Tuesday, 31 July 2012


The pages in the books are blank,
The books that Robinson has read. That is his favorite chair,
Or where the chair would be if Robinson were here.

All day the phone rings. It could be Robinson
Calling. It never rings when he is here.

(Weldon Kees, ‘Robinson’)

Jack Robinson, author of Days and Nights in W12 and Recessional, didn’t come out of just nowhere. Robinson is in CĂ©line’s Journey to the End of Night (1932), a sort of alter-ego of Bardamu, the main autobiographical character. He returns, also alter-ego-ish, in the poems of Weldon Kees (1914–55), who himself didn’t so much die as disappear: his car was found abandoned near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and there have been reported sightings. Kees’s Robinson reappears in poems by Simon Armitage. In Chris Petit’s 1993 novel Robinson he’s a a Soho fixer, dealer and pornographer. He’s back again in three films by Patrick Keiller, London (1994), Robinson in Space (1997; the above image from this film) and Robinson in Ruins (2010), in which – quote from the Tate website on a current exhibition at Tate Britain entitled ‘The Robinson Institute’ – ‘a fictional, unseen scholar Robinson undertakes exploratory journeys around England’. (An LRB piece on that exhibition describes Keiller’s practice as combining ‘extremely laconic imagery … with more or less ironised, more or less fictional, increasingly erudite voiceovers’ – which could also apply to Days and Nights in W12.) I doubt we’ve seen the last of Robinson. From Kees, ‘Aspects of Robinson’:

Robinson walking in the Park, admiring the elephant.
Robinson buying the Tribune, Robinson buying the Times. Robinson
Saying, “Hello. Yes, this is Robinson. Sunday
At five? I’d love to. Pretty well. And you?”


stw said...

He turns up a lot doesn't he? Here's my old contribution to Robinson studies:

charles said...

This is rich material - thank you. Lots of trails to follow. There is also Mrs Robinson, of course, who in The Graduate seduced the young Dustin Hoffman - I assume she was going through a bad patch with Robinson himself at the time.