outwait outrun outwit


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I live on a short road. It's busy during the day, as it's the shortcut to the road to the southern part of the county. Around the corner is the place that buys wool in the area. To my right is the driveway and back entrance to my in-laws' pub. To my left are two back lots, their walls covered in red ivy that will wilt soon. One of the lots is behind a shut hotel where on disco nights the security guard would feel up the girls as they walked in. Next to the lots is what used to be the market yard, now owned by Grace Jones's road manager. Beside the market yard is a disused Protestant graveyard; on its grounds is an alleged tunnel ("William's Hole") that leads to the castle. Sometimes on sunny days children play in it. Across from the graveyard is an abandoned building with boarded-up windows in which someone has painted the spines of books. It was a girls' school built in the 18th century. On the other side of the road are three houses, one empty. During the day, I can see sheep grazing in the fields below Benbo, a mountain that is all bog, spruce plantation, and cloud. At night, one might hear the river, as I did tonight, winding its way through this town I might one day call my home.


I've just finished Greybeard by Brian Aldiss. It reminded me of William Morris's utopian novel News from Nowhere, which envisions a joyful pastoral England after the birthpangs of revolution. Here the revolution is initiated by a nuclear cataclysm that has sterilised the larger mammals of the world. There isn't much plot, only a trip down a river and into memories of the old world and its lethal order. Characters recall childhoods and former lives, over which loomed "the Accident" and the politics, war-mongering, and economic rationalism that created it. In contrast to the fear, angst, and despair of the past, the present is actually soothing, structured by a long, meandering journey into a lush, post-apocalyptic realm where national and geopolitical parameters of identity have dissolved along with the borders of the known and natural world. What is character in a world where one's sense of place is transitory, ephemeral, and shifting, when temporality has been freed from the frenetic tempo of capitalist modernity? For the protagonist, there's a great sense of relief, mixed with the memory of loss.


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