Saturday, September 09, 2006

Pulp Barton

Last night, unexpectedly ended up at "Mary Barton" at the Royal Exchange. I have to say I've never read Mrs. Gaskell, apart from her life of Charlotte Bronte, and this was her first novel. Of course, part of the joy of this particular literary adaption was that the novel is squarely set in Manchester. The performance was fine, though it's almost impossible to judge these literary adaptions which strip a novel of its nuance, to find the plot, and sails close to melodrama as a result - though perhaps we should just admit it, we like seeing melodrama, and the classier the better. Got back to find "Pulp Fiction" on one of the cable channels. Here's a piece of writing where every line is a gem. It was good when it came out, but it's aged well. Will we look back on the Tarantino of "Reservoir Dogs", "Pulp Fiction", "Jackie Brown" and the 2 "Kill Bills" and realise he was one of the best? I think so - he realises, as David Foster Wallace has written in regard to television - that our writers and film makers are influenced, not by the real world, or even classical art, but by the ephemeral: the Brady bunch rather than the Odyssey; Hong Kong Phooey rather than Leonardo Da Vinci. Yet, having said that, I wonder what the next generation will feel is worthy of homage? It sometimes seems that culture is eating itself, niches within niche. Real life, like the Victorian novelists realised, remains a rich seam - and writers perhaps need to lift their heads a little more from their playstations, DVDs and yes, webpages. Whilst I'm here, I'd like to point you in the direction of This Space's musings on "The Despair of Popular Authors" (surely a Divine Comedy song in waiting?) part one and part two. Where Stephen Mitchelmore really hits on the head, is that writers like Robert Harris are always vague about who it is they're moaning about. Perhaps there's always a chance they'll be sharing a literary festival with Ali Smith or Salman Rushdie or John Banville, or whoever these "shadowy" literary writers are, taking up all those precious review space. Alternatively, what we have here is the oldest trick in the book. Robert Harris has been everywhere this week with his novel about ancient Rome; clearly not even the most fawning of interviewers actually wants to talk about his "new Labour in togas" (duh) novel - so he gives them a bit of spin.

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