Strangers and Brothers

'Strangers and Brothers,' later retitled 'George Passant.'

‘Strangers and Brothers,’ later retitled ‘George Passant.’

I’m currently reading the first entry in C.P. Snow’s series Strangers and Brothers, which he published between 1940 and 1970 — a series of books about (in no particular order) friendship, power, ethics, and (more I think than anything else) a sort of vanishing-but-not-yet-gone kind of English masculinity. A single character — the authorial stand-in Lewis Eliot — narrates each of the eleven volumes, in which he is usually at a Nick Carraway-ish distance from the action, and the series itself moves with him from poor-young-striver to placid establishmentarian oldbody.

The Masters.

The Masters.

I became interested in the series after finding its most famous entry — The Masters — in an edition with a striking Edward Gorey cover. The story, about an election in an unnamed Cambridge college, is an understated drama of academic political maneuvering and shifting personal allegiances that created a kind of quiet, spellbinding air of suspense. But while it’s definitely the best-known of Snow’s otherwise completely neglected work, that’s not saying much, at least in the U.S. (the BBC freshly adapted the series for radio a few years ago). Snow himself was a physical chemist-turned-politician, and whose lecture on the “Two Cultures” (the sciences and the humanities) and the communication gap between them was widely reprinted and anthologized. (Given that it seems almost comically antiquated to worry about that *particular* cultural divide in this post-knowledge era, it’s perhaps less mysterious that few people are reading Snow.)

I’ve thought about The Masters quite a bit since then, and I’ve wanted to re-read it. I’ve read two of the other books in the series, but I thought it was time to go back and start from the beginning, to see if the whole edifice stands up. More posts to come here about the first book: originally published with the title the series eventually took, and then republished as the Victorian-sounding George Passant.

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News from the Econo-Genetic Divide

In which it’s revealed that TED, SXSW and suchlike are really all breeding experiments designed to generate a race of Master Hipsters to benevolently rule us all.

“Dan Gould, 35, who has attended Renaissance Weekends, TED, EG (Entertainment Gathering) and a number of other conferences said they are self-selecting for people who have big ideas and want to change the world.

“You’re not going to easily find someone like that on OkCupid or in a bar,” he said. “You have people who have similar values and who care about the same sorts of things.”

Mr. Gould, a founder of the video sharing site, had heard of couples who met at one conference or another, but he never gave it much thought — until he met a woman at TED. They happened to be seated near each other during a talk and, as is common at TED, they continued to bump into each other throughout the four-day conference.”

“As Kathryn Irwin, who first attended SXSW in 1994 and hasn’t missed a year since 2000, put it: “There’s been some babies, there’s been a lot of dating, and a lot of hooking up.” Not necessarily in that order. After splitting with her husband in 2009, she too jumped into the SXSW dating pool. “I was like ‘Oh my gosh, there’s so many beautiful men,’ ” she said.”

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