A Wilderness of Tigers


The opposition between town and country is a perennial obsession of modern Western narrative art.  The idea of the division becoming diffuse and permeable, of the one bleeding through into the other, appears to be deeply threatening.  For Titus Andronicus, in a play in which precisely this bleeding effect occurs, Rome's degradation leads it to become a "wilderness of tigers".

This obsession is one that began at around the same time as modern map making.  

What people don't realise is that maps lie to us.  They present a geographical landscape which is profoundly at odds with human psychic landscapes.

We think of the town having borders, beyond which there lies the country.  No matter how we nuance this, it is untrue.  We think of the country as a great field of emptiness between cities and towns.  No matter how we nuance this, it is untrue.

What actually happens is that the further you venture into the country, the more country you find.  The country isn't a two-dimensional field, it is a three-dimension well which stretches ever downwards into more of itself.  Like the fractals generated by the Mandelbrot Set, the further you go into the country, the more it expands out ahead of you.  The more you sink down into it.  The towns get smaller, the desolation gets more and more desolate, the isolation gets more and more isolated.  The sinister vibe gets more and more sinister. 

The city, meanwhile, has no borders.  It is carried across all borders inside the mind of the city-dweller.  And all cities are connected.  If you walk far enough into London you will eventually find yourself in Paris or New York or Rome.  The more you walk into any city, the more you walk into its history, and the history of every city is the history of its relationship with other cities.  Walk far enough into modern London and you eventually find yourself in ancient Rome.


Elizabeth Sandifer 6 years, 3 months ago

Please tell me you've actually been getting into Iain Sinclair, (re)reading Big Numbers, and reading a bunch of Guy Debord and that this isn't the most shameless case of inadvertent conceptual plagiarism since I came up with The Last War in Albion before actually getting around to giving From Hell a proper reading and realizing what I was actually doing all along.

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Jack Graham 6 years, 3 months ago

I have no idea what you just said.

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Elizabeth Sandifer 6 years, 3 months ago

In both this and "The Abandoned Line," you're playing with ideas and images that are very close to those of Iain Sinclair, Alan Moore's Big Numbers, and Situationist psychogeography.

I'm wondering if they're direct influences, or if you're hitting those notes as an independent discovery of the same conceptual territory.

(I mean, you're also obviously writing about Doctor Who without bothering to watch it, which is absolutely hilarious and brilliant, but.)

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Jack Graham 6 years, 3 months ago

Sorry, who are you again?

But seriously... I've never read any Iain Sinclair, or Big Numbers. The Situationists are an influence though, obviously. Mainly I'm just playing around with stuff swimming around in my head at the moment.

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Elizabeth Sandifer 6 years, 3 months ago

You should probably look at some Sinclair sometime. The general consensus is that his older stuff is his best.

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Gavin Burrows 6 years, 3 months ago

"you're also obviously writing about Doctor Who without bothering to watch it"

Curses! I've been doing it the wrong way round!

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Josh Marsfelder 6 years, 3 months ago

Have you ever read David Turnbull's Masons, Tricksters and Cartographers?

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Jack Graham 6 years, 3 months ago

You lot really are making me feel profoundly ignorant today.

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