Had the culturati of the late Middle Ages possessed credit cards the piece of illuminated plastic that bears both Humument pictures and their spoken text would have been just the thing to slip into a wallet to while away their tres riches heures.
Nothing more elegant has been made under or in my name than the USB, with which Lucy trumped my original idea of having a video of selected pages, read out by their now croaky maker.
The recording was made many weeks before (at the very table on which the pages were created) with the help of Alice, plus an amazingly small microphone recommended by Tom Service. The furrowed days that followed were spent in the vain attempt to make the operation work on DVD with the deadline of the impending conference on A Humument at London University’s Birkbeck College.
But small is beautiful and a miniature son et lumière event that can slide in next to student ID card or old folks’ bus pass would have seemed unimaginatively futuristic in the kitchen scriptorium where the work was started in 1966.
It arrived on time, bang in the middle of Bloomsbury to be unveiled in the Keynes Library, no less, with the sun streaming in through open windows and people memorially smoking on the balcony. It was there I gave my own talk session to end an invigorating conference, which offered new insights, even to its subject (who was not made to feel the ghost at the feast). Papers were read, to my surprise, not by desiccated specialists in non-linear narrative but by young scholars, and to a largely youthful and cheerfully dressed audience. In the proper scheme of things these were punctuated by occasional updates of the score in the Ashes test. ‘Only connect’ shouted the room as I sat in view of Vanessa Bell’s portrait of E. M. Forster (See blog 28th August 2012) with, on my right, a painting by Duncan Grant who in his old age I once wheeled round a Royal Academy exhibition. Perhaps the USB should have been called, in memory of Virginia Woolf’s chosen brand of tobacco (she rolled her own), ‘My Mixture’.
A Humument conference at Birkbeck College, July 13th 2013.
Tom Phillips reads from A Humument USB drive is available to purchase in our online SHOP.