“Like prep-school boys showing off”

In today’s paper former Oxford fellow Gabriel Josipovici attacked the modern British multi-award winning novelists (Rushdie, Martin Amis, McEwan et al), for being limited, arrogant and self-satisfied.

“It’s an ill-educated public being fed by the media – “This is what great art is” – and they lap it up.”

Thank you! I wonder sometimes, working in journalism, if all arts are just PR. And while technology and might be broadening other artistic mediums, they’re reducing the literary medium, not to mention our capacity for concentration and analysis. Park Honan suggested that these big modern novelists are “searching for a medium to express the superficial electronic lives we all lead”. But I’m not sure it’s working; as Josipvici, who feels modern literature has left him feeling smaller and meaner, put so eloquently:

“The irony which at first made one smile, the precision of language which was at first so satisfying, the cynicism which at first was used only to puncture pretension, in the end come to feel like a terrible constriction, a fear of opening oneself up to the world.”

There’s few things that irritate me more than people who try to impress you with how clever they are. It’s so painfully transparent, I’m always amazed they can’t see it. Provoking your readers (or whoever you’re talking at) is not the same as being thought-provoking. Being human is being vulnerable. And as Yoko Ono said in a recent interview: “Being human is being open: when you are closed up then you are dead…. and half the world is dead in that sense.”

The dissatisfaction with the lives that we lead, expressed by these authors in this strange “schoolboy desire to boast and to shock”, is essentially horror in the face of our blatant loss of control in the modern world. Oooooooh, how Lynchian – but I’ll come to him on Sunday…

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