"Seediness has a very deep appeal ... It seems to satisfy, temporarily, the sense of nostalgia for something lost." - Graham Greene (that's the quote you were thinking of Simon, I reckon)
Hmm rottenness --- wasn't Johnny Rotten famously a Greene fan? Rotten dentistry British teeth....
Also cf Julie Burchill's magisterial essay on Greene, 'Greeneland'
Robin comes back on ruinationalism...... I think this can be opposed to what I once called contaminationalism. Ruinationalism (which dates back at least as far as the Romantic poets skulking around decaying churchyards and lurking amidst architectural wreckage) celebrates the sublime pleasures of the discarded, the composted, the superceded and the inutile. Contaminationalism, on the other hand, articulates a cultural politics of purity and hygiene, forever seeking to clean up, rationalize....
I have to echo Robin's dismissal of Simon's comment because:
(a) food isn't the main point any way - far more important is what Oliver stresses, the possibility of an enclave. Pret a Manger - staffed by alienated labour wage-slaves - has reduced the eating place to a drab functionalism. You don't really feel like sitting and reading, the stainless steel decor repels any desire to linger or spread out.
(b) the food isn't uniformly bad in any case. In his Classic Cafes interview, Sinclair makes a point of stressing that food is crucial to his appreciation of the caff experience. One thing that is manifestly true is that it is only in caffs that you can find a decent cup of tea or a cappuccino. Surely we can all agree that Starbucks coffee - in any of its forms - is revolting. No-one goes into Starbucks for the coffee, surely. Give me a greasy Italian cafe with an old gaggia any day. As for tea, it's a lost art. Robin, again: 'note to ‘the new brasserati’: if I wanted to dunk a teabag on a string in a cup, I’d have stayed at home. GET AN URN, wanker. And oh for a world when you could just say ‘a cup of tea’ without having to specify six-variable co-ordinates to locate the desired tea-type on the abstract phase-diagram of baroque herbal infusions.'Posted by mark at February 20, 2004 12:02 AM | TrackBack