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  • Favourite London book?
    by Skippoo at 08:22 on 05 January 2005
    I thought I'd do an Anna and draw your attention to the fact Time Out are asking readers to nominate their favourite book inspired by or set in London (nominations to books@timeout.com by Jan 26th).

    Mine has got to be Wise Children by Angela Carter, which won't win but is the best book ever, anyway (or one of) - about two sisters who live on the bastard side of Old Father Thames (in Brixton).

    I've also got a soft spot for the London bits in Zadie Smith's White Teeth (I don't care if it's cool to slate that book now - it's patchy but some of it's great). That's because it's set in NW London near where I grew up (and I'm a similar age as Smith, and she's famous and published - cow) and I can tell you that the character of Mad Mary really exists and used to get on the 32 and 16 buses, and we really all did call each other 'chiefs' when we were kids.

    And I also have to mention New Boy - William Sutcliffe's first book which is also set round bits of London I know really well and makes me wet myself on trains (well, nearly).

  • Re: Favourite London book?
    by Anna Reynolds at 09:32 on 05 January 2005
    Ooh, like this one- mine might be Look At Me, by Anita Brookner, set in and around Bayswater and even though I don't know that part of London particularly well, the descriptions of the heroine on her lonely nightly walks around there are heartbreaking.

    Or maybe our very own Shyama Perera's Haven't Stopped Dancing Yet, set in and about Paddington, with an acute flavour of that part of town and a great sense of the spirit of the time.
  • Re: Favourite London book?
    by Amos at 11:23 on 05 January 2005
    The Long Firm by Jake Arnott

    I know there has been a ton of London ganster books, films and TV, but I really liked the way he balanced the glamourous and seedy sides of London.

    I don't think everything in it worked, especially not the final section, but the early chapters - especially Jack the Hat - were great.

    I grew up in and around London and I could virtually smell Picadilliy Circus coming off the pages.
  • Re: Favourite London book?
    by Davy Skyflyer at 13:48 on 05 January 2005
    Hey Skip -

    Good thread my girl, I can begin to wipe that dribble up. That sounds rank actually, but there you go...

    Mine has to be 1984. Probably the best novel ever written, and definitely the best satire, taking a harsh but fair look at what London could've been had the Commies marched across their thick red line. Course, the really scary thing is the fact it is not only having a go at communism, but the interference of the controlling state that socialism relies on, not to mention the uses an unscrupulous political party can put technology to. And look, suddenly we are living in a world where ID cards are being pushed on us, eye scans, databases, camera's everywhere, we have a perpetual "war" with a common enemy who can't be seen nor beaten and...I need not carry on coz you know what I'm talkin about...

    The image of the Ministry buildings sticking out on a grey, post Atomic ( and pre-high rise) London skyline is one that sticks with me.

    Orwell - Friggin genius. Where was he on the top ten Briton list? Not Royal enough I guess...

  • Re: Favourite London book?
    by Sue H at 15:20 on 05 January 2005
    The People of the Abyss by Jack London. In fact I think I'll go and re-read it now!!
  • Re: Favourite London book?
    by Skippoo at 16:23 on 05 January 2005
    Lowering the tone again, Davster, with your dribble. Damn good choice for 1984 even though I don't remember anything specifically London-y about it (but as far as Utopian novels go Clockwork Orange slightly has the edge for me). I haven't read anyone else's choices, sorry....

    I can just hear Brownie singing now 'ID cards won't stop no hijacked jet', etc.

    A very London-y recent book was Patrick Neate's London Pigeon Wars, which was interesting, but I don't think it was really that good. And I just thought of another: Victor Headley's Yardie, a newer spin to the London gangster thing.

  • Re: Favourite London book?
    by Cea at 22:12 on 05 January 2005
    Perhaps not my favourite London book but a good one nonetheless - Dead Air, by Iain Banks.

  • Re: Favourite London book?
    by Davy Skyflyer at 10:43 on 06 January 2005
    Mornin Skip

    It's all set in London innit, only it's not called London anymore, and England is just Landing Strip...oh, you've all read it? Okay I'll shut up!

    Distopian, by the way, unless you are a bona fide Commie with a heart of purest Red, which I know you're not. Really.

    Clockwork Orange is good too, but I think Orwell's more hardhitting and archetypal.

    I hope Mr Brown and others (all of us) stand up to the ID cards - I know I'll be there with Brownie when the revolution comes, s'long as it's not a red one!

    Anyway, haven't read these modern new fangled stories, so more recommendations pwease...
  • Re: Favourite London book?
    by Ticonderoga at 11:27 on 06 January 2005
    Sue - People of the Abyss is a stunning book; the best thing London ever wrote: it just reeks of humanity.
    BUT, my favourite would have to be almost any thing by Peter Ackroyd, who knows the city better than anyone, but especially Hawksmoor, which weaves past and present together in masterly fashion.



  • Re: Favourite London book?
    by Skippoo at 11:49 on 06 January 2005
    Alright, Dav. Nah, it's just my hair that's purest red. Anyway, you know what they say about smart @rses.... And you know I've been using all my brainpower fighting off Mr T and writing pointless essays. AND I've a sneaking suspicion your use of the word archetypal is probably wrong too (hmmph!).


    Haha, I'm just laughing at how my mention of Zadie Smith has unleashed a torrent of tooth whitener ads down the side of the page. Well, you know, it doesn't matter if we're black, white, yellow, distopians or utopians, red-hearted or red-haired as long as we've all got white teeth....
  • Re: Favourite London book?
    by Davy Skyflyer at 12:10 on 06 January 2005
    Soz didn't mean to be a smart arse there Skip, and you're probably right too. They don't call me Mr Pretentious for nothin you know. Actually I pay them by direct debit, it's quick and easy...yeah yeah shut yer face we've heard that one before etc etc.

    I just think it is archetypal coz it sets an image of totalitarianism and Soviet oppression that will last forever, or until someone burns all the remaining copies. Before this book, people perhaps didn't think of Stalinist USSR as bad as say Nazi Germany. Obviously I don't know that for sure, but the power of this book tends to lead me to think that.

    As you are aware, you flame haired distopian minx, I'm no expert so am probably talkin what they tend to term a right load of old bollocks.

  • Re: Favourite London book?
    by Skippoo at 12:18 on 06 January 2005
    Of course I was only joking, Dav. Have you read Farenheit 451? Not set in London at all, but thought I'd ask.

    Hmmm, I've actually been called a flame-haired minx before, but never with the distopian.

    Anyway, back to writing crap about 20th century psychologist Carl Roger's pioneering of the client-centred and humanistic approach and how it influences my role as a Personal Adviser. Yawn....
  • Re: Favourite London book?
    by Skippoo at 10:40 on 07 January 2005
    I just thought of an obvious one no one's mentioned. Virigina Woolf's Mrs Dalloway - can't get much more London than that (there you go, Dav - not too new for you?)


    p.s. Don't worry everyone, I'll just carry on this thread on my own (sniff).
  • Re: Favourite London book?
    by Anna Reynolds at 11:00 on 07 January 2005
    When you set up this thread I realised I couldn't think of many Londoncentric books- other than Anita Brookner, who nearly always focuses on the same area- so now it's got me thinking.
  • Re: Favourite London book?
    by Skippoo at 11:09 on 07 January 2005
    I was only joking. Anita Brookner is somewhere on my very long 'to read' list for this year, though.
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