The day starts now

Summer morning reading from the LRB archive by Angela Carter, Eleanor Birne, Steven Shapin, Tom Crewe, Patrick McGuinness and Jenny Diski. 

Story: ‘Mise-en-Scène for a Parricide’

Angela Carter, 3 September 1981

Hot, hot, hot . . . very early in the morning, before the factory whistle, but, even at this hour, everything shimmers and quivers under the attack of the white, furious sun already high in the still air.

All three of Ali Smith’s novels are set in holiday places. Caravan sites, hotels and holiday houses: the people in them don’t quite fit. In The Accidental, the Smart family are exiled from the comforts of Islington, stranded in a ‘substandard’ holiday house in the strange flat lands of East Anglia. Smith lifts her characters out of society and forces them into an isolation where anything can happen.

17th-century Londoners saw coffee initially as a powerful drug, and only by and by came to regard it in non-medical terms. Above all, it was said to sharpen the wits – an effect related to, but distinct from, its encouragement of wakefulness. If rational discourse was what you wanted, then coffee was the drink for you.

For some, there were real, actual holidays. Most of them to somewhere else in Britain. Some of them only for a day: a hot rush on a train, mothers and children flocking down to the beach, fathers to the pub, everyone back by bedtime. Some got to go to Butlin’s for a week (which sounds great).

Diary: Railway Poetry

Patrick McGuinness, 2 November 2017

In Europe what you hear on trains is minimal and informative: you get told your destination and the stops as they approach. In Britain it’s a relentless patter of pseudo-information aimed at pseudo-customers by people running a pseudo-business. You don’t ‘read’ the safety instructions, you ‘take some time to familiarise yourself with’ them. Your belongings must always be ‘personal’, and in case you were wondering, as you neared your ‘station stop’, what to do with them, you are ‘advised to remember to take them with you’.

On the Beach: Privacy

Jenny Diski, 28 July 2011

Christena Nippert-Eng loves the beach in spite of the noise, the bugs, the pebbles, the filth and the fact that her dermatologist insists she wear factor-60 sunscreen from April to October. It’s a nexus thing for her and she is quite lyrical about it.

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