Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The second post

Reading the opening chapter of Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty I stumbled upon this line:

The second post was still scattered across the hall…

It took me a good five or six seconds to process what he meant by ‘the second post’. The novel is set in the mid-1980s, but, almost unbelievably, Royal Mail deliveries were only reduced to the once-daily mid-morning job six years ago, in 2004. Yet ‘the second post’ seemed to me like a quaintly archaic feature of a period piece - surely an indication of how spectacular has been the decline in significance of snail mail in our personal lives?

12 comments:

Willard said...

I dimly recalled the second post and the hope that something that didn't arrive by 9AM, might arrive by lunchtime. How things have changed. We're now lucky to get one post a day and don't expect first class mail to arrive the next day.

worm said...

I had a good one the other day where I paid lots of money for a VERY important work related package to come by recordeded guaranteed pre-noon next day delivery. After I waited all morning and it didn't arrive I got hold of someone who told me that 'When we say guaranteed, that doesn't actually mean "guaranteed"

Gaw said...

It was the incident in the garden square that gave me pause for thought. What do you think of it (the novel, I mean)? I thought it was overrated. But then I think that of most contemporary novels.

Brit said...

I've only just started it but it's zipping along quite well so far.

I just finished 'Netherland' (Dabbler post to come on that) and thought that was a tad overrated, though parts of it were excellent.

Gaw said...

I ended up despising Netherland. I posted on it somewhere back in me archives.

Gaw said...

The last novel I read, Netherland - which received almost universally favourable reviews - was disappointing, the more so as it was an intriguing and unusual proposition: a novel featuring a Dutch banker and his adventures with immigrant cricketers in post-9/11 New York.

However, I found it inaccurate in details, unevenly written, and self-indulgently didactic and ruminative. Elliptical but with nothing much in the gaps. Worse, it lacked emotional credibility, and too obviously strained for an off-beat profundity that in the end felt unremarkably generic.


That's what I thought of it.

Brit said...

I thought it was better than that, but basically it was a Le Carre novel without the characters and plot, or a Ballard without the ideas. Some of it was painfully self-conscious.

Gaw said...

Parts of it were much more more poorly written than a Le Carre or Ballard. There's one bit that's very self-conscious and uneven; it reads like a creative writing exercise shoe-horned in just to make up the numbers.

The book could have done with a good, old-fashioned edit. But in the end his inability to live up to his pretensions annoyed me - it was all flash and not enough technique or insight.

BTW nice analogies - but what you're left with if you take away those good bits of a Le Carre or a Ballard isn't worth much!

Hannah Stoneham said...

I am working on an archive of letters at the moment and the references to afternoon post had me thinking the same thing - because I can easily remember it being a fact of life and yet it seems also so long ago...

Susan said...

Vague memories of the second coming ... mmm

Recusant said...

I say Susan, steady on. It's far too early in the day for me to cope with steamy double entendres.

It's hard enough dealing with all those fancy descriptives in Gaw's mini-review: didactic AND ruminative, forsooth.

Gaw said...

Recu, my indigestible review seems to have communicated the sort of queasiness I felt when reading the novel. Which is a success of sorts, I suppose.