Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Annual Report Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb

With Christmas nearly upon us, and the valiant British shopper returning in droves to buy Daleks, iPod Nanos and XBOXs, as well as near-record mortgage lending - pity the poor Unwins workers thrown on the pre-Xmas dole - its time to reflect on the year that was. Over Xmas period I may not be able to logon for other family members checking their emails on what may possibly be the last dial-up in Christendom by then. It's been a strangely frantic year, without signifying that much. If 2004's disasters were self-inflicted ones; 2005 the world seems a harsher place; not just the death of an old friend; or the London terror; or the horrors felt in Indonesia and Pakistan; but in the pure frenetic pace of it all. I sometimes feel the whole world is becoming a gigantic pyramid scheme, where there soon won't be anywhere to go. Wherefore art in all of this? I don't think the 21st century has yet shown its head or its hand; but I do feel there are twinklings. Surely there's a stepchange in the internet's power to influence and gain readers? The vibrancy of the Britblogs in particular, has made old media increasingly redundant. I don't think the Guardian has yet come up with an exciting new rash of writers to match its new funky size; and its also the year when listening to Radio 6 or podcasts or watching BBC3 or 4 has become the real deal, not just something at the margins. Traditional media is not sure how to respond, and so I've hardly bought a new CD or book all year - secondhand is the real treasure trove. Of the "old school" writers, "Saturday" by McEwan was neither as good or as bad as reviewers said; and "Yellow Dog" which I got round to reading was as fun a read as Richard and Judy choice "Shadow of the Wind" but probably not as well written. David Mitchell is now our best writer, it seems, fulfilling his potential with "Cloud Atlas." Outside of the "hits" I've found it harder and harder to find hidden gems. I enjoyed Tim Kendall's first poetry collection from Carcanet, "Strange Land", particularly his poetry scene epic "Ship of Fools", but found myself tired or unimpressed by the offline magazines. Did I see a good film? Or buy a great album? Its the year life took over in some ways; and as a consumer I only pecked at the service of what's out there. Even my best art experience of the year, the Summer of Love exhibition at Liverpool Tate, was retro, second-hand if you like. For my own creativity, its not been so bad; art simmers slowly, it seems, yet there's a meal at the end of it. I boiled down my poetry into a smart little set of 24 pieces; one-pagers all; sombre in tone. I also have written the best part of "novella" - which is already the longest thing I've written for 4 years. In the midst of flat moves; working hard; being a best man; the loss of a friend; and a noticeably higher cost of living; I've come out of it remarkably sane; with some writing I'm proud of and a sense that if I can can still get goosebumps at a song as daft as "My Humps" by Black Eyed Peas, then I must be doing something right.

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