(T)he Ro(b)in (Ho)od pub sits on the tow path of the river Lee at the bottom of Springfield Park. Back in the day, they didn't mind you taking your be...more(T)he Ro(b)in (Ho)od pub sits on the tow path of the river Lee at the bottom of Springfield Park. Back in the day, they didn't mind you taking your beer outside, so you could sit on the grass watching the rowers, with the marshes behind, and the tower blocks of Stratford still further beyond. It was my Sunday afternoon pub.
I don't know how it started. Our weekends began on Friday at the Cricketers. The sort of pub where everybody knew everyone else. Pete and I would usually walk down together, but soon our paths would diverge. There were warehouse parties, gigs, Camden, West End, oh who knew - a world of possibilities.
But somehow, come Sunday afternoon, I always found myself at the 'Hood'. Back then some scamp had broken some of the letters on the sign above the door. Hence the parentheses above. Work it out. It wasn't a junkie pub, and neither were we. But with the ripped jeans, dyed hair and sallow complexions we all looked a bit like Johnny Thunders, so you can't blame the estate kids for making an assumption.
There would be some of the Friday crowd there, in one's and two's. But Pete always showed up sooner or later. We'd tell each other the stories of what had happened in the previous 48 hours. The things we'd got up to, people we'd met, stories we'd heard. Tales of excess and rebellion, romance and danger, failed art and ever successful self-depreciation. It was generally entertaining, in the way a story is often better than the source material that inspired it. We'd listen to Pete Starstedt and Minnie Ripperton on the jukebox. They helped with the perspective, and the come down. Eventually I started making notes. Just snippets - key words or a funny one liner. I'd write them on fag packets, beer mats, bus tickets. Whatever was handy. When I got home I would stuff them in an envelop under my bed. I had no idea what I would do with them. I just wanted to keep them.
Eventually the good craziness turned bad. I ended up moving around a lot for a while. Then Pete had a fatal motorcycle accident. I still haven't forgiven him. Bastard. And somewhere around that time the envelop got lost.
Then, early this year I read an interview with Neil Gaimen, where he name checked Martin Millar as one of his favorite writers. I'd never heard of him, but trusting the man's judgement, I made a note of the name on my phone, for when I was browsing second hand shops with the Padawan. Within a few weeks I'd found three of his books. I picked 'Lux the Poet' for my commuting read.
Well. I'm very pleased to see that my envelop had not gone missing after all. It had somehow fallen into Mr Millar's hands. He'd taken those chaotic scraps and stitched them together into a single narrative. What's more he's done so in a way that compels me into a list of very unwriterly adjectives - visceral, authentic, hilarious, tragic, absurd, confusing, thought provoking, messy, chaotic, naive, cynical, inspiring, and - oh just damn beautiful. If you can imagine a post punk Ulysses you're almost there.
Of course he changed the names, and moved the setting from Hackney to Brixton, in an attempt to cover his plagiarism. But he needn't have bothered. He carries it off with such style I take it all as flattery. As I'm sure the thousands of other people with scribbled on fag packets stuffed under their bed do too. The fact he published it a year before I started drinking in the 'Hood' is just further testament to his genius.
Martin Millar is a voice of a subculture. My subculture. And I don't care how old I get, I'm sticking with it. I'm just sorry it took so long to discover him. But thanks to Neil Gaimen, I've got some catching up to do.
This book was published 100 years ago, and was intended as a primer for philosophy undergraduates. It functions best as a summary of 'Classical' philo...moreThis book was published 100 years ago, and was intended as a primer for philosophy undergraduates. It functions best as a summary of 'Classical' philosophy. Metaphysics, epistemology, a bit of ethics, that sort of thing. No existentialism here. No deconstruction-ism. No conciousness theory, hard or soft problem. In fact, it kind of misses out all of my favourite bits of modern philosophy. So why is it relevant? Why bother reviewing it? Well, there is a clue in the quote over there on the bottom of my home page...
I am something of a fan of Russell. I like the way he thinks and writes. This book is a great example of his intellectual lucidity and human compassion. Take for example his chapter on idealism. In about four pages he takes on Berkley and just wipes the floor with him. In the end, he almost apologises. Beautiful thinking, beautiful writing, which he maintains for the whole, brief, 94 pages.
This book does fulfil it's brief well. It introduces philosophical thought and method coherently and concisely. But, most importantly for me, gives an insight into Russell's world. For him, the universe was an untimely sensible place. Effect follows cause. When one knows all the parameters, the right thing to do will present itself clearly. Avoiding error and remaining ever logical is the best possible course of action.
I referred to this as 'Classical' philosophy, because of it's similarity to classical physics. The Newtonian clock work world works perfectly well in most cases, but does not bear up well under close scrutiny. There is chaos in the universe. In fact, if it were not for random fluctuations, there would be no universe at all. Human thought and perception works, in part at least, on a quantum level. We are, by nature, random and unpredictable. There are no absolutes.
By his own admission, most of Russell's mathematical and philosophical work was in error. His number theory, though almost perfect, was fatally flawed. He was also an early adaptor of behaviourism, which had a disasterous effect on his family.
Yet, in terms of his political and social activism, this basic, sensible outlook served him well. He was, consistently, a beacon of humanism and rationality at times when those precious things were in very short supply. As a legacy, that is something we can all aspire to. (less)
"The Earth, after all, doesn't creak and groan its way around the sun just so human beings can have a good time and a bit of a laugh" notes our unname...more"The Earth, after all, doesn't creak and groan its way around the sun just so human beings can have a good time and a bit of a laugh" notes our unnamed narrator on page 12.
He's observing the life of Sumire - young, talented and slightly chaotic, she breezed into his life in college, like a character stepping off the pages of a Murakami novel. Supported by her parents, Sumire has an excess of free time and a tendency to bouts of reflection, which include calling our narrator at 3 in the morning for chats. Sumire is attractive, but oblivious to that attraction, with mis-matched socks, tossled hair and oversized jackets. To our protagonist, she is the most desirable thing in the universe. He can't help it.
Nor, in turn, can Sumire help her desire for Miu, an older married woman she meets at a wedding.
And so they fall into each others orbit, drawn ever to the centre, while moving tangentially away.
As this is a Murakami novel, things do get strange. The characters lives drift into metaphor, and they themselves become more real, more sympathetic in the process.
Yeah, it gets messy.
"Was the Earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?", questions our hero, a couple of hundred pages later. That's why I like this book, and why so many of us love Murakami so much.
It's because, at the end of the day, if we weren't all as alienated as each other we'd just feel left out, right?(less)