What I Read This Week - 12th August

The offline edition! Is this cheating? I don't care. I did read things online, too, but for whatever reason, what really stuck with me happened to come from hardbacks. - Paul Auster, The Invention of Solitude

Memory as a place, as a building, as a sequence of columns, cornices, porticoes. The body inside the mind, as if we were moving around in there, going from one place to the next, and the sound of our footsteps as we walk, moving from one place to the next. "One must constantly employ a large number of places," writes Cicero, "which must be well lighted, clearly set out in order, spaced out at moderate intervals; and images which are active, sharply defined, unusual, and which have the power of speedily encountering and penetrating the psyche...for the places are very much like wax tablets or papyrus, the images like the letters, the arrangement and disposition of the images like the script, and the speaking like the reading."


Memory as a room, as a body, as a skull, a skull that encloses the room, in which a body sits. As in the image: "a man sat alone in his room." "The power of memory is prodigious," observed St. Augustine. "It is a vast, immeasurable sanctuary. Who can plumb its depths? And yet it is a faculty of my soul. Although it is part of my nature, I cannot understand all that I am. This means, then, that the mind is too narrow to contain itself entirely. But where is that part of it which it does not itself contain? Is it somewhere outside itself and not within it? How, then, can it can it be part of it, if it is not contained in it?"

- Jonathan Meades, Museum Without Walls

Place - on no matter what scale - is one thing. Creation of place is quite another. That creation is accretive and continuous, it occurs across time. It is liable to owe as much to serendipitous juxtapositions and, on the other hand, to malign interventions, as it is to wilful design.


Place is today invariably popularly mediated, the distant is familiar. There is nowhere in the world we can go without having experienced an ocular clue to it. And an aural clue: we have heard the language and the music. And a gustatory, olfactory clue: we have tasted the food we have sniffed it - in Headingley or Redlands, Haringey or Sparkbrook. Well...a version of the food.

Today we all arrive, semi-prepared by the virtual and with unprecedentedly greedy access to the actual.