Friday, 8 February 2008


During the first moments of looking at Ms Baroque in Hackney, I had an experience reminiscent of finding John Milton in Paradise or - allowing for the great differences in climate and topography - like sighting Dante in Hell. Hackney is fashionable and blissed out precisely because it's ugly, miserable and poor - and her blog is a chiaroscuro shading and realistic rendering of the contrasting elements! A reflection of the era in which she lives, and, presumably, of every wonder and predicament it ever attracted.

Last year in Hackney, police recorded a 10% rise in crimes to 2,715, including 580 violent assaults, 112 muggings and seven rapes.

The reality of the statistics can not be denied, but Ms Baroque’s own view - drawn up in terms no less haughty than misleading - is that there is no need for any heavy-handed reminder. That all situations involve adaptation, and sharing a toothbrush is no big deal. To some, admiration of politically correct multiculturalism is almost religious dogma. And while it is possible to disagree with the rationale there is no arguing with her courage. Indeed, you can always ignore a problem by pretending it doesn’t exist. But because crime does not fit into her model of Hackney, she denies its reality as a social obstruction:

‘I'm afraid the Home Secretary is reminding me of a man I once knew in Canton, CT, who would only let his teenage daughter drive into Hartford if she locked all the car doors - "and don't talk to anybody.”’

So, is this pygmy-minded giant-slaying or the honest, heart-rending truth? An irresistible, if equally irresponsible, agenda to win back control of the streets? Or the promptings of a mind inebriated with an unedited torrent of opinions, impressions and images. It seems neither! Baroque in Hackney is an encoded autobiography of the most potently unadorned kind, its focus small-scale and almost haphazard. Hackney is everything that Baroque isn’t: hooded, mean, flashy, trite, ├╝ber-trendy and chemically blissed out. And in this dismal, idyllic setting, Ms Baroque converses about matters more trivial than profound...

“...about doing admin and paying bills and buying the right kinds of light bulbs and generally trying to become a more practical person around the home”

And this is apparent to anyone who looks at it in detail. The range of vision is very introspective. But it is also of considerably greater penetration, disclosing, at its most inward recession, a universe constituted not of massive proportions and vast dimension, but of inverse magnitudes. A universe which is functional rather than delusional, the world of minute scales, of the micro-cosmos in which everything is balanced by its opposite, is held together by tension rather than harmony.

“I’ve always loved printers... they can do anything. I also love the smell of ink”

Ms Baroque, I waited until the last, hoping that you might have a little passion and a little presumption. You are a poet, critic, copywriter, editor, conversationalist, style consultant, personal shopper, siren, and - I have no doubt - a socially aspirational and sexually famished housemaid. But I am reluctant to rank you among history's most humdrum literary bloggers.

For this hardly concludes the matter.

Your pleading for life and poetry is a very intense and real entreaty. It is reserved and restrained, with barely a rhetorical flourish. Nor does it come bitterly or with torture from the heart. I was looking for someone trembling with a terrible nostalgia, for the ruins of an Italian Baroque palazzo, for traces of a turbulent storm, for the inner discontent which finds no phrasing in your calm and untouched prose. But I never expected to find a woman so unprepossessed by spiritual grandeur. At the same time I found myself deeply offended by this proof that small things can bring happiness. Hackney neatly encapsulates the Baroque persona - political and irreproachably correct, but far from being lavishly proportioned.

It is not so much what she says, or how she says it, but what she conveys through some personal distinction of her own that sets her apart from her rivals. Ask me what makes a lousy blogger and I can give you chapter and verse, but I am powerless to form an opinion on her dramatic motivation. There is no room for argument as to the efficacy of her allure, though. The logical, unemotional part of her blog is performed excellently. She seems less concerned with contributing to a manufactured image than capturing a real person.

Count her in as one who cares!

I find this profoundly heartening. Her scope is not broad. Yet, she never grows exasperating, even in irksome Hackney, no doubt, because unlike the majority of bloggers, she gets her effect from herself. There are vestiges of Ms Baroque’s confidential persona scattered throughout. Mixing brocade and velvet, poetry and T. S. Eliot with an ornate and heartfelt venom, she has personality and intelligence, as well as feminine exquisiteness.



R.H. said...

Begging your pardon but I found all this hard going.

Miss Baroque uses too many brackets, but a slum boy appreciates her clarity. Hackney has ripped off her academic bra.

But is she "socially aspirational"?

I dunno.

"Sexually famished"?

I hope so.

"Femininely exquisite"?

You bet!

Golly, forget Hackney; dis dame is a furnace.

California in cold Pommyland.

Ms Baroque said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ms Baroque said...

RH thank you for your kind comment...

I confess I found much of this Memorandum hard to follow. Its terms are both unclear and self-contradictory, and much of it doesn't seem to apply to Baroque in Hackney at all.

Are the terms of my discussion of Hackney "haughty and misleading"? I've certainly written about violence and crime in Hackney - never have I denied that it's a challenging place to live. I have, if one recalls, written about gang war and muggings and shootings and all sorts.

I'm unsure whether the implication is that to ME, "admiration of politically correct multiculturalism is almost religious dogma"? It's not clear, and certainly not clear where I came across as dogmatic. In any case, I certainly don't "deny" crime's "reality". But I do scoff, and loudly, at a Home Secretary who says she "doesn't think anyone [sic] really goes out in Hackney after dark." Two v diff things!

I'm confused, in the following paragraph - once I get past my surprise at the implication that I might be "pygmy-minded" - a capricious epithet - as to how my autobiography can be both "encoded" and "potently[?] unadorned". Surely one precludes the other? Further, as to how my focus can be both small-scale and haphazard, it being difficult, as I know only too well, to be haphazard in a small space.

And what is this giant I'm meant to be slaying? Is it Hackney?

Actually, my focus isn't as haphazard as all that. There are very specific things that interest and concern me, and they aren't that trivial. Nor are they as narrow as all the talk of my lack of range might suggest. I do write sometimes about the minutiae of life, but only as part of the bigger picture (you know - the one that develops over time), and there is always some sort of wider context, except when the main purpose is to be funny. (Having said which, some of my funniest posts, like my Lucille Ball recycling one, are also about other things, which do have a bearing on the outer world and other people.)

Again, how can a "range" of vision be "introspective"? Introspection certainly implies a narrow range of vision, but the word "range" is about how far something spreads, not in what direction. But in any case, Baroque in Hackney is not that introspective.

Much of this description simply baffles me. It doesn't seem to be about me, or Baroque, but about some ideas the author has decided to pin to it. What is clear is that it's more about the author's own delight in his [I believe] words than about me. "Functional" and "delusional" are not opposites, nor is either one particularly applicable to my concerns - except when I'm writing in jest - or semi-jest - about my own non-functionality, as when I fell over in Somerfields, eg...

I'm just not sure where these "minute scales" come from! Baroque in Hackney is about all sorts of things, and mainly about wider cultural concerns. I've written satirically, and seriously, about Martin Amis, and Germaine Greer, about current poetry and Orhan Pamuk's Nobel; I have written about various difficult issues in politics and current affairs. I wrote satirically about the Arts Council cuts and the government's paper proposing that we're in a "New Renaissance;" day before yesterday I wrote about the perilously narrow focus of current TV drama-commissioning, and its implications about contemporary cultural debate - and not for the first time. I write about movies I've seen, placing them in context and analysing them, I discuss art and photography and clothes and history. I make jokes about historical characters. So where is this minuteness supposed to be coming from? The supposed introspection of the Baroque range?

Not clear, once again: this business about hoping I might have a little passion and presumption. Is it that I DO have them, or NOT? And if not, how can this lack of presumption square with my earlier haughty terms? It's just not making sense; and, unemotional as I may be in my passion (or whatever the upshot finally is), I do like things to make at least a little bit of sense. Why "waited till the last"? It's not the last! I'm still writing it.

I'm not socially aspirational. I'm not sure where the author has got the idea from that I am; maybe he means something else.

And why on earth should I be sexually "famished"? What does anyone on the internet know about how much sex I get? Talk about presumption.

It grows increasingly unclear whether it is my blog that is being talked about here, or me. What I do know is that the terms of this "review" are rather intrusive, as well as unobservant. Of course I do believe it is for any given reader to interpret what he or she reads, but this reader seems to have invented attitudes I have never even unwittingly (yes, I'm sure) conveyed.

"Ornate and heartfelt venom?" Please.

But all right, this ornateness, heartfeltness and venom - how do they square with the assertion, two paras back, that I am "irreproachably correct, but far from being lavishly proportioned"?

And you don't have to "mix" TS Eliot and poetry, because they're already together.

There IS no logical and unemotional part of Baroque in Hackney, for the record. I generally write in an elliptical, humorous way, though sometimes things get serious. It's not reportage or straight journalism, is it.

And, linguistically again, I'm not sure "allure" can be either "efficacious" - as in, it works, like medicine - or not efficacious.

Sorry to go on at such length, but I wanted to be clear in my terms. It is disappointing to have to battle through such a torrent of verbiage just to arrive at the insight that I "never grow exasperating" and have "feminine allure" (a thing a woman would never say, at least not one who could hear herself).

Anonymous said...

.... are you saying Ms Dreamy is a man?

Selena Dreamy said...

Point taken, r.h., your confusion is entirely legitimate. But now that you have Ms Baroque’s rejoinder, my meaning should be clear!

P.S.: If you’re a Doctor, can you fix my iPod?

Selena Dreamy said...

So where is this minuteness supposed to be coming from? The supposed introspection of the Baroque range?

Unless Hackney features large, tree-lined avenues with classical perspectives, this question is interesting chiefly for how you perceive your environment, or indeed yourself. We all have an idealized picture of ourselves, which others may fail to recognize, and I was struck less by the complete pointlessness of much of your probing, then by how much it confirmed everything I have said.

Besides, is not small beautiful?

Thank you Ms Baroque for taking the time to reply to my post. Your word-count exceeds my own. I am sorry if I have offended you. You have the irrepressible energy of the underprivileged urban masses. I immensely enjoy your blog.


R.H. said...

What? Check my profile squire, I'm a stickybeak, not a surgeon.
Wake up!- present your jigger to a big brawny wiring man: a commoner!

ha ha.

And go on, don't be shy.

Waldorf Astoria, New York.

R.H. said...

I'll tell you something, I grew up in slums with no eddication, and have never minded a rub off from the astute, it's just that we don't want to be swamped by them. Okay?

And take a tip; your composition problem is saying something is less than something else -big confusion.

Don't be so wordy.


One blade to the heart is worth twenty elsewhere.


R.H. said...

If you want to kill someone kill them -straight away.

Your prose bleeds to death.

R.H. said...

Well let's just say that my comments to you are as unfair as your posting was to her.

Australian Banker's Association.

Anonymous said...

Are there bankers in Australia? Fascinating....

R.H. said...

Yup, you betcha.

an' we got that big yella thing too you probably seen on TV:

The sun.

Anonymous said...

oh no...not fascinating...the other one..

R.H. said...

Dunno what yer yelpin' bout boy. Jest don' come inna mah bank fer a loan, dogs piss on de columns.

English Department. University of Melbourne