I must say that London has become my third favourite city in the world (after Targu-Mures my hometown and Bucharest which both started in times immemorial). There is something about it that either makes you fall in love on the spot now matter how hard your life is, or you hate it and don’t know how to escape from it.
I found a really interesting book, with a cover-long title that would make people know, understand and love London even more (or just understand it if you are one of the London-haters): LONDONERS – The Days and Nights of London Now – As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It by Craig Taylor.
The book is basically a series of interviewswith various Londoners, from the lady who gave her voice to the London Tube, to tourists, immigrants, people who became Londoners, who were Londoners all their lives and those who are no longer Londoners.
The interviews are divided in three parts, each with its special subjects, from arriving, getting around, seeing the sights, earning one’s keep, loving one another, getting on with it, continuing your journey, gleaning on the margins, feeding the city, climbing the ladder, putting on a show, going out, making a life, getting along, keeping the peace, staying on top, living and dying and departing. It’s a pretty thick volume (mine has 436 pages in total, including an extensive index), but it’s not boring at all, it contains dozens of stories as the title suggests that can be a couple of pages or more, depending on the interviewees.
I recommend this book to anybody who already loves London and wants to find out more about her (sorry, I tend to personify things, landscapes, cities I love), and especially to those who don’t know anything or have ill feelings for the UK capital. I will leave you with the author’s words:
It’s been exhilarating to capture all these words, all the conversation, loose talk, asides, grumbles, false history, outright lies, wild exaggerations, declarations, mistakes, strings of anger hung with expletive, affirmations and sometimes revelations – so much that is, really, so little. The voices are here: wise and ridiculous, refuting and improving and refracting. Each of the people I talked to demonstrated the shortcoming of any A-Z. Each person added another layer of meaning to these streets.
Near the end I looked through my notebooks, the ones I had labelled ‘London Chase’. I had filled at least fourteen, and my writing became increasingly erratic and rushed as names piled upon names, directions on directions, numbers on numbers. When I open them now I can see that the act of researching this book mirrored the act of living here. I developed within myself a complicated love. I developed within myself a complicated love. London Chase – it’s exhilarating frustrating, surprising, reaffirming. It’s tiring, it’s never-ending, it fills your life. That figure I’m chasing, out in the distance, out in the grey streets, always slips away. (12)
So, to extend this idea to any city in the world: what type of [insert your city of choice] are you?
To prevent any issue, here is the complete citation of my book:
Taylor, C. (2012) Londoners – The Days and Nights of London Now – As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It. Edition 2 (first published by Granta Books in 2011). London: Granta Books.