See this man here? For three months he’s been eating nothing but peas

January 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Although it trailed down areas like Wentworth Street that were residential, a lot of the prostitution took place in areas that were made up of warehouses and light industrial units. So when these got increasingly converted in loft apartments for yuppies, you found these new middle-class residents were adept at complaining to the cops about the stuff going on around their swanky conversions. The yuppies would also complain about the noise from long established businesses in the area, and I know of printing firms that had been there for years that had to move because they had so many restrictions slapped on them as regards working hours. So what happened was that things that hadn’t really been a problem to most of the working class population that lived in the area, suddenly got forced onto the council estates like the one I lived on. The yuppies really changed the character of the area and have made it a lot worse for the predominantly Muslim local population. At the same time I’d be reading stuff written by art critics in which they’d be going on about how gentrification had solved the problem of racism in the Brick Lane area. This was complete nonsense, since community self-defence against fascism had addressed the most blatantly criminal aspects of this. However, institutional racism remains a massive problem in the area and gentrification has exacerbated it in terms of housing and jobs. So it was this unpleasant process of gentrification that set me off on looking into the history of prostitution in the area between Bishopsgate and Brick Lane and attempting to rethink the way Marx uses prostitution as a metaphor for all human alienation and exploitation in capitalist societies. Since there is a rich literature about prostitution in this part of London going back at least 400 years, I found what I was assembling was also a way of looking at the representation of prostitution in English literature as a whole, and it simultaneously gave me an overview of the culturally constructed relationship between sex and death.

I’m still looking to write bad books as far as literary criticism goes since what I aim to do is go way beyond literature. The novel is a paradigmatically bourgeois cultural form, so a good novel is inherently reactionary – only bad books can be revolutionary. In Down & Out I begin by using odd elements of realism, and some of the incidents such as where I write about racist cops invading the estate to nick a burglar, were what was going on in my block as I wrote. However, this use of realist tropes becomes increasingly parodic as I move through the book and the emphasis shifts slowly from sex to death. So early in the book I am describing the actual streets used by prostitutes in the area, and I know them well because I would walk past the kerb crawlers picking up brass every night when I came home from the pub. However, as things progress rather than having the toms shifting around the streets they stood on as actually happened, I have them disguising themselves as grieving widows and soliciting in Tower Hamlets cemetery. So the book becomes utterly fantastic and this is one of the ways I accentuate my interest in the cultural construction of the relationship between sex and death.  read more

STILL: Fritz Lang

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