28 March 2012

The Gentle Author

Googling around – partly in preparation for a short stay in London next month, partly as a spinoff to delving into Iain Sinclair's East End – I stumbled by chance across an anonymous writer of unknown sex, using the byline 'The Gentle Author' in his or her blog 'Spitalfields Life', and found a treasure chest of articles (written every day from August 2009 to the present, which are projected to continue far into the future) about the unsung folk of Spitalfields, London, the extraordinary 'ordinary' people who people it, and the architectural features which form the backcloth to the everyday theatre of the area.

The Gentle Author's most recent blog posts are an indication of the variety of the content, often with generous photographic images: early 19th century illustrators Isaac Richard and George Cruickshank; the death two days ago of Charlie Burns, a  94-year-old who spent his later days viewing the world in a car on Bacon Street off Brick Lane, where he had spent his life; and (in a single post) paper bag seller Paul Gardner, dairyman Henry Jones, and umbrella maker Richard Ince. There is an evident compulsion for the Gentle Author to record the normally unrecorded.

Reviewers have found analogies of the Gentle Author's work in such diverse people as Chaucer, Dickens, Pepys, Orwell, Patrick Keiller, W. G. Sebald, Geoffrey Fletcher, Dr Johnson, Henry Mayhew, etc. This is indeed wonderful stuff, and it's heartening to learn that about 150 chapters of this material have been mass hard copied, and The Gentle Author's lavish book is called Spitalfields Life: In the Midst of Life I Woke to Find Myself Living in an Old House Beside Brick Lane in the East End of London, and was published by Saltyard Books earlier this month.

This is a link to the Gentle Author's
blog. S/he goes to some pains to point out the importance of the people s/he is writing about as opposed to him/herself, although a fascinating interview with him or her appears as a blog post in 'Spitalfields Life', in which the Gentle Author, in passing, mentions the influence on him/her of Kierkegaard and Raymond Williams's Culture and Society: it is here. More information on the writer can be gleaned in a Guardian article here.

I shall have much more to say about this publication in due course, although already I'm sure that this 428-page book will be quite a read.


Link to the later post:

The Gentle Author: Spitalfields Life: In the Midst of Life I Woke to Find Myself Living in an Old House beside Brick Lane in the East End of London (2012).

No comments: