Monday, 23 June 2008


A salutary lesson for anyone writing novels about the times in which we live...stop now!!!

I had a lovely time on Sunday last curled up with the Sunday Times, poring over an article entitled Burning is Too Good for Them...
Those books we are told on publication are classics of their time... do they last? Rod Liddle and his team know they don't.
What, really – I mean, really – is the point of A Dance to the Music of Time?” asked Matthew d’Ancona, editor of The Spectator, adding that he found it “stunningly tedious”.


Herman Hesse, meanwhile, was nominated by a good few, including the controller of Radio 4, Mark Damazer, and the broadcaster Andrew Marr (who, incidentally, nominated Don Quixote as the worst novel ever written).

There is a long list of books destined for the bonfire, apparently, including Gabriel Garcia Marquez and all proponents of magical realism... (Does no one believe in fairies any more?) but W G Sebald is spared the pyre, as his work is 'weighty'.

It's interesting to look at why these writers have selected what they have, in the main. What renders the works they choose so dreadful after the passage of a little time?
They are outgrown. They only reflect a particular time/milieu.
Look, this:
they seem to be books that fitted in far too comfortably with the sensibilities of a certain chattering-class elite when they were published. Remove a work of fiction from the milieu in which it was written and you remove some of its purpose and point, of course; however, with Hesse, Powell and Fowles, as with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, you seem to lose all the purpose and point. Everything simply evaporates.

I have to say that perhaps some of the comments were from writers/critics who had loved a work when they were young and free. Maybe, just maybe some of the bonfire is lit by the weightiness of age, and too long in the establishment? (I have to think that. Mervyn Peake, Tolkien, Marquez... come on! They are writing off a whole raft of work that has inspired generations and continues to do so!)

Make your own mind up. BURNING IS TOO GOOD FOR THEM -HERE


Douglas Bruton said...

I loved Marquez when I was young and modern books were new to me... and I love him still now I am older and less easy to please. And Peake? I could read Gormenghast annually and still be blown away.

Some books do not stand the test of time. I accept that... but let time decide... not a bunch of writers and critics with their own particular pet likes and dislikes, and maybe axes to grind.


Vanessa Gebbie said...

Good grrrief! Hello D!