January 17th, 2004

breaking bad

'gloopy human soup' alert

Here is an example of the type of book article I was talking about in my recent post on movie-style and book-style art-loving. I am increasingly feeling that I need to use a different couple of monikers though. It's not about movies and films, and the terms raise all sorts of objections.

It's about hot and cold love, perhaps. Or about relation to the artefact vs. relation to the image of the artefact.

Anyway, this article is by Richard Eyre. Like virtually everyone else in the arts he can find nothing he would rather share with the world that how ghastly the Big Read was. They just can't let it go. Furthermore, not only was the program ghastly, the British public has sadly disappointed him by loving genre books at least as much as so-called realist mainstream fiction.

"Pride and Prejudice is the only book about human beings". The book, alone among the top five, provoked a discussion of love, money, morals and society rather than shelf categories. Fantasy? Magic? myth? Fairy tale? Supernatural? Romance? Who, apart from bookshop managers, could care less?

You, Richard, and your friends, you are the ones who care about genre category. And the fact that P&P, that giant among books, is set in a real historical period, has no bearing on whether its characters are 'real' or not. Duh.

most of the books in the final 20 weren't actually any good. As writing, that is... No one observed that, yes, some of the books were better written than others or, indeed, that such things as good prose, good characterisation, truth to life, mattered in the consideration of the qualities of a "big" read.

I'm not going to deconstruct this statement. Almost every term he uses cries out to be unpacked. Why is he not conscious of this danger? Has nobody ever raised these points with him?

This is the danger of elitism. Eyre defines his elite in terms of agreement with him about basic premises. Anyone who unpacks his concepts fails to be elite, and therefore he never hears their voices.