Thursday, 23 June 2016

Reading for June



There are less than 10 places left on next month's Hogarth walk.

Books I've been reading this month:

Roberto Calasso   The Art of the Publisher

Guy de la Bedoyere   Roman Britain

Marc Morris   King John

Readable - if rather confusing chronologically - biography of the king whose death anniversary comes up on 18th October.

Robert Aickman   Cold Heart in Mine

Aickman's strange and unsettling tales - such as 'The Swords' in this collection - stay in the mind much longer than the vast majority of ghost stories.

John Robb   Death to Trad Rock

Skim-read after a surprisingly powerful, relentless and rocking gig by The Nightingales at The Carlisle pub in Hastings a couple of weeks ago, only temporarily halted by someone leaning on the jukebox and dislodging the plug for the mixing desk.

Brix Smith Start   The Rise, the Fall and The Rise

Fair to say that MES doesn't come out of this too well.

A. J. Lees   Mentored by a Madman: The William Burroughs Experiment

Very interesting autobiographical account by one of the world's leading neurologists of the influence of the writings and thought of William Burroughs on his scientific work, particularly with regard to drugs.  Could usefully be read in conjunction with Oliver Sacks' Awakenings (Sacks, of course, features here).  His thoughts on modern medicine (pp183-4): 'The NHS regarded neurology as an expensive, largely talking speciality with woolly outcomes and there was never enough funding.  Performance was now judged by waiting times, not quality of care or innovation.  Professionalism was being replaced by brainless accountability reflected in meaningless league tables... In the pretence to be more scientific, only the very latest and most immediate data was now considered trustworthy.  Painstaking, clinical, pharmacological observation in small numbers of patients was disparaged as "eminence based medicine". New was better than old, more was superior to little, and early detection of disease was essential - such truisms reflected the prevailing zeitgeist.'

Lees also mentions a piece of underground folklore (p.12) included in my Secret Tunnels of England.When he was training in anatomy at the London Hospital in the capital's East End: 'A rumour that passed from one generation of students to the next was that at the end of each term the mauled cadavers were transported on a dead body train from the hospital to Whitechapel station and then to a place of rest near the necropolis of Brick Lane.'  For more on this classic urban legend see here.

A friend managed to get me an inscribed copy, as I couldn't get to the book launch.  Notting Hill Editions were partially an influence on the book design of Accumulator Press.  It's a great book - I cannot comment on the scientific and medical information contained therein, but what I can say is that (adopts whining nasal tone) it would be highly unusual to get a train from Liverpool Lime Street and arrive at King's Cross (p. 7 and p.9) rather than Euston.



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