Spital Tongues, Newcastle. There it is, W. says, as we walk past the allotments. There it is, the terrace where my flat is buried. The dampest row of flats there ever was, W. says. The dampest Tyneside flats, built atop a culvetted river, atop a coal tunnel now used for sewage, atop old mine workings, now full of water. The dampest, most rat-infested flats, which should have been demolished a hundred years ago, but have been allowed to survive in their degradation. The last of the slums after all the slums have been cleared . . .It's barely even February, but I suspect I can already mark this one down as the funniest novel I'l read this year. And the most entertainingly biting.
And then there’s my flat, the centre of the catastrophe, W. says. My flat, a swamp in the shape of a flat, a flat-plague, interred in its pit. My flat that the sun doesn’t reach, deep underground like a mausoleum to the world’s greatest idiot. My flat, like a barrow for the greatest of imbeciles. . .
‘What possessed you to buy an underground flat?’ W. says. To be close to the earth, he says, was that it? To be close to the toads and the worms, to the creatures of the earth?
Slug trails along the floorboards. . . Curled up woodlice in room corners. . . — ‘The flat’s being taken back by nature,’ W. says. He’s right. The walls are green. Mushrooms grow from the ceiling. And then there’s the damp, of course. The ever-present damp. Is it alive? Is it dead? It’s beyond life, and beyond death, W. says. They should send scientists out to study it, my damp, W. says. They should try to communicate with it, like the scientists in Solaris. It’s more intelligent than us, W. says, he’s sure of it. My damp has something momentous to say, something profound. In fact, isn’t it speaking now, to those who have ears to hear? Isn’t it rumbling in the darkness? I should know, W. says. I live with it.—You understand the damp,’ W. says. Or rather, the damp understands itself in me.
. . .
What next?, W. wonders. What will be the next plague? There are the slugs, of course, but they’re scarcely a plague. There are the ants — and the mushrooms. But he believes something more dreadful is gathering itself in my flat, W. says. Something Lovecraftian. Something cosmic.
Monday, February 11, 2013
Out, damned damp!
Despite reasonably good intentions, I find myself once again up against it tonight, without the time I'd hoped to set aside to blog. Fortunately, however, I have in hand more good bits from Exodus, the newest novel in Lars Iyer's Spurious trilogy. Herewith, in hopes of convincing anyone who's ever worked in even the fringes of academia (or even, say, culture in general) that they should buy these books, one of my favorite bits thus far: