status update: the FB has a new look. Due to work, I’d been blissfully unaware of it till, errm, today. It’s interesting: more bloggish, visually rather nice so far. And biographical. There’s a timeline, that looks like this:

and one’s stuff is attached to a sort of central spinal column; all very embodied etc.

That visual spatial element, and the meshing of space and time, is a nice touch. You become and are your page. And it grows with you.

There is, however, the issue of growth. Status updates have become more complex over the years. I liked the old format, which would start with your name and would force you, were you a geeky grammatically-correct sort of person, to use a verb: “Queen Victoria is dead.” I didn’t like the term “status” but I did like the connotation of “state of being/mind.” But things have developed. Now you get to worry and fret as to whether that thing you decided to share with all your “friends” is technically a change in your “status” or a “life event” (I don’t use “place” for tedious reasons, and never quite figured out the point of “photo” given that you can post up the exact same item in “status.” I digress.)

I’ve already had a finger-knawing moment or two on the status/life event divide. Mercifully, you get a choice of standard more likely options. Given that this new feature probably included some FB user data analysis in its construction, what constitutes a “life event” might be informative–be that for now, for the future, or to see how these things morph along the way–on human existence, the meaning of life, self-perception, self-reporting (and how it might or might not correspond to narratives told by others), and matters generally historical, categorical, ontological, and literary/fictitious.

Here’s life in 2012:


Problem: I have an item to report which fits into all of these categories (and this is a branching-tree rather than a networked scheme). It’s an important one, because it’s a thing to share.

On the 13th of December 2011, Russell Hoban died. I was sad, because he wrote one of my favourite books ever, a favourite when I was a child and reread later. I bought it with book tokens, on one of those epic trips to James Thin in Edinburgh, some point around 1981 or so: back in the day when Thin’s was a proper decent bookshop; when you could put together all the book tokens you’d got from relatives (because once they’ve figured out you’re a bookworm, all gifts become easy and happy for all concerned) and leave the shop staggering under the weight of your bags and yet have only spent about £20; when this treasure would keep you going and well-nourished until the next Time of Gifts. I think I bought this Hoban book around about the time I first got “into” Rosemary Sutcliffe: so a first introduction to Medievalism and to metaphorical, allegorical, fabulous, and speculative kinds of writing and thinking. My parents might give me a little guidance, the booksellers too, but generally I’d mosey around and find stuff, and usually it was a good find, a good nose. Thoughts of Hoban brought back fond memories of a grand era.

Personal loadings and context aside: this is one wonderful book; very strange and marvellous, dark and light, with bitterness and pathos and delight; relishing in a love of words, punning, witty, charming; written in a limpid pellucid prose the likes of which someone like me can only mavel at. It’s called The Mouse and his Child and I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. Everyone. Absolutely everyone. Warning: beautiful, haunting, will still bring you to tears on every rereading.

But then, lo, a revelation: I had no idea that Russell Hoban had written other stuff. I realised I’d read some of his other children’s books (the Frances ones: probably the Hoban work with which most people would be familiar. Lovely stuff, but not a patch on my beloved Mouse.) Then I looked into the not-children ones: partly thanks to obituaries in the Guardian and Telegraph. And in the last couple of weeks or so his works of sort of more speculative fiction have been my main extra-curricular reading (he’s written a fair range, I went straight for the jugular). They don’t feel very extra-curricular: the content, style, themes, and symbolic aspects fit very nicely with my other main current reading: rereading the Roman de la Rose for its teaching in two classes.

It’s been a time of wonder. The books arrived in the New Year. Thus far:

  • Kleinzeit
  • The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz

Next up:

  • Riddley Walker
    I’ve been sneaky and already read the Will Self introduction in the reissued edition I got (I just got el cheapo paperbacks from the cheapest current source c/o AbeBooks). I’m  being good and won’t read more till I’ve finished some more work… rewards and punishments…
  • Fremder

Concluding: Facebook, Facepalm. Not only does all the above fit into all those “life” categories: it fits into none of them. No space here for the specific item “loving Russell Hoban’s speculative fiction: sharing this with you, O my beloved friends, because I’m sharing the love, books are for sharing, and that’s what friends and books and an online community are for.”

Because, yes, let’s not forget: this is an online community, including–incorporating, incarnating–an important element of Alexander Nehemas’s idea of a “community of taste.”


Facebook: have you forgotten the point of your own existence, spending too much time snuffling around in other people’s dirty laundry?

Also, there jollywell ought to be a separate category for books. (And not like that naff old one where you’d post up what you were reading andit would look/feel/link like an Amazon storefront on a blog.)

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