How can we comprehend a capital city? You might start with its own consecrated places: the palace, the parliament, the cathedral, the stock exchange. From the top deck of a tourist bus, the story that… Read article
The iron railing is one of the most pervasive yet rarely remarked features of the London cityscape. A form of street furniture that proliferated in the industrial revolution, London’s railings mark … Read article
In May I went to Kalamazoo, Michigan (pop. 74,000). The town’s attractions include the Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital Water Tower and the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, which in 2000 was voted th… Read article
Mai [1882?]Berlin. Art, my most dear Charles, art. Let me tell you how I live here: apart. Cloistered in the palace like… Read article
Jill the beauty salon owner from the West Country rides into her husband’s funeral on a black stallion with a black lace veil over her face to the tune of ‘I’ll Stand By You’. She tells the co… Read article
For an era that has embraced the microprocessor, that has mapped the infinitesimally small building blocks of life, that has broken open the atom and gawked at its floating innards, we are still obses… Read article
At dinner in north London the other night, I was wishing – not for the first time – for an off switch to my academic radar. As an anthropologist by training, it’s become habitual to see even the… Read article
However,when, during routine evictions, I discover alien pants, cinema stubs, the throwawaycomment – on a post–it – or a tiny stowawaypressed flower amid bottom drawers,I know these are my souv… Read article
I’ve been a jet anorak for as long as I can remember. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, the sort of place you’d immediately describe as ‘quiet.’ But every 10 minutes or so, an RAF Tornado fr… Read article
I am soft sift
In an hourglass—at the wall
Fast, but mined with a motion, a drift,
And it crowds and it combs to the fall;
(Gerard Manley Hopkins, ‘The Wreck of the Deutschland’)
However much we accept life’s changefulness, we cannot help looking for ways to hold things in place. For Hopkins, that meant trusting in the fixity of his God, but for others it entails more secular beliefs: in political systems; personal relationships; fetishised objects; perhaps even in art. We live according to such frameworks and their promises of order. The writing collected in Issue XII of The Junket explores how we set about structuring our world, and how restrictive or disruptive some of our ways of organising its chaos can be.
That inevitably applies to how we deal with natural phenomena: in ‘High Water’, Nabeelah Jaffer identifies the irrational attitudes that characterise efforts to reason away flooding on a large scale. But it also touches on more familiar or domestic territory. Whether we recognise it or not, our personal lives are shaped by a broad range of cultural pressures. Charlotte Faircloth looks at intensive parenting through an anthropological lens, arguing that our almost obsessive attitude to child development is an index of wider social assumptions about the individual today. In ‘Will You Feel a Presence’, Zoe Pilger pays homage to the British comedian Julia Davis, whose writing for television illuminates how deeply embedded gender stereotypes inform even the most humdrum of human interactions.
As much as we invest meaning in objects – keepsakes, mementoes, or far larger monuments – they often slip away from our intentions and come to represent things beyond our control. In ‘The Museum of Broken Relationships’, Lulah Ellender examines how very ordinary things can be transformed into emblems of disordered hearts. Digby Warde-Aldam discusses the fighter jet, ostensibly the most macho of icons, and how it has latterly become a symbol of obsolescence in the work of contemporary artists.
Writers and artists have long felt the need to classify the street life of the city. Jonathan Beckman focuses on the 18th-century journalist Louis-Sébastien Mercier, whose Tableau de Paris anatomised the pre-Revolutionary city. Matthew Ingleby investigates how modern literature and art responded to a ubiquitous item of street furniture, the iron railing, itself a means of organising boundaries between public and private space.
Cultural taxonomies can easily verge on the absurd. On a trip to a conference in smalltown Michigan, Mary Wellesley considers the academic pursuit of ‘medievalism’ and all that it strives to encompass. In ‘Size Matters’ Jonathan Pearson suggests that the tendency to quantify colossal objects using natty units of measurement has skewed our ability to imagine scale.
And then there is art. In Tim Smith-Laing’s epistolary poem, ‘Laforgue Looks on Unter den Linden’, the French poet idles away his days in Berlin, itching to etch. Few artistic tools demand as much control as the etcher’s needle: it’s as if Laforgue is hankering for a type of order that might set his imagination free.
List of Contributors
Jonathan Beckman is senior editor of Literary Review. His first book, How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette, the Stolen Diamonds and the Scandal that Shook the French Throne, was published in June 2014 by John Murray and has been shortlisted for the American Library in Paris Book Award. @thediamondgeeza
Lulah Ellender is a writer and editor, and is currently writing a book about lists. She lives in Lewes. @tallulahloorah
Charlotte Faircloth is an academic who lives in London. She is the author of Militant Lactivism? Attachment parenting and intensive motherhood in the UK and France (Berghahn Books, 2013) and co-author of Parenting Culture Studies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
Matthew Ingleby will take up a lectureship in the English department at Queen Mary, University of London in September 2014, having taught previously at UCL. He has published several articles on the relations between urban space, the everyday, and cultural production, and is the co-editor of G.K. Chesterton, London and Modernity (Bloomsbury, 2013). @matthewingleby
Tim Smith-Laing is a writer and researcher in late-medieval and Renaissance literature. He is currently based in Oxford.
Digby Warde-Aldam is a freelance writer based in a boring part of London. @DailyRecord2