Silicon Valley: Creator of a Modern Dystopia?


At my local book club last week, we mused on the fact that one person’s utopia is another person’s dystopia (the club met to scrutinize my novel, which is a dystopia set late in the 21st century). So it’s apposite that Rebecca Solnit should write in the London Review of Books about the utopia/dystopia (my words) of present-day Silicon Valley and its city neighbour San Francisco.

Silicon Valley projects a fairly clear image worldwide. I have a mental picture of glass-and-steel modernist office buildings; interior spaces scattered with pool tables and relaxation zones. And, outdoors, I see expansive and manicured greenery. Clean jobs for young techy folk. Close to utopia? Granted, I am aware of the long hours’ culture in Silicon Valley but I understand the pay is pretty good.

Solnit explains that San Francisco has become “a bedroom community for the tech capital of the world.” The tech corporations provide luxury, private buses so their staff can work as they make the long commute. According to Solnit, the influx of high-paid young people has distorted the housing market – pushing out the arty crowd. This could be the rant of someone who has ‘lost out’ but it’s an intriguing, and partly humorous, read.

Here’s Solnit’s summary but click on the link for the full story in which she compares and contrasts the tech world with the Gold Rush:

Sometimes the Google Bus just seems like one face of Janus-headed capitalism; it contains the people too valuable even to use public transport or drive themselves. In the same spaces wander homeless people undeserving of private space, or the minimum comfort and security; right by the Google bus stop on Cesar Chavez Street immigrant men from Latin America stand waiting for employers in the building trade to scoop them up, or to be arrested and deported by the government. Both sides of the divide are bleak, and the middle way is hard to find.




Off-Topic: Farnworth Society of Women’s Suffrage

I expect most of you will be off-topic for the next 24 hours so here’s another random addition to the blog. Among my dad’s books, which I’m currently sorting through, there’s a volume of poetry with a red suede cover — “Poems of Experience” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, dated 1916, published by Gay and Hancock of Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London. The suede is pretty fragile and my hands are covered in red dust.


The inscription is fascinating and I’ve no idea how this book came to my dad:

To Mrs Affleck.

a gift from the Committee of the Farnworth Society for Women’s Suffrage in commemoration of the passing of the Representation of the People Bill, and in grateful recognition of her work as Secretary 1910 – 1918.

May 15th 1918

And in case you think that intellectual property rights are mainly the burning issue for the digital age, there’s a note from Ella Wheeler Wilcox:

Any edition of my poems published in England by any firm except Messrs. Gay and Hancock is pirated and not authentic.

Nothing changes . . .

Off-Topic On A Pilgrim’s Progress


As it’s the Season of Good Cheer I thought I’d go off-topic today. I’ve been using the holiday to sort through my dad’s old books as I’m planning to arrange them on my new bookshelves. How wildly exciting – new bookshelves!

In fact many of these books were inherited from my great uncle, William Thwaites. Uncle Bill was a vicar in the North West of England, latterly in Lytham St Anne’s near Blackpool. Not surprisingly there’s a religious theme in a fair chunk of his reading material.

I’m fascinated by a miniature book in his collection, entitled The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Language of Scripture. It’s the cutest little thing. There’s no date or publisher name. Following a tiny two-page preface, the book comprises biblical quotations under headings relating to the full text of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, first published in 1678.

Uncle Bill bought an edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress published by The Book Society in London. Again, there’s no date but I’ve found a reference online that suggests it was published in 1874. So pretty old!

The little and large versions are pictured here. I expect he read the miniature while referring to the full volume.

Can anyone cast any light on this little book?