Thursday, October 09, 2008

Where to start?

Where is one to start? With National Poetry Day, perhaps. Yes, it's here - and yet hardly here at all. Or with Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, a writer I've never heard of, I'm ashamed to say, winning the Nobel. How can it be that a writer of such stature in our cultural neighbours should be so unknown in England? Or what about the Forward Prize, won by Mick Imlah after a 20 year silence. If only other poets would take that hint! Only joking of course. The poetry prizes in this country are notoriously catholic in their that its rare for one book to even get nominated for more than one, or for one writer to consistently be listed. One has to be a little amused that the poem of the year was Don Paterson's homage to an obscure techno artist, "Love Poem for Natalie 'Tusja' Beridze," since its rare for modern culture to make more than a fleeting appearance in the poetry prizes. My Ellen Allien homage will be finished by bedtime.

Where will one end? With William Skidelsky's cry in the Guardian about the lack of contemporary novels wrestling with the corrupt wealth of the last few years. It's always "where's our Balzac/Dickens?" of course. It always both amuses and annoys me - all I can say is that when I wrote a somewhat disdainful novel "High Wire" set partly on election night 1997, and encompassing greed, IT and modern art, it wasn't what the publishers were wanting not at all, but in one of its character's Eric Mansion, a politician and a businessman, I like to think I came close to the spirit of the age...

"Sat around the table, expectantly, were the money men. The new company was being financed by a firm of venture capitalists, Innovision, whose portfolio concentrated on fast growth, high risk companies in the areas of bio-technology and information technology...

Amongst them was Eric Mansion.

...Digests of Hansard painted a picture of an economic libertarian with an off-the-peg set of right-wing social views. Eric Mansion believed in God, the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection and possibly even the bit about needles and camels, but it hadn't hindered him in making millions out of property deals with the church commissioners. He hated the E.U. but picked up European subsidies for both farming and urban renewal, so no hard feelings there. He was pro-America, Saudi, Indonesia and Beijing and would perhaps even find a good word for Castro if cigars became his next cash cow. His was the profile of a businessman through and through who cut his ideological cloth accordingly. It was Mansion's unswerving pragmatism that most frightened Adam, and he realised that the man might just as easily sit in the current cabinet as the last, a veritable Talleyrand of today."

I wrote that in 1998 - I think I might come back to Mansion, as a character, see what he's been up to!

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