‘Things don’t have to be the way they are’


Sometimes I get the feeling my bookshelves, when I have bookshelves, contain just litanies of the dead. One of the miraculous aspects of art is the ability to hear the dead speak, sometimes across vast reaches of time, inside your head. There comes a point though, perhaps just a passing mood, where such collections resemble mausoleums. We may have all this culture that came before at our disposal (an apt word) but we are shipwrecked to an extent from the past, and at times bereft from an absence of direct immersement in it. What would it have been like to have been alive and aware when a new Shakespeare play was unveiled? To have attended the Neue Club evenings in Berlin 1910 or conversed with the Russian Futurists? Nostalgia is, of course, a betrayal of the present but recently, whilst reading Dan Franck’s The Bohemians and Roger Shattuck’s The Banquet Years (both brilliant incidentally), I found myself envying the tales of Jarry, Apollinaire, Satie and all the rest. I have been fortunate to have known some fascinating and talented people but you find yourself asking, where are the likes of these people?

Well, Momus is one.

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