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‘This isn’t mixing’

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A year ago, during the riots, James Meek wrote that London ‘is not the mixing city its liberal inhabitants would like to think it is. Loving the cultural diversity of London as a spectator-inhabitant is not the same as mingling with it’:

I live in Mile End, about halfway between the site of the Olympics and the closest proper looting spree that I heard of, in Bethnal Green. It was quiet here last night… On the face of it my area’s mixed, ethnically and socially. They’ve just built a new Hindu temple on Rhondda Grove. The students at the girls’ school across the road are almost entirely Muslim. The church along the way which would, I assume, be derelict otherwise, has been taken over by a black congregation. Middle-class white atheists like me sail around on our bikes to buy our coffee beans in Broadway Market or Victoria Park Village; there are Georgian houses round the corner that a million pounds wouldn’t buy you, and there’s the eastern stretch of Roman Road, with pound stores and pawn shops and elderly geezers who never made it out to Essex and a market that makes Albert Square look posh. But this isn’t mixing. It’s the ingredients for something – nobody knows what – laid out side by side and not being mixed, not touching.

Read the full post again (and quite a few interesting comments) here.

Comments on “‘This isn’t mixing’”

  1. outofdate says:

    So yesterday I was casting around for a book to read, and since newspapers no longer review anything but guaranteed bestsellers that don’t need reviewing, far less deserve it, I had a trawl around the book blogs, where I found that James Meek has a new novel out soon, which I duly pre-ordered.

    And I thought to myself: what if there were something like a Review of Books, perhaps even a London Review of Books, that had a blog where such recommendations might conveniently be found? And then I thought, you fool, of course there isn’t. They’ve just reviewed Teach Us to Sit Still by Tim Parks, another one of their own contributors, a full two years after it came out; they’ve never yet reviewed a book you might have wanted to read that you hadn’t seen reviewed in 50 other publications first and indeed already read; and anyway they don’t as a rule review books, being fully committed to impotent carping about matters of parochial policy, preferably from an ideological perspective rooted in the early to mid-20th century…

    So thank Christ for the Bookslut, twice the man you’ll ever ever be.

    • alex says:

      Clearly the true cause of the riots – logrolling and lacunarity in the reviewing trade.

      • outofdate says:

        Oh, did you think I was commenting on the matter in hand? Tch.

        No, I don’t mind the logrolling at all, on the contrary: if you’ve got good contributors, by all means plug the hell out of them. I just wish there was a bit more about books, current and forthcoming, and less about these dreary ‘issues’ we’re meant to get exercised about. There’s a case for hating John Carey, but the truest thing he ever said is that politics doesn’t matter, and anyway it’s amply taken care of elsewhere. Reviewing books, on the other hand: there a proud publication might yet strike a blow for civilisation, or fight a quixotic rearguard action, either which.

        • alex says:

          OK, got you now. By the way, you can still hate John Carey and reattribute the quote to where he probably nicked it from – I have a recollection of reading Dr. Johnson saying ‘Public affairs vex no man’, or something like it.

  2. keith smith says:

    I never thought much of Meek’s article and the fact that the Editors want to foreground it again says something unpleasant about the LRB. Meek’s key remark is “Bring on your exceptions. Bring them on by the thousand, by the ten thousand. But the truth holds: this is not the mixing city its liberal inhabitants would like to think it is”. This is the typical ploy of those who argue by assertion or example. What he’s saying is that the counter evidence, which is pretty abundant, isn’t going to be looked at and doesn’t matter anyway; a classic sign of the totalitarian state of mind.

    First time around, I just thought that poor Meek is plainly a person of limited social experience. But suppose he’s right? Would it matter? What counts in complex societies is not mixing but tolerance of difference, and although the middle classes are not great at this, the rest of London society is on the whole utterly brilliant at it.

  3. streetsj says:

    is “altough the middle classes are not great at this, the rest of London society is on the whole utterly brilliant at it” arguing by assertion?

  4. A.J.P. Crown says:

    He’s outofdate, but he’s quite right.

    I’ve noticed that elsewhere the London Review of Books is usually shortened to “The London Review” – I expect that was originally to distinguish it from the New York Review of Books, but nowadays it would be easy for a new reader to assume that the review was one of politics in London, that it didn’t have anything to do with books. Since The Editors wrote this, perhaps they could tell us why the blog has so few articles about books. Is it because the reviews are all kept for the magazine? But can’t you think of some other book-related topics, ones that you can’t fit in the magazine’s diary-type sections?

    I’m in London for a fortnight, and I just paid my first visit to the LRB Bookshop, after spending the morning at the British Museum. Not much can trump the BM, but what a wonderful bookshop to browse! From the blog, I’d expected it to be full of magazines with names like Marxism Tomorrow, that told me why Boris Johnson was a monster equal to Pinochet, and instead it turns out to have a fantastic selection of reading matter. There’s a very nice courtyard with three cafes. Why can’t this blog be in the same spirit?

    • A.J.P. Crown says:

      (And I meant ‘a new reader of the blog’, not ‘a new reader of the magazine’. The magazine doesn’t seem much like the blog at all, really. Even Tom Jones seems so much more even tempered in his delightful pieces about Italy).

  5. Harry Stopes says:

    Presumably Perry Anderson’s recent articles on India would have been more to your taste if he’d stuck to 4 paragraph appraisals of the books he read in preparation.

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