February 16, 2014
December 31, 2013
The sunny river is dotted and decked with yellow, and blue, and orange, and white, and red, and pink. All the inhabitants of Hampton and Mousley dress themselves up in boating costume, and come and mooch around the lock with their dogs, and flirt, and smoke, and watch the boats, and altogether, what with the caps and jackets of the men, the pretty coloured dresses of the women, the excited dogs, the moving boats, the white sails, the pleasant landscape, and the sparkling water, it is one of the gayest sites I know of near this dull old London town.
Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men In A Boat (1889).
This is the sight near old London town:
The dull brown river is dotted and decked with cars, and road signs, and one that says ‘Ferry’ even though it’s in the middle of the wide stretch of water not at the edge, and bins for scooped-up-and-bagged dog-pooh attached to poles you can’t see because that’s how high the water’s risen, with not a dog-walker in sight and not likely since there’s no walking to be done; only wading (downcast eyes) or messing about in boats (half-smile if you’re in the boat, serious expression if you’re pushing or pulling the occupants to a place of safety).
All the inhabitants are dressed down in wellies and woolly jumpers and the occasional bib-and-tucker like the ones trawler men wear for gutting fish. No landscape: the streets awash with floodwater and abject politicians, and the military moving sandbags (in foreign news ‘military’ means coup and governments overthrown, but here in the waterlogged Home Counties the undertow is upbeat – expect to see Wills and Harry mucking in), and everyone’s gutted and the guts of Middle England are spilling into blocked drains and backing up.
Enough Prog Rock imagery – STOP!
Surrey’s inhabitants were high and dry and laughing when others were sinking into poverty 30 years ago. Half-of-me – the bitter half – doesn’t mind them getting wet. But there’s no question of them drowning. Worn down, yes, since Three Men In A Boat in Victorian high summer; nonetheless the mark of prosperous respectability remains far above flood-level.
Supposing dependence on the financial economy is also freedom from the coercive momentum of capitalist production; and supposing there is an affinity between the distinctive patterns of London’s non-productive City-type activity and contemporary cultural activity, such that the position of the subject in contemporary London culture reproduces the subject position found in the financial economy, then Singing The News is an attempt to exploit the peculiarity of this position. As the financial economy plays on the ‘real economy’ (it is both sequel and prequel), so Singing The News is a fanciful remake of ‘reality’ as reported in primary news sources.
With two provisos:
1) Attention to form is the means of reconnecting flights of fancy with the cultural corollary of abstract labour, i.e. that aspect of labour, the concrete abstraction only fully realised in capitalist production, which is truly universal, common to all. Thus form – working on a piece of writing in order to formulate it – is what makes it and the experience rendered in it, common to all (even if the further realisation of this property requires additional work on the part of readers). This in marked contrast to the formlessness characteristic of the digital conversation between ‘journalists’ and ‘the people formerly known as readers’. This kind of conversation amounts to mimicry of the financial economy; instead of answering back.
2) Whereas the spontaneously fanciful character of the financial economy tends to negate the human – this negation is widely experienced as an ‘unbearable lightness of being’, in Singing The News similarly fanciful characteristics are semi-consciously (as conscious as I can make it!) induced with the aim of adding weight to our common humanity.