out that fine word 'petrichor', which denotes the smell rising from sun-dried earth after rain. There was petrichor galore during Friday's intermittent thundery downpours. Then came a day of strong winds, blowing in fresh air at last. And today hours of lovely steady English summer drizzle. I'm not that keen on rain (certainly not as keen as Geoffrey Hill, our Laureate of Rain), but there are times when there's nothing like the feel of good English drizzle on your face.
  The cooling of the air seems to have roused my brain from its sun-stunned torpor, even to the point of taking some interest in the passing scene. Today I notice that the row over Labour's antisemitism might even lead to Jeremy Corbyn losing his precious allotment. In point of fact it seems unlikely that he will, but at least the story gifted the Mail On Sunday subs a great headline opportunity.
  In the Sunday Times, meanwhile, Mr Appleyard explores the curious absence of women novelists from the modern 'literary canon', whether the canon we carry half-consciously in our heads or the more official and approved canons. For myself, I discover a curious absence of male novelists when I survey my own 20th-century English-language canon; the men are grossly underrepresented, crowded out (as readers of this blog will know all too well) by the likes of Willa Cather, Ivy Compton-Burnett, Penelope Fitzgerald, Flannery O'Connor, Shirley Hazzard, Muriel Spark, etc, etc. And I might add that I've never felt the slightest embarrassment about reading women's novels in public. The only thing that matters about fiction – or pretty much anything else – is whether it's good or bad.
  One more thing. Listening to the endless coverage of the supposed threats posed by 'fake news', outside intervention in the democratic process, and the wicked wiles of the social media, I entertained a little thought experiment. Suppose Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election and Remain had prevailed in the referendum – suppose, that is, that the stars had stayed in their courses and all had turned out as expected  – would we be hearing quite so much of this outcry against the social media, etc?  'Fake news' is only a problem if it favours the side you don't want to win.

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