Allelujah 2019

Reading Alan Bennett’s diary for 2018 in the latest LRB.

Part of the year is devoted to the rehearsal and performance of his play Allelujah. He writes:

In Allelujah!, though, the last speech is given to Dr Valentine, an Asian doctor who came here as a young man to study medicine but who outstayed his visa. So, though he is now a good and qualified doctor and is English in all but name, he is an illegal. In the course of the play his deception is discovered and he is deported. In this final speech he addresses the audience directly and if my unmediated voice is in the play, this is it:

Me, I have no place.

‘Come unto these yellow sands and there take hands.’ Only not my hand, and so, unwelcome on these grudging shores, I must leave the burden of being English to others and become what I have always felt, a displaced person.

Why, I ask myself, should I still want to join?

What is there for me here, where education is a privilege and nationality a boast? Starving the poor and neglecting the old, what makes you so special still? There is nobody to touch you, but who wants to any more? Open your arms, England before it’s too late.

Allelujah 2019

Beyond Tsundoku

Listening to one of @backlisted podcasts (about Pierre Bayard’s book – How to talk about books you haven’t read)

This was quoted and I thought it was much more helpful than the catch-all ‘tsundoku‘. There are:

Books You Haven’t Read
Books You Needn’t Read
Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading
Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written
Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
Books Too Expensive Now and You’ll Wait ‘Til They’re Remaindered
Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback
Books You Can Borrow from Somebody
Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too
Books You’ve Been Planning to Read for Ages
Books You’ve Been Hunting for Years Without Success
Books Dealing with Something You’re Working on at the Moment
Books You Want to Own So They’ll Be Handy Just in Case
Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read This Summer
Books You Need to Go with Other Books on Your Shelves
Books That Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time to Re-read
Books You’ve Always Pretended to Have Read and Now It’s Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them” 
Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler

By the way, I can’t recommend Backlisted too highly – real, joyous, informed conversations about books. I haven’t listened to one that hasn’t had me scribbling down a title or shouting out noisy agreement.

Beyond Tsundoku

On Gods, Human Rights, and the Poet by Mona Arshi | Poetry Foundation

Powerful blog post on language, truth and the possibilities of poetry here from Mona Arshi.

On Gods, Human Rights, and the Poet by Mona Arshi | Poetry Foundation:

And if there is one thing history has taught us it’s that language can be deployed to otherize people and groups. A poem is not a human rights instrument or the pleadings in a court case, nor should it seek to be, but one activity that the human rights lawyer and poet share is the restless interrogation of language. What happens in the post-truth toxic waters, where language in politics becomes untethered from critical reason? Poetry needs to continue to strive to make space for itself and think the unthinkable, the unimaginable on the page.

On Gods, Human Rights, and the Poet by Mona Arshi | Poetry Foundation

Housing shortages and the collapse in public ownership of land

Since Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 some 2 million hectares of public land has been sold off, largely to private developers. As this useful FT piece makes clear it is the biggest privatisation we’ve never heard of.

It’s enriched developers and signally failed to encourage housebuilding on anything like the scale the country needs:

Throughout the past four decades, and especially since the global financial crisis, one of Whitehall’s principal justifications for driving the sale of public land has been to enable the private sector to build new homes on it. But it is increasingly clear that the private sector has under-delivered.

Much of the public land released to developers in recent years has not been built on but has instead simply been added to their already engorged land banks. The average number of years of housing supply sitting in the major UK housebuilders’ ‘current’ banks — those containing land that has, or is close to receiving, planning permission — doubled from around three in 2006 to around six a decade later.

Although Sir Oliver Letwin’s final report into landbanking practices was a damp squib, the letter he wrote to Philip Hammond and Sajid Javid midway through his investigations made clear the issue. When developers bank rather than build on land (including ex-public land) they do so not due to the alleged “web of commercial and industrial constraints” but because building too many homes too soon risks ‘disturbing the market price’ of housing. In other words, it hits profits.
— Read on ftalphaville.ft.com/2018/11/08/1541675709000/The-collapse-in-public-ownership-of-land/

Worth reading in full.

Housing shortages and the collapse in public ownership of land