Thursday, October 18, 2007

Seasons In The Sun

I haven't read Anne Enrights booker winner, nor am I likely to, but I have enjoyed the critics getting all arsy about Howard Davies comments that they generally aren't much bothered whether a book is readable or not. Call me old fashioned, call me thick if you like, but I do like a book to be readable. Someone in the Independent today said that they were glad Ian McEwan hadn't won because she had bought "Saturday" on the basis of glowing reviews but had found it mediocre. This happens all the time and I would cite the last Will Self effort as a case in point. Glowing reviews all round and the massive bloody thing is unreadable. The problem is, the media consists of a self serving hegemonic coterie of the upper middle classes who make a good living praising each others work.

I was thinking about this the other day when I was reading a Guardian thread about Brooklyn writers (prompted by the article I linked to oooohhh, yonks ago) Some people on the thread mentioned the fact that like the newish Brooklyn writers, who we must allnow disparage, our own fiction is dominated by a type, a middle class type, an angsty middle class type. It is not often that voices outside of the elite are heard and when they are, well they had better not speak too loudly. Remember the fuss when James Kelman won the Booker? The metropolitan elite were beside themselves. Call me an inverted snob, but I can never get very far into novels by the likes of Ian McEwan or the rest of our established literary elite without tossing them contemptuously aside.

Where are the Brummie writers? The authentic voice of working class middle England? They don't exist, why is that, are the people of Birmingham fit only for engineering, or service industries? There is Jonathan Coe, but, well the milieu of his Birmingham is a place I simply don't recognise, which doesn't make him a bad writer or a bad person, obviously. We also have Malcolm Bradbury and David Lodge, writing from the heart of Selly Oak.

The working class voice simply isn't heard. There is David Peace, I suppose, and the superb Niall Griffiths, but you have to search very hard for anything else. The last books by both of those writers are superb, and are full of literary merit. They are as brave as they are brilliant, and while they do get reviewed, it is without fanfare.

Scotland is full of great writers. The crime writers get their share of kudos and then there is professional bad boy Irvine Welsh but there are loads more beside, going back at least into the seventies, with Kelman remaining the capo. Some of these authors are writing brilliant prose, albeit in a particular vernacular, but just as our middle class writers apparently do, they are addressing universal themes; the difference being that they do it with verve and energy: the writing is much better, much more vivid than the established writers who fill up all the review pages, yet you have to search them out. You have to wait for someone like Bob Piper to tell you about them.

So sod the Booker and sod the arts pages. If you haven't read any of these buggers, do so as soon as you can and then search more out: James Kelman, William Mcillivany, Allan Guthrie, Ray Banks, David Peace, Niall Grifiths. There are loads more and that's without even starting on Irish and American writers but it's getting late and dredging my memory is giving me a headache, plus, I have to finish Ake Edwardsons Frozen Tracks.

Edwardson is new to me and as usual I have started with the last one in a series, rather than the first, but what the hell. This is not exactly an enjoyable book but I have enjoyed reading it as much as any I have read for ages. It is slow, almost ponderous, but that is part of its charm, you sink into it over time, it is a book to relax with. It bills itself as a "Winter" novel but it doesn't concentrate on this one character; it pays as much attention to the hinterlands of an entire squad of detectives plus a large cast of supporting victims and perpetrators. It is complex, intelligent, bleak, despairing and powerful. There aren't many laughs in it, but there are some wry moments. I think I can recommend it.

Old Gordon should get Chavez to help him with policy making; I guarantee that cutting the working day to 6 hours would be a winner. It would be in our house anyway.

Blues have refused Bolton permission to speak to Steve Bruce about their managerial vacancy. Jesus, have Bolton got no sense? Anyway, I confidently predict that should Bolton genuinely be crazy enough to want him, they will get him, mainly because I no longer believe a word that ever comes out of my club. If they say he ain't available, he is.
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