Anatomy of Norbiton
July 23, 2011 6:20 AM   Subscribe

There is no paradigm for this kind of place. Accidental Norbiton is contingent, marginal, superfluous, an ugly necessity; it is like the wires coiled under your desk, behind your bookcases; it is like the suitcases gathering dust under your bed, on top of your wardrobe; an adjunct to living, part of the logistics, the bureaucracy, never what you might call life itself, the movement and centre and focus of which seem to prevail elsewhere. Perfect, then, for a life of accidental failure. Welcome to Norbiton.

Front page text from Prospectus I: Accidental Norbiton
Anatomy of Norbiton is as yet incomplete; so far as I can tell it goes up to GASTRONOMICAL, but subsequent pages all have estimated dates of publication on them, so.
Via feuilleton.
posted by carsonb (16 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Whoa, what is this? It reads like Gormenghast... But for an actual place. As if the author is skipping around the main topic and never arrives at the truth.
posted by Severian at 6:48 AM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think the author truly understands Norbiton. It's not a glass statue, ready to be placed. It's a thing in which you have to give up one's self of the absurd, like a sad clown that wanders from party to party dragging a limp bouquet of plastic flowers and a bag of the least favorite candy slung over its shoulder. This is what you see in Norbiton, if you can manage to wipe the crunchy dust from the worldview that brought you here in a hired car made of metal and dead lizards. They are all sad clowns. You get out of the car and look for a room for your stay in Anti-magnetic Norbiton, before you realize the futility. You are Tilda Swinton in a blue cap, and the concrete alchemical artifice roils under your feet, telling you what you never wanted to know: Monsters exist and they shop Norbiton in the summer heat.
posted by BeerFilter at 7:57 AM on July 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm a little sad. Before my attention span died, I would have dived deep into this. Now, I just check it out briefly, give a few small smiles, and then pass on. I probably won't remember to come back.

Norbiton.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:04 AM on July 23, 2011


Haven't read any of this yet, but just after Uni I lived in Norbiton for about 2 years. Will have to read and come back and comment later.

Sorry for adding nothing to the conversation so far!
posted by lloyder at 8:54 AM on July 23, 2011


Well, I've been reading this, and all I've got to add to the conversation is whoa.
posted by katillathehun at 9:07 AM on July 23, 2011


I started really digging this when I got to the part where he watched every single episode of every single Star Trek series in order.
posted by evisceratordeath at 9:20 AM on July 23, 2011


This seems like something that I would have found as a xeroxed, hand stapled zine at a thrift store. Pre-internet, I would have kept it as one of my prized treasures of strangeness to show friends.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 10:57 AM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


OK, I followed the links and looked deep enough to see that this IS an interesting post and an interesting site.

However, because I'm not a resident of Norbiton, I don't have the time to sort all of this out.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 11:50 AM on July 23, 2011


What is this I don't even
posted by jokeefe at 12:59 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Massive thanks to carsonb for sharing this find.

Following the site much beyond the first WTF exposure probably takes a very particular set of tastes, great patience, or already being at home in the failed life, but it's worth it, especially if you're already an admirer of, say, Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet, Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, Alan Moore's heady investigations of places, W.G. Sebald, Walter Benjamin, Jorge Luis Borges, Charles Baudelaire, Susan Sontag, M. John Harrison, Thomas De Quincey, and others (I'll spare you the entire list that, in a fit of enthusiasm, I scribbled down in a notebook). I'm only a few hours into reading, but I'll say already that I haven't been so excited by anything online in . . . I can't say how long.

If I had to put its appeal in a nutshell, I'd say the project is about falling out of reach of many of the social and psychological structures that make life intelligible (like careers, families, friendships, consumerism, etc.), then using what you still have and what you find around you to remake your life. But it doesn't go about it in a cheery, self-help way, nor a religious way, nor in terms of activism. Instead, it collides the mundane and intellectual, recognizes the way habits, expectations, stories, architecture--anything--shape our sense (or senseless) of selfhood or community, and then--maybe--offers some choices in life back to us. In describing it, I've gone off the rails somewhat by being too earnest, too broad, and too concise where the site itself sprawls and diverges, but that's at least a summary of why I think Anatomy of Norbiton matters.

However:

I am, in the site's terms, a hopeless sticker who's so far spent double the reasonable time to Ph.D. in a literature program pretending/endeavoring/refusing to write a dissertation on representations of indolence in 19th-century British literature, which is really a facade for an interest in paradigms of meaningful action in modernity, which interest is quite possibly only an excrescence of a lifetime of clinical depression.

Which is all to say, I sort of feel like this site was written just for me, but your mileage may vary wildly.
posted by Idler King at 2:20 PM on July 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


Damn. That should be "shape our sense (or senselessness) of selfhood or community."
posted by Idler King at 2:23 PM on July 23, 2011


I am, in the site's terms, a hopeless sticker who's so far spent double the reasonable time to Ph.D. in a literature program pretending/endeavoring/refusing to write a dissertation on representations of indolence in 19th-century British literature, which is really a facade for an interest in paradigms of meaningful action in modernity, which interest is quite possibly only an excrescence of a lifetime of clinical depression.

Damn, were we born on the same day?

We are, at least, citizens of the same country.

What I found on the site, once I started seriously reading, clicks and intersects with many of my own preoccupations and with what I might too-grandly call my type of scholarship. Especially this, because I love the pastoral: "The city is small and the wilderness is everywhere. Hunter Sidney holds that Norbiton: Ideal City being configured as it is, the wilderness overlies rather than surrounds the city. You step out into it merely by losing concentration for a moment."
posted by jokeefe at 2:27 PM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Relatedly-- at least partially, theory-wise: Lisa Robertson's Office for Soft Architecture.
posted by jokeefe at 2:30 PM on July 23, 2011


Moses supposes his toeses are roses/
Moses supposes erroneously


this is cool, my kinda obscuria redirection.

"In his Zibaldone or commonplace book Giovanni Rucellai diffentiates the terms in which he describes the wild and subdued arenas of his garden (at the Villa Quaracchi, notable for its formal planting and its artificial mount), among them those for paths, as here; perhaps this indicates a memory of a conversation with the architect of his gardens (reputed to be Alberti, the architect also of the Palazzo Rucellai), a dutiful replication of terminology. Rucellai, of course, was writing at the end of the quattrocento."

I read that in my P. Allen Smith voice.
posted by clavdivs at 7:15 PM on July 23, 2011


I have no idea what any of this is, except for "my new favorite thing".
posted by penduluum at 10:24 PM on July 23, 2011


Damn, were we born on the same day?

We are, at least, citizens of the same country.



It's good to have compatriots, even in obscurity and virtuality.

The site has rekindled a bit of desire to write the dissertation after all, a desire from which I thought I was finally escaping. Maybe I don't get to graduate from sticker to quitter just yet.
posted by Idler King at 10:27 PM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


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