Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Political Writer

Because I write fiction, drama, poetry, non-fiction and music - its perhaps hard to see that my essential themes are entirely consistent. Whether I choose a particular style, or form, or subject, I would say there's always a deep seriousness to my intent if nothing else. Articulating this to a literary friend, I realised I kept coming back to the fact that I am a political writer; highly aware of the contemporary world, and how any art needs to at least acknowledge it, even if its not the explicit subject. The irony, of course, is that without being traditionally published, one's political voice is pretty muted. I was watching newsnight last night, following the government's defeat on its Religious Hatred bill amendments. Perhaps this is too technical an issue for it to have any "legs" as a news story, but already its buried away from the newspaper front pages. Today the paper's were full of the 100th British soldier to die in Iraq, and the nightly news even managed to unearth a photograph of Tony Blair's meeting with Corporal Gordon Pritchard on December 22nd in Basra. It has been a frantic political month, with an apparently radicalised government acting - depending on your views - either like a first-term government should, with radical change; or with the desperation of the late Major years (nothing to match the privatisation of the Railways yet, but we've still identity cards to come.) A political writer, I guess, might be expected to be outspoken about "issues", like Pinter, or Rowan Atkinson's criticism of the religious hatred bill. On a day that this has been going on, a Danish cartoon has outraged Muslims for depicting Mohammad, yet a fish in Rossendale is being praised for having Allah's name on it in Arabic. As a commentator you can comment on this, have an opinion on this, or a stance on this. As a political writer...? I would want to connect the Allah fish with the Danish cartoon with the Geopolitics of contemporary Iraq, with George Galloway on Big Brother, and with the launch of a the most powerful British warship today on the Clyde. But I would also want to do something else; perhaps find an allegory that could make sense of this, or an everyday experience that might be affected by this. I am a political writer, yes, but read my work, not my opinions, to understand what that might mean.

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