Thursday, 20 October 2011

Life In The Post-Literate World - Featuring Martin Amis And Other Literary Dinosaurs

As I told Tim Footman this morning, post literacy is where it’s @, although I was joking, more or less. Just as he writes that his ‘only creative impulse is to leach moderately amusing photos from other people’s Facebook posts’ I too have felt stuck in a similar ‘loop of post-literacy’. My main urge recently has been to post scans from magazines - well, with as many Playboy magazines as I have, you would too.
   The lapse in ‘non-literacy’ is surely a result of our times - yes, I blame other forces rather than my own  creative inertia.  I blame Twitter and it’s 140 character rule. I blame Facebook for allowing comments but largely encouraging one click of approval.
   One day the only option will be to choose a thought, concept, philosophy, text of any kind, and click on it instead of writing anything yourself. I guess there already is; it’s called plagiarism. Even emails feels as if they’ve been consigned to the dump where letter-writing has long resided.
   Yet there’s supposed to be a boom in self-publishing (Kindle, of course, not old-school paper!). As for the blogging boom (whenever that was), it appears to have evolved into a full-throttle race to compile the funniest, strangest, most interesting images from the present to the much-loved Past. Retro sites appear to be an irresistible force, there being so much documentation in the form of book/LP covers, photos and film from that ‘foreign land’ where the sun never sets, and we all speak the same language: Nostalgia.
   Novels are still being written, and presumably more than a few people are interested in who won the Man Booker prize. The Guardian recently produced a guide called ‘How To Write Fiction’, the best thing about it being Geoff Dyer’s introduction in which he stakes a claim for freedom. ‘Feel free to dispute or ignore everything in this introduction or in the articles that follow’, he says. David Hare’s idea that ‘The two most depressing words in the English language are ‘literary fiction’ is used, which Dyer backs up by saying ‘literary fiction does not set a standard that is to be aspired to, it describes a habit of convention that people – writers and readers alike – collapse into, like a comfy old sofa’. Hear, hear! But tell that to everyone attending the various ‘Guardian Master Class’ events, featuring Sarah Dunant, Toby Litt and a host of other groundbreaking anti-Literary Fictioneers. Tell Guardian readers who pay for a Writing Workshop holiday in Tuscany (free wine and food).
   Did Joyce, Burroughs, B. S. Johnson and David Markson write in vain? Yes, because most of us prefer that comfy sofa to the cutting-edge (very uncomfortable indeed!).
   Kathy Acker can shout ‘make it new!’ from her grave, and J.G. Ballard can turn in his, mumbling, again, that ‘we’re just drowning under manufactured fiction’. No-one is listening, no-one cares. The asteroid that’s big enough to wipe the beast called Literary Fictionaurus off the face of the earth has yet to arrive, and should you dream of such mass extinction, don’t hold your breath.
   Amis, Rushdie, Roth and Angelou (literature’s answer to Crosby, Still, Nash and Young, surely, if they ever read together, which is unlikely) along with rest, are asteroid-proof . Literary Fiction is the gold standard which all wannabes aspire to, unless J. K. Rowling or Tony Parsons are the role models. It’s not an option, it’s not even a genre, it’s the anti-genre because the rest is ‘genre fiction’. These Greats are beyond genre (yes, I know Amis dabbled in Crime) because the calling of The Author is to define and describe Life for us all, to make manifest in characters the very essence of what it means to Exist – oh yes! And which reader, in their right mind, would pass up on the chance to learn all that in 200 pages?
   Talking of pages, it really is time to close this one. I have talked for long enough; far too long for the post-modern blogging era. I’d hate to be thought of as old-fashioned, you know.  Next I shall post some nice pictures. Now, where are those Playboy magazines?

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