Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The Romance of the Open Road

Living as we do through an era of technological change, we might look back not only at the time that came before but also at other moments of transformation.

In chapter 5 of David Copperfield, in midsummer weather and the evening very pleasant, David travels by mail coach from Yarmouth to London. The journey takes seventeen hours. With fascination and nostalgia Dickens conjures the lost or vanishing world of coaching - a world that by the time of the publication of David Copperfield (1849-50) the railways had all but swept away; a world, moreover, that linked him with the concerns of his first fictions - The Pickwick Papers, in particular - and earliest reading - Smollett, Fielding, both referenced several times and with great fondness in David Copperfield.


We all live in the digital age now, but I remember the time before. While I was at school I never once touched a computer, and I'm only in my middle forties.

Brookner's novels belong to the last years of the analogue era. In her final novels there are one or two tentative mentions of 'e-mail' (she hyphenates the word) and mobile phones. But little more.
Observer: Pencil or pen?
Brookner: Pen.
Obs: In manuscript?
B: I haven't got any of these machines.
Obs: And do you type them up later on?
B: Yes, I do that. 

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