I’m leaving for London for six days on Monday to visit a friend. I don’t know anything about the city at all except for what I’ve gleaned from a lifetime of listening to Elvis Costello and the Clash. I went once before, but it was for a West Indian wedding, so all I remember is drinking lots of scotch with ice in it and hearing reggae versions of songs that I never thought I’d hear reggae versions of (example). I did learn that Brixton, where the wedding took place, is not as scary as the Clash makes it out to be.
So what I should do there? You’re worldly group, so I’m looking to you for advice. Nothing too crazy, please. I’m not going kayaking on the Thames or anything like that.
Also, any good books about London? I know there’s a lot of great English books, because otherwise how could they make all those Merchant-Ivory movies, right? But a disturbing number of those books take place in the English countryside or Italy or the Punjab. And weirdly, most of the mysteries seem to take place in Oxford.
I thought about reading “Of Human Bondage” but it’s way too long. I also thought about Martin Amis, but he was once in some kind of brat pack with Chris Hitchens and that pisses me off. Plus, I don’t like literary ladies’ men, not so much because my big college crush spurned me for one (who now writes about comic books and video games for Time magazine) but because it gets in the way of the whole suffering artist thing.
What I’m looking for is something along the lines of Theodore Dreiser or Raymond Chandler, only set in London. I want to be able to learn about where Mayfair is relative to SoHo and Oxford Street, while at the same time being entertained. So far I have a book about a London detective by the guy who write Remains Of the Day. But I’ve got a long flight and a long layover in Philly on the way there, so I need more.
Thanks in advance for any wisdom you have to offer.
Update: Thanks so much to everyone for their help! One more question: my cell phone won’t work there. Is there some convenient place I can rent/buy a cheap one that will work?