The froth on top

This is a place for small bloggy thoughts

Technology makes it much easier to read poetry. I bought a new phone, a Pixel 4a to replace my Pixel 2 which has come to the end of its three years of security updates. The screen is the same physical size as my old phone’s but everything else has shrunk around it, so that the body takes up no more space. The pixels are much smaller, too, and this means far more characters can fit legibly on a page. So all of a sudden I can carry the whole of In Memoriam in my pocket in print as small as the India paper War and Peace I read — on shifts — working in a warehouse aged 17. This is progress you can use.

The energy with which Tennyson writes about depression is remarkable


Bloody stupid letter in the New Statesman this week: someone writes in on the science vs humanities divide “There is no equivalence here. Everybody who can read has access to the humanities. The sciences require either formal training or highly skilled explanation by specialists” — as if the ability to decipher words on a page gave you access to their meaning and the capacity to engage with them. It’s perfectly obvious from dealing with newspaper readers that many of them have simply not internalised the skills needed to have a conversation with a book. I think the training required to achieve full literacy need not be formal: you can get it from your family, as Victorian women had to do, but it’s absolutely necessary. Just being “able to read” no more gives you access to the humanities than being able to operate a calculator gives you access to science.