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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"We used to live in a rolled-up newspaper..."

"The Uses Of Literacy" was published in 1957. I first read it some time in the late 60s and recently managed to get a copy through the web. Hoggart, who's Simon Hoggart's father, was interested in working class people and popular culture. The second half of his book, where he analyses pulp magazines, pop music and "a candy floss world", doesn't hold up all that well. The first half, however, is a unique, eye witness account of working class life in the back-to-backs of Leeds written by a man who had grown up in poverty and was unsentimental about it. He talks about the days when you could whistle up a reasonable choir in most streets, when most people never travelled any further than Blackpool and men would devote a whole evening to pushing a sixth hand kitchen table across the city in an old pram. It all seems as distant as the 18th century. The other day I saw a lad from the council flats round the corner from the office in the street with his muzzled attack dog. It was a hot day and so he was pouring the contents of a newly bought bottle of Evian into the dog's mouth. How Hoggart would have fitted that into his scheme I can't imagine.