Remains of the day

I’ve been very slack on the blogging front in the last couple of months.

No time for writing. Or, more accurately, no time for thinking. Trying to find space and time to think about what to write has been the challenge this year.

The desire to write has been significant.  On more than one occasion I’ve found myself sat in front of either a blank word document or a blank WordPress console. Sat with nothing to write.

Time for reading has been slim too.

Paucity of time has been compounded by some bad choices on the book front, sapping momentum from what was a fairly prolific start to the year.

I seem to have found salvation in the form of The Remains of the Day by Kezuo Ishiguro. It’s a gentle novel. A nice change from the corse prose of an Amis or a Welsh or a Niven.

I am sure that this is the most pedestrian and prosaic of readings – but the thing i’ve been most taken with is the focus of the story on transition. It is an obvious observation perhaps, given the novel’s title.

We meet our character as he approaches the twilight of his career. We see an England that is falling from the grasp of the previous generation’s nobility and into the hand’s of wealthy industrialists. New Owners. New Money. Set between the  first and second world war, an even bigger shift in the global stage is about to occur.

I don’t know why I’ve been so captivated by these themes. Transition and change are everywhere in modern storytelling. But,  something about the stories use of a distinct change in ownership seems especially pertinent to me, today – living in London. London is in flux. Money is flooding in to the capital. Pubs in hitherto unfashionable areas of London are being taken over and converted by estate agents, those most loathsome standard-bearers of the capitalist mission. Where their liveried fleet of vehicles go, money inevitably follows, and so with it goes a little bit of the soul of a place. A soul which has made London so so vital and vibrant.

Like Ishaguro’s England, the change is being driven by new money. But today we also have a new government too, one whose recent election promises are now manifesting themselves in startling technicolour. People aren’t happy about it. For whilst the capital booms, the rest of the country that is outside of the M25 seems to continue to stutter and those most in need of help from society see less and less support. Change is everywhere, some of it good, some of it not so.

Not many other forms of culture force the mind in such a vivid way. It’s an important quality that literature possesses. Something about the way we engage with a book or story, not quite part of it, but still not quite removed. Stories become useful lenses for us to interpret our surroundings, to make sense of the world and try and find meaning: much in the same way we try to with works of fiction in the first place.

There is a relentlessness about Ishaguro’s story. A foreboding sense that as night falls and the remains of the day fade, we will witness our protagonist’s end. That the ultimate transition we’re witnessing is from life to death. I know London will not be killed by the changes it is going through currently, but it may experience a certain type of death – one that kills it’s creativity, one that kills it’s vibrancy, one that makes it boring; a fate that could be worse than death.

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