Since moving from Swindon to Exeter at the end of August, I have filled the car up with petrol only 4 times – rather than the at least three times a week I was used to. That must be good. I am finding it a bit odd to find myself living in the same place as I work in, and I am trying my best to stop thinking it’s really exciting to be able to go into the office at the weekend. I am adjusting to the novel possibility of bumping into one’s colleagues in the supermarket (and of having to dodge one’s students while there too). I am spending more time working in my office, but I also find it difficult to work in silence, and I am aware that you can’t really sit in your office at work with the door open playing Bremen Nacht cranked up to 11 (not, I guess, without upsetting everyone else along the corridor), so I am refining my music tastes, learning to listen softly to Thelonius Monk or Glenn Gould (that’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge of both jazz and classical music).
Amongst these new experiences of a more sedentary lifestyle, there are some things I am finding myself missing about my 2+-hour home-work and 2+hour work-home roundtrips. Mainly, I miss the people who used to accompany me to and from work during the working week:
2). I miss Courtney Barnett, and Taylor Swift, and Lucinda Williams, and Britt Daniels and all sorts of other people too, who one got to know by listening to whole albums in the car, all the way through from start to finish, as well as those friends one is more ambivalent about but who you only see once a year or so, like Supertramp or Psychedelic Furs, and who are good to listen to every so often, surely.
3). I miss Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz and the anguished liberalism of Slate’s Political Gabfest.
5). I miss David Remnick and The New Yorker’s Radio Hour.
6). I miss Eddie Mair and others on Radio 4’s PM programme.
7). I miss David Runciman and the Talking Politics podcast.
8). I miss Alec Baldwin and his friends.
9). I miss Adam Buxton (but not as much as I miss Adam and Joe on the radio).
10). And I miss those rare occasions when someone would be there with me in my car reading their own books out loud just to me – Barack Obama reading Dreams of my Father, Donna Tartt reading The Little Friend, and, back in the days of OU-audio on cassettes, Quentin Skinner explaining early modern political thought to me, just to me.
William Manchester’s The Death of a President. Utterly compelling, minute-by-minute account, I read this in one sitting at a cricket ground in Eastbourne in the summer of 1985. It may or may not be good history, in fact it’s really part of what the event became subsequently as history, but it’s a great read.
Don DeLillo’s Libra. The book the film of which didn’t get made because of Oliver Stone, apparently, according to some stories, which is a shame. One of the few novels I’ve ever read more than once (actually, the only other one is Less than Zero). Has something in it for everyone, conspiracists and Warrenistas (I just made those terms up).
Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History. The book for grown-ups.
If I had the time, I would try to make a case for why reading lots about this is actually quite significant philosophically – conspiracy theories raise interesting epistemological issues you know. But I don’t have the time. And it would be a bit embarrassing to do so. If you don’t have time to read those books today, then you might always listen to The Wedding Present’s Kennedy, The Human League’s Seconds, or The Fall’s Oswald Defence Lawyer (there are other relevant pop songs, I’m sure, but between them, these three just about cover it all). Or try to find a recording of Lenny Bruce’s shtick on Jackie Kennedy ‘hauling ass’.