Coe and Dyer

A little light reading – Jonathan Coe perhaps always my favourite comfort read – he’s just a little older than me, from Birmingham (rather than Wolverhampton), similar cultural references, although he is a fan, aficionado and performer of prog rock (and I would rather not be). He usually makes me actually chuckle at least once in each book. Touch of Love was his first published book in the late 80s, usual themes of slightly unfulfilled lives in unfashionable suburbia in the midlands, awkward miscommunications, a particular middle class Englishness, nostalgia, befuddled political sensibilities and limited self-awareness – I think that applies to both of these books, although Expo 58 has a more internationalist flavour and somewhat sentimental romantic tendencies – plus it’s instructive to re-read this after Brexit, after the referendum – J Coe appears very perspicacious in retrospect. I suppose even ten years ago he was keen to acknowledge and celebrate a time of internationalist/pan-European optimism, while observing the UK’s deliberately semi-detached and self-defeating stance. That’s comfort reading for you!

I picked up the Geoff Dyer book in the excellent Dartington bookshop in Totnes last week – reflections on late middle age and aging, the later works of writers/musicians/artists and tennis players. Just the book I was needing, with impeccable timing. Geoff Dyer seems to have been around forever as a cultural commentator, maybe 5 years older than me, in with all the in people, Oxford etc, now living in California, occasionally writing books on jazz or photography or travel or tennis, novels also, indulging in psychedelic drugs and serious tennis, living a remarkably comfortable life it would seem. Am I striking an appropriate tone? Or sounding slightly envious? I’m not quite sure whether he’s an admirable example or not – he seems to have very little political sensibility or awareness and that marks him down for me. But it was interesting to read through his strung-out anecdotes and apercus and tenuous links, with occasional doses of insight. What do I take away? Don’t whinge, get on with it – perhaps that’s the most useful insight for me, even if I have no doubt intended to do just that for most of the last thirty years. And don’t get bogged down in mathematical calculations in relation to time served and time remaining, regrets I’ve had a few and so forth.

Step one – write this blog more regularly.