Wednesday, 7 July 2010
So sixty years of British fiction has been run through Te Graun's computer and discovered to be 'surpassed' by Johny Yank? There's a surprise.
'Any honest fan of modern fiction has to acknowledge the supremacy* of American writers since the 1960s. For this particular British reader, to discover the novels of Philip Roth and Thomas Pynchon, in particular, was to be released from the tongue-tied mumblings of postwar English fiction into a new world of generous imaginative reach and exuberant language'
This statement is actually quite interesting. Very, very stupid of course, but interesting in its own sense. Could the 'post-war English fiction' be despised precisely because it spoke about a time when our country had values that most modern middle class Brits really despise? Is A Clockwork Orange 'tongue-tied mumbling'? Or High Rise? Somewhere East of Life? Riddley Walker? The Serpent? Murdo Stories? After the Funeral? Lanark? Trainspotting? The Bull From the Sea? Nothing Like the Sun?
These are just some names that came off the top of my head, but one thing came to my mind. These are all either generic or Scottish. I find this interesting in a sense, because this demonstrates that for neo-Liberal Uncle Tom Brits, American pop-culture is valuable because it gives a certain zing to their petit bourgeois metropolitan blinkeredness. It gives a break from the dullness of East Anglian RP speech, without being associated with one of those poor, Labour voting regions. It offers middle brow narratives about mediocre things happening to middle class people without any of this sci-fi/history/detective nonsense. And sure enough:
'...Surely, if the novel in English has a master now at the peak of his powers, it is Ian McEwan.'
This is a good chuckle: precisely because McEwan is undoubtedly as middle class, East Anglian and safe as Brit writers come (which would be fine, if Jones didn't make a point of admiring the ballsiness of American fiction). I seem to remember Te Graun published the first chapter of Saturday, which was one of the most embarrassingly silly things I've read. Whilst overall, Te Graun was fairly good on the Iraq war, I think McEwan's reflections on the subject were amongst the dumbest 'these people probably don't know that Saddam was a nasty chappie' sort. Of course, one of the strengths of a novel is that it can give insight into how people may think without expressing themselves. In this note, it would be interesting if a fictional sympathiser of the war were to consider the none-too utilitarian, PC or neo-liberal question of whether being America's poodle would damage British self-esteem.
I don't think that the author thought about this either. Which is why he is still Te Graun's posterboy.
*Note, not 'superiority', which would be the word if continuing the British comparison but 'supremacy over all the nations of the world.