:: Buzzwords

3:AM Reloaded


What you (may have) missed on 3:AM recently:

Fiction:f stop’ by Michael Loughrey

Poetry: In the fifteenth of his Maintenant series, SJ Fowler interviews the Romanian poet Adrian Urmanov

Reviewed: Max Dunbar on Graham Robb’s Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris & Claus Hant’s Young Hitler: A Non-Fiction Novel; Karl Whitney on Eric Hazan’s The Invention of Paris: A History in Footsteps; Steve Finbow on Alan Kelly’s Let Me Die A Woman; Andrew Stevens on The Lowlife, Alexander Baron’s seminal London classic:

The Lowlife constantly, as fits the denouement, retains one eye on the past, the glorious depiction of a Jewish East End childhood of the inter-war years, Wapping as a playground and the ”geographical zones” (as Sinclair refers to them) representing stages in the author’s own life, with Aldgate and Blooms (for a ‘lowlife’ Boas dines well) as his “base”. To some extent the problem of The Lowlife for today’s reader is that the weight of obligation which marks him out from the rest of post-war Britain is simply vanished, with Baron almost predicting the convergence of drugs, prostitution and slum landlordism in the East End amid the breakdown of the traditional family and welfare dependency. We’re almost rooting for him throughout, even if we’re not supposed to. Though it’s not difficult to imagine our own Harryboy of the millennium, skilfully avoiding work while drawing his Giro in a sink estate perched on the edge of the Olympic Park in Stratford, availing himself of willing slags and the odd punt in an off-street massage parlour, especially if the modern day “Torah of the Tote” at William Hill or Paddy Power brings home the bacon (not least as the Tote’s privatised and the nearest dogs is now in Romford), while cocking a snook at the fashionable tastes of liberal leftists in today’s Stoke Newington. The problem is if we did it’d be tagged as ‘poverty porn’ from the off, amply showing why five decades on from Harryboy’s swagger down the track, The Lowlife’s reach remains as pervasive and compelling as when Baron wrote it and the punks noticed it.

First posted: Sunday, May 30th, 2010.

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