Sunday, July 3, 2011

London in literature

Margaret Atwood

The grottiness and expense of London began to get to her; she got tired of gorging on the canapés at literary launches in order to scrimp on groceries, tired of the fuggy smell of cigarettes ground into the red-and-maroon carpeting of pubs, tired of the pipes bursting every time it froze in winter, and of the Clarissas and Melissas and Penelopes at the magazine rabbiting on about how they had been literally, absolutely, totally freezing all night, and how it literally, absolutely, totally, usually never got that cold. It always got that cold. The pipes always burst. Nobody thought of putting in real pipes, ones that would not burst next time. Burst pipes were an English tradition, like so many others.

Like, for instance, English men. Charm the knickers off you with their mellow vowels and frivolous verbiage, and then, once they’d got them off, panic and run. Or else stay and whinge. The English called it whinging instead of whinging. It was better, really. Like a creaking hinge. It was a traditional compliment to be whinged at by an Englishman. It was his way of saying he trusted you, he was conferring upon you the privilege of getting to know the real him. The inner, whinging him. That was how they thought of women, secretly: whinge receptacles.

Margaret Atwood, ‘Hairball’, in Wilderness Tips, p38

London (pronounced Lun Lun) is a glorious grim city by the Damn River. Known for its chicken tikka masala, London was founded by Romans in 43 A.D. It has been destroyed several times: in 61 by the Icenic Queen, Boudicca—see sexy statue across from Big Ben; in 1666 by a great fire; during World War II by German bombers, and in the 1980’s [sic] by Margaret Thatcher, the Milk Snatcher. A vast subway system, the Tube, connects Londoners to every corner of the world. One only has to groove down an escalator at Piccadilly Circus to emerge dazed, minutes later, in Camden (New Jersey), Hong Kong, Beirut or Kingston, Jamaica. Famous Londoners, past and present, include Karl Marx, George Orwell, Bloody Mary, Simone Weil, David Blaine, the Hunchback of Notre Dame (disputed) and the One-Eyed Sheik. Whatever you do, don’t eat at Mr. Wu’s Buffet on Wardour Street. For £5, all you get us fuckin’ onion. It sucks.

Lina Dina (possibly?), ‘Guide to London’

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