Sunday, September 12, 2004


"The city itself was a revelation and a hope for this skinny little light-brown kid crossing the river on the train, passing through the slums of Herne Hill and Brixton from the suburbs. It was intimidating, a grand imperial metropolis full of massive statues: blank-faced men covered in bird-shit and medals, who had commanded armies and ruled nations. That was the Empire for me: decline, and these relics." -- Hanif Kureishi, My Ear at His Heart.

Zeugma, for the non-littish, is the governing of incompatible nouns by a single verb. In English, with so many verbs to choose from, it tends to be contrived and therefore comic -- "She left in tears and a sedan chair"; Flanders and Swann; The Rape of the Lock. Here, however, it isn't, and serves to do interesting damage to the meaning of "medals".

[My Ear at his Heart, by Hanif Kureishi (Faber and Faber, 2004). H.K. reads the manuscripts of his father's novels, using them to place dad's "semi-broken existence" in relation to his own, more successful life. A middle-aged book: there's lots about turning 50, and revelations include that there used to be more second-hand bookshops, that London's avant-gardes were less cliquey in the 70s, and that there were once lots of good songs on the radio.]

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