My usual cafe is closed for refurbishment, so I am frequenting the next-door cafe on a Saturday morning. I have looked longingly through the windows of this next-door cafe for many months. Of course, complex cafe politics has meant that I have been unable to shift allegiance. Now I have carte blanche to change, no strings attached, and, inevitably, it is a disappointment. The way this new cafe works – I shall call it Scarlet and Black – is novel. It ostensibly doubles as a book shop, although nobody ever buys the books. They are mostly cooking and life style books and children’s books. They provide an environment, an atmosphere.
One of the books on display yesterday was called ‘How to talk about places you’ve never been‘. Now, over and above the inaccuracy of the grammar (where is the to?), remarkable in itself, is the revealing nature of the sentiment. It is part of a trend typified by the How to bluff your way in Existentialiam…Poiltics…Structuralism…Art Theory type books. Any knowledge or experience is mediated for you. It is not the experience that counts. It is how you trick others into admiring you. It is part of a wider trend of mediation in society in which readers interested in ideas enslave themselves to somebody else’s version of a set of ideas. Which Art students read Deleuze, Lacan, Adorno, Freud? None of them, and yet they are forever banging on about them. This in itself is part of a wider trend characterised by Wikipedia culture. We move further away from the more primary sources of information and so shackle ourselves to the potential manipulations by others.
Scarlet and Black is also noisier, by the way, and attracts customers from a narrower socio-economic tranche. I’m hoping the old cafe will be open again soon.