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Our Rich Literary History

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
Samuel Johnson

Boswell and Johnson were discussing whether or not Boswell’s affection for London would wear thin should he choose to live there, as opposed to the zest he felt on his occasional visits. (Boswell lived in Scotland, and visited only periodically. Some people are surprised to learn that Boswell and Johnson were far from inseparable over the last twenty years of Johnson’s life, the period Boswell knew him.)

This discussion happened on September 20, 1777, and Johnson, someone who hated to spend time alone, was always going out and enjoying what London had to offer.

Now Boris Johnson as Mayor has been promoting historical events in the capital such as:

Trafalgar Square a brief history  

History Brought to Life weekend

Black History Season

 

Not to be outdone, Gotham Girl takes a cross-disciplinary approach with both fiction and non-fiction highlighting some interesting historical and cultural comparisons between London and New York 

  

I’ve recently been re-reading “Here Is New York” an essay by E.B. White (which I cannot recommend highly enough). It’s a 55-page– well, love letter of sorts – written during the summer of 1949 and is considered by many (including me) to be one of the ten best books ever written about the city. I’m not sure what the London equivalent would be… Peter Ackroyd’s London: A Biography maybe? Much bigger than White’s piece and not so much a love letter as it is a collection of love letters. What do you all think?

I’m not suggesting that a single book could do justice to the sweeping scope that is London. Nor do I suggest that White’s piece is, by any means, a complete portrait of New York. You’d need a large bookcase of books to embody a subject as multi-layered and robust as London or New York. More likely, you’d need a whole library.

Luckily, I have plenty of shelf space because I “travel” to London and through New York via books quite a lot and it is travel almost without limits. You can get to know either city by getting to know about the people who left their mark centuries ago or who are leaving their mark now. You can examine the buildings and monuments that dot the city landscapes as well as those that have disappeared. You can read about the industries and social movements that drive the cities through cycles of growth and ruin. Books are, in this way, a handy-sized sort of TARDIS.

Do not think, however, that you must limit yourself to non-fiction when going on these page-turning adventures. Not at all. I read my share of non-fiction and I have a special fondness for biography but fiction can also provide views and (often unexpected) insights into the current and historical worlds of London and New York.

Continue reading Our Rich Literary History

Stanley Johnson Book Launch

Stanley I Presume

stanley-johnson3Boris was present at the book launch to mark the publication of his father’s autobiography (up to 40 years old) at Waterstones in Notting Hill Gate last night.  His glamorous sister, Rachel Johnson, interviewed Stanley and we were regaled with side-splittingly funny stories about the Johnson clan.  You have to read this awesome book to hear details about his population control initiative and ‘Pills Grim Progress’, his poetic prowess, solace he found in pollution control, the briefcase he lost off a landrover in a desert containing family passports and flight tickets, that was later found and handed to him with the words:  “Stanley, I presume?”, and many perfectly true and amazing stories from deep and darkest Devon.

This autobiography goes back to Boris’s grandfather, greatgrandfather and King George II.

Stanley *you rock* and now all we need is to read your sequel for 40 years + …

Available from all good bookshops and Amazon.co.uk ISBN:  987-0-00-729672-9

“The Plan: 12 months to renew Britain” by Daniel Hannan MEP and Douglas Carswell MP

The Plan has been written by two young politicians who have discovered first hand how inert is the machinery of the British state, and how intense is the consequent anger on the doorstep.  They offer an analysis of why people are sick and tired of politicians, and what can be done about it.  Douglas Carswell, is the forward-looking MP for Harwich and Clacton, and  Daniel Hannan the firebrand MEP for the South of England.  You can read more about Douglas here and about Dan, here.

Britain is heading in the wrong direction. The British people are giving up on politics and politicians.  The Plan is a book that sets out how to put Britain on the right track again.

The Plan proposes to restore meaning to the ballot box, freedom to the citizen and dignity to Parliament.  It puts forward a radical legislative programme to:

  • – Clean up Westminster
  • – Devolve power to the lowest practicable level
  • – Make Public services work for the people who use them
  • – Bring foreign and domestic policy back in line with public opinion
  • – Replace the quango state with genuine democracy
  • – Refresh our political system through localism and the use of referendums

Douglas and Dan show how a future government could actually shift powers back, from Brussels to Westminster, from Whitehall to town halls, from the state to the citizens.

Things do not have to be as they are. The Plan shows how we can change our country for the better.

The Plan is available ‘from all good bookshops’ from October 6th and the ISBN is: 13-9780955979903 or order your copy direct at: www.Renew-Britain.com