Sunday, 4 August 2013

Preaching to the Complacent

  Is it just me or has The Guardian Weekend Edition become more and more an unchallenging reiteration of middle-class assumptions and idées reçues, more commonly known as stating the bleedin' obvious while missing the point? In the News section we find a potentially interesting and timely piece by Peter Walker about "the new gentrification" in London: trouble is, his main focus is on Brixton, where gentrification has been going on for about fifteen years; equally, the rebranding of Brixton Village is hardly news. It would have been more pertinent, perhaps, to explore how gentrification has in more recent years spread south from Brixton to areas like Peckham. Luckily, as Walker explains, gentrification is "helping to lift some desperately poor areas out of deprivation" - by forcing all the poor people to move to other deprived areas, perhaps?
   Turning to the Review section, the lead article sees Will Self get all Ronnie Laing on our arses with a scathing critique of how the psychiatric profession is in thrall to "big pharma" thereby keeping us all doped up on Prozac which doesn't even work anyway. The trite countercultural memes come so thick and fast it feels like you're back at one of those dinner-parties in your 20s when everyone thought it was cool to talk about drugs and you got stuck - bored out of your mind - next to the weird-eyed, been-there/done-that maverick who's seen through all the lies...
   More modestly, what Zadie Smith wanted do in writing NW was "to create people in language", her model for this being Virginia Woolf who "loved language and people simultaneously". I'm an admirer of Woolf's novels and their innovative use of language but did she really love people? Others in her upper-middle class and aristocratic circles, maybe. The journals Smith says she pores over demonstrate not just snobbery but class-bigotry as well as a character Doris Lessing describes as that of a "spiteful, malicious woman" (cf. William Boyd's Any Human Heart.)
   And then we open the supplement on 'England's Forests' and find useful guides on how to climb trees and play Pooh Sticks!

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