Sunday, April 11, 2010

McEwan Over London

"Whichever direction his gaze fell, this was home, his native corner of the planet. The fields and hedgerows, once tended by medieval peasants and eighteenth-century laborers, still visibly patterened the land in irregular quadrilaterals, and every brook, fence, and pigsty, virtually every tree, was known and probably named in the Domesday Book after all-conquering William in 1085 conferred with his advisers and sent his men all over England. And ever since, named again with greater refinement, owned, used, costed, traded, mortgaged; mature like a thick-crusted Stilton, as richly stuffed with varied humanity as Babel, as historical as the Nile Delta, teeming like a charnel house with ghosts, in public discourse as dissonant as a rookery in full throat. One day this brash and ancient kingdom might yield to the force of multiple cravings, to the dreamy temptations of a giant metropolis, a Mexico City, São Paulo, and Los Angeles combined, to effloresce from London to the Medway to Southampton to Oxford, back to London, a modern form of quadrilateral, burying all previous hedges and trees. Who knew, perhaps it would be a triumph of racial harmony and brilliant buildings, a world city, the most admired world city in the world.

How, wondered Beard as his plane at last quit the stack on a banking hairpin tangent and lined itself up north of the Thames to begin its descent, could we ever begin to restrain ourselves? We appeared, at this height, like a spreading lichen, a ravaging bloom of algae, a mold enveloping a soft fruit--we were such a wild success. Up there with the spores!"

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