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Review: The Autumn Myth, by Joel Lane

Joel Lane's terrain is grim urban, almost unrelievedly so. It's the place that always gets it when things go wrong, even though people try to help. This can involve distributing anti-racist material where racists come armed with paving slabs. Most of us would be put off; and even the activists become ex-rebels at a reunion, looking back at some battle against corporate mendacity. 'Myth' in Lane's sense means a misrepresentation of the truth, a lie, only nominally predicated, rather than a story that embodies and helps to explain (in this case) social degradation. There are plenty of untruths, triumphant and ongoing, for these nostalgic activists to dine out on.

One looks in such a survey for relief, transcendence or self-referring metaphor. There is some, but overall it's a realist's report from the front and therefore a mite relentless, the language sometimes less memorable than the sympathy and concern. This is Lee Bank, best said than visited, though people live there, to be represented by the Red bastards who keep an eye out elsewhere for flying concrete slabs:

This estate is a place to hide
drugs, hide stolen goods, or just hide.
Tarpaulins are hoods for shattered
windows, screams no-one can hear.

Well, Lane is listening, s he does to the drowned voices of the Welsh villages inundated to provide water for Birmingham, the city whose darker flip-side he chronicles without pathos and most of us pretend doesn't exist.