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The London suburbs are back. As the city centre lies stricken the suburbs are beckoning: more space, more green stuff, quieter, detached, less dense, maybe even a garden if you’re lucky. We’ve heard all this before of course; this is precisely why the suburbs were built in the first place and why people have dreamed of moving there for the last few centuries.
Yet, the London suburbs require reappraisal. They have long been simplified, overlooked or despised. This is especially true of suburban writing: we all know the ‘London’ of Shakespeare, Dickens, T S Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and many others. But the variety and richness of suburban-set literature, like the place itself, is still largely unknown.
Join Ged Pope for a whirlwind tour of some of the ways the London suburbs have been brilliantly imagined and written. From the preindustrial pastoral of Blake and Ruskin; domestic bliss in Dickens and the Grossmith Brothers; devastation brought by mass suburbia reported in Ruskin and Wells; fear of squalid mass culture in Gissing and Conan Doyle; and the ever-present comedy of so much suburban writing. Together we’ll try and answer Zadie Smith’s pressing question; ‘What kind of a place is this?’
Ged Pope is a writer, researcher and teacher. Currently he teaches London history and culture to US students at CAPA Global Education, in south Kensington. His latest book is All the Tiny Moments Blazing: A Literary Guide to Suburban London (Reaktion Books).
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