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The Modern Antiquarian

Adelle Stripe opens her battered copy of Julian Cope's The Modern Antiquarian and argues that this guide to Britain's neolithic remains has a strikingly modern relevance.

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"The first literary event I ever attended was a date on The Modern Antiquarian book tour at Leeds Waterstones in 1998. Having been to countless since, I can confirm that it was the finest, and therefore the Ur-reading against which all others will be judged. It helped that the author, Julian Cope, was a bona fide popstar who was quite happy to stand up in front of an audience and ad-lib his way through 60 minutes of discussion about stone circles, which was the subject of his new book. He marched into the room wearing a leopard-print hat, matching fake-fur coat, juggler leggings, big sunglasses and a pair of enormous platform boots that took his height to approximately 7ft 6in. It was an outfit that clearly meant business. At the time, I had scant knowledge of the strange pagan world that was the object of his obsession. This had culminated in him spending most of the previous eight years traipsing around windy landscapes creating this new guide to the forgotten megalithic sites of Britain that were first constructed in the late Neolithic period.

His voice was rich, velvety and ever so slightly posh; Cope was unlike anyone I had ever seen or heard before. In the grim meat-and-potatoes land of late-90s fashion, he looked like he had landed from outer space. And not in a contrived way either, though truth be told he did look like a bit of a berk. What he said that night connected with me on a superficial level. Why would we travel halfway around the world to visit the Nazca Lines or Chichén Itzá, when there were equal treasures on our doorstep, he asked. Easy for you to say that, I thought to myself, when I could barely afford the bus fare into town that night, never mind a trip to the Isle of Lewis to look at some old stones. However, my interest was piqued, as I had recently devoured a copy of Head-On and thought perhaps there was something of interest in what the Arch Drude had to say. According to Cope, Avebury, in the Marlborough Downs, was as culturally significant as The Stooges, which gave me cause to investigate his claims further, and even now, 22 years later, I am still chipping away at this idea..."


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