Saturday, July 07, 2018

What a Time to be Alive

Being a writer of contemporary fiction I always try and keep a keen eye on the zeitgeist. As you get older its interesting that ones concerns change a little: I'm not so much perplexed by the success of say, Drake, the Greatest Showman, and Love Island, as disinterested. Had I kids then I guess I'd be sharing their enthusiasms, as it is I realise that my own interests and fascinations aren't necessarily stuck in amber, but are perhaps a different pace, a different timbre.

Where that leaves one as a writer is another question. I'm just reading David Grossman's "A Horse Walks into a Bar" and finding it a little dated in its protagonist, and its concerns, and its way of telling them - yet I suspect my own approach is also not as contemporary as my material. The appreciation of fine wines as one gets older is also accompanied by an appreciation that too much of a good thing can kill you, or at least give you health problems.

Ah well, we are what we consume: and so I'm glad to be missing Love Island at least. I've been busy, and I've been too busy - the latter meaning I've not really much to say about literary matters. Yet I'm also acutely aware that the usual "end of year" sense of the British summer, is heightened this year by two things: by the unexpected and uninterrupted hot spell (the longest winter is just a distant memory now), and by the England football team overperforming in the World Cup. Its now an all European competition after Belgium lived up to their potential and beat Brazil last night. England have Sweden this afternoon before a potential semi-final against either Croatia or Russia. All three sides are eminently beatable, or, lets not forget we are England, eminently able to beat us. Despite Pickford's penalty shootout success, we've not yet to have a clean sheet at this World Cup - lucky that most of the goals against us have been late ones that have meant less.

The summer is already one that is burning into memory like that of 1976, with the accompanying moor fires of Saddleworth leavening an acrid burning smell over Manchester city centre for over a week, it feels like a moment when you could set a story, live a life. It's also interesting that the hot weather and the football make one put other things on hold a little - its better to stare at the unexpected moment: this is the new plan, whatever your previous ones were.

But I have stepped out to a couple of things. I enjoyed the launch of the Banned Books exhibition at the Anthony Burgess foundation last week. Worth a look. Pleased to see I'd got a few of the pulpier ones - Dennis Wheatley, Lesley Phillips.  Burgess had moved to Malta with his second wife Liana, in the late sixties avoiding high tax rates amongst other things. Malta was (and is) a censorious place - and his books were impounded and burned. They've recreated the collection as much as they can (some titles are ambiguous). He was in Malta for a few years, and only left after getting into more trouble politically, and having his house briefly impounded by the authorities. Malta is the model for the start of "Earthly Powers" which he began writing there.

You can do a nice little tour round that part of town at present - as a new show opened last night at HOME, a mix of retrospective and new work from Phil Collins, and 3 MFA graduates from Manchester School of Art are included in a group show at Castlefield Gallery, minimalist work mixing the personal and political.

A couple of fascinating literary events are coming up: a talk about his book on depitctions of terrorism in 1970s novels from Joe Darlington particularly interests me this Thursday - whilst the following week, Carcanet have a summer party, taking place in Castlefield Gallery.

Finally, I'm very pleased to say that I've a story in Best British Stories 2018 from Salt, alongside the usual fascinating mix of writers - out next week.

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