Thursday, September 27, 2007


On the side of a bus in Manchester yesterday was a big advertisement for the film "Run, Fatboy, Run." And on the back another advertisement for "Wayne Rooney - the Story so far", which I felt was a bit unfair on the Man Utd player. Such juxtapositions can be an advertisers' nightmare, and the web makes it worse, as those advertisers who used Facebook found themselves advertising on a BNP page. So much for affinity marketing - after all fascists need moble phones as well. You can read the Guardian's book pages and get opposing views in different articles - say, if there was an avant garde poet cheek and jowl with the new Carole Ann Duffy, you might find both reviewers would talk about them in glowing terms (different reviewers, more than likely). When this happens is an editor being merely mischievous or is it healthy? I'd say the latter, of course, though I bumped into a poet who attended the Amis/Banville/Self "debate" on Monday, who felt that they were all singing a little from the same hymn sheet, and a contrarian voice (or perhaps someone younger - or without a penis) might have made a it more of a debate. I wasn't there of course, so there might be other interpretations. The literature festival, coming up, and you look a little in vain for contrarians, and yet, in a small way this must be a victory for the sense of literature as community and for the programming of what is a relatively small lit fest on only its 2nd year. Yet I crave a bit of juxtaposition - David Peace on the Booker list, or M.I.A. vs Amy Winehouse in a tag wrestling match perhaps. One of my reasons for a continued obsession with Fitzgerald/Hemingway's friendship/falling out, is because, though supportive, both American writers, and clearly forging a new fiction together, they are so different - if there wasn't the friendship it would be hard to put the books side by side. Even when your comparing the French literary community of "Tender is the Night" and "A Moveable Feast" your coming up against contradictions, in style, in attitude and finally in personality. If "The Old man and the sea" and "The Last Tycoon" had both been their first rather than last books would we have ever even put them on the same page? And what I'm getting to here of course, is the work itself, that though we perhaps crave coherence and stability in our lives and friendships, in love and art it can be opposites attracting, and the juxtaposition is what we want. How else can you explain our new way of listening to music - random play on an iPod - so you can have Carl Cean's disco anthem "I was Born this way" (I'm happy/I'm carefree/I'm gay) next to some cock rock from AC/DC. What I want, I think, is safe old literature to begin embracing juxtaposition, taking a John Ashbery poem like "How much longer must I inhabit the divine sepulchre" with its endless juxtapositions, and saying, "yes, this is the model, this is literature."

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