Friday, July 10, 2009

New Writing

Here, there and everywhere the conversation's are the same: about the new. Literature stays quiet. Not only that, our wider writing community, bloggers, journalists, even artists in other fields, have a massive blind-spot with literature. Poetry, in particular is seen as an irrelevance. Why is this? People who would not admit ignorance of media, technology, contemporary art, films, music and politics are happy to admit not only an ignorance of literature, but not even an interest to engage. Yet people are writing, talking, communicating. At what point did literature lose its place in the tent? It seems to come from two directions - firstly, literature never has a problem when its just "books"; Phillip Pullman or Nick Hornby or J.K. Rowling or Carol Ann Duffy, whoever are perceived to be relevant voices on other topics, as long as their own books aren't seen as too difficult. Secondly, because it is the live event, or the immediacy of journalism in the 24-hour news cycle, that rules the contemporary agenda, it is the ability to perform in these places that ensures profile, value. Literature is awkward. Literature is slow. Literature is reflective. Literature is obtuse. Most of all, of course, literature is imaginative, and whether its a poem or story, the "greater truth" of the imaginative is deafened out by the immediacy of non-fiction. I've written before about writers becoming middle-men for cultural life; and it remains a problem. Scott Pack was running a book on which writer would fictionalise Jade Goody's life, a spot on analysis of one particular trope in contemporary fiction; and I've lost track of the "new plays" that are dramatisations of government reports and enquiries.

That said, I can't finish without applauding a particular non-fiction initiative, Lancaster's online Flax books is looking for bloggers to write 1000 words for their next edition, a non-fiction edition.

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