They’re selling aids-cakes on Houghton Street again

As is compulsory when discussing German literature, here is a picture by Paul KleeI’d argue that there’s no finer way to spend an afternoon than browsing charity shops. This is probably not a popular or fashionable argument, but nonetheless I stand by it. And here is why. This Saturday I emerged from Palmers Green, in London’s famous North London, clutching carrier bags full of things and stuff. PG to the locals, Palmers Greek to the gourmands of North London, this part of Green Lanes is basically just an ordinary shopping street, an occasional taverna here, a mobile phone shop there, multiple ‘best kleftikos in London’ awards. But there’s an array of charity shops the likes of which is rarely replicated elsewhere.

 I say that, the joy of London to me is that Crouch End is worthy of a trip, Muswell Hill, Wood Green’s picking up its feet these days with a vast new Traidcraft, Walthamstow, Enfield, Stoke Newington, the list goes on. Because there’s nothing more satisfying than a bargain.

I came away on Saturday with a new selection of Hermann Hesse paperbacks and a Grant Lee Buffalo 12″, as well as a few more books, all for under a tenner. Last week I got a Mercury Rev album and Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies in hardback. Most of my library comes from stuff other people have just given away, and I thank them for it.

I bought the Hesses after I got Steppenwolf on spec (in Oxfam, Palmers Green). I happened to have just acquired Radiohead’s newest the same week, and as my obsession with that album began to border on dangerous, so it intertwined itself with Hesse’s interwar study on the mental fragilities of middle-age quite spectacularly. Prior to this, I’d been in love with songs like Videotapes and Nude, but after these couple of weeks of reading and listening (almost always at the same time, one’s reading life is mostly on the tube) I can’t think of either In Rainbows or Steppenwolf without hearing Weird Fishes/Arpeggi or All I Need. The latter’s ‘I’m an animal’ line seemed so in keeping with Hesse’s ideas of duality of soul, one animal, one human, ever in conflict. ‘Waiting in the wings’, there’s such an air of menace looming over the whole thing which matches in tone perfectly the barely-restrained, critical savagery of Steppenwolf.

I’ve been looking around and seeing if other people agree with my appreciation of the record. It seems some, of normally fine taste, do not. Others, do. I stand by my assessment that it’s great and that the overall experienced was enhanced by the happy coincidence of a well-placed companion read.

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2 Responses

  1. […] Cave, Richard Brautigan I’ve considered the convergence between music and literature before. Sometimes, the convergence of the two is quite extraordinarily apt. Sometimes, noticeably quite […]

  2. […] pleasingly dense The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse. My headphones being broken, a repeat of my first encounter with this Churman seems unlikely, but again it seems an interesting and thought-provoking read and I […]

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