Contempt for the nouveau riche is hardly limited to China, but the Chinese version is distinctive. Thanks to the legacy of Communism, almost all wealth is new wealth. There are no old aristocracies to emulate, no templates for how to spend. I asked some of the women on “Ultra Rich Asian Girls” about being the objects of both envy and censure. “In Web forums about the show, people are always, like, Why do they have to show off like that?” Weymi said with a shrug. “I don’t think I’m showing off. I’m just living my life.”
But in an important sense, the term is apt. On one level, the “Dark” in Dark Age refers not to artistic regression but to a shift toward darker themes, graphic violence, sexual explicitness, and a generally cynical tone, an approach commonly summed up by professionals and fans with two words: grim and gritty. This metonymical expression has inspired portmanteau neologisms like “grimdark” as well as related phrases like “darker and edgier” or its counterpart in superhero film, “grounded and realistic.” If Moore and Miller are the creators most responsible for this grim and gritty turn, both are ambivalent about its legacy.
On Mothering Sunday, 1924, with one war not long past and a second waiting over the horizon, young Jane Fairchild – foundling, maid to the Niven household in the green home counties, and the narrator and protagonist of Graham Swift’s enchanted novella – has no mother to go to. Instead she has “her simple liberty”, along with a book and half a crown in her pocket bestowed by a kindly employer who, his sons dead in France and his domestic staff reduced, is inclined to be indulgent to her youth.
Part of this is a mirror trick – I suddenly see myself peering back – but the rest of it is down to the effective use of space that follows when you fill bookshops with – well, books, rather than books plus stationery plus lattes. Oddly, given the disparity in size and grandeur, it has a touch of Lello, the bookshop in Porto that always appears high on lists of the world’s most beautiful places to buy books.