Thursday, March 25, 2010

Literary London on your iPhone

The citizens of London are facing a new threat: I'm bumping into people up and down the streets of the capital. Not because I've got my nose stuck in a traditional tome — on the contrary. I've become one of those people who traipse down the street attached to their smartphone, thumbs a-go-go. Truth is, I've become hooked on this free Get London Reading app, which brings the locale you are in at any given moment to literary life.

This absorption in literary tech is not without its dangers. I came within an inch of a nasty entanglement with a cyclist at the junction of Southwark Bridge Road and Great Suffolk Street as I discovered Andrew Martin's The Necropolis Railway. I've lived in SE1 for a long time now, but embarrassingly both this novel and the historical existence of The Necropolis Railway, the "coffin-line", had escaped my notice. No longer.

When you stop and think about it, this literary landscape has always been there, remapping the physical space around us. The literary life and history which make up this alternative cartography remind us that cities are not simply a matter of bricks and mortar. Cities have a life beyond bricks, of ideas, of stories, of struggles, which books capture and preserve. In this sense, books are a very particular and important distraction. They take us out of the here and now, pushing against the constrictions of time and place.

Full report here Guardian

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