“Those who say that fiction isn’t relevant any more should read Houllebecq – he is in a class of his own”
- Literary Review
That’s what’s written on the cover of the paperback edition of Michel Houellebecq’s ‘The Possibility Of An Island’. The Post-Modernists argue that fiction isn’t relevant anymore, and the book world is listening fearfully. Brandishing Houllebecq, it lands a confident counter-strike…
No, of course the book world isn’t fucking listening; it’s a non-issue cooked up by a reanimated corpse-journalist, rotting but somehow still walking, who very likely hasn’t read the book, instead cobbling a review together by cribbing the press release, posing a few straw men and hitting the word count with a handful of desperate cliches. If blogging really is a public challenge to print journalism, and this is the standard we are up against, then it’s a pushover. In 1946 Orwell wrote ‘Confessions of a Book Reviewer’:
In the morning, blear-eyed, surly and unshaven, he will gaze for an hour or two at a blank sheet of paper until the menacing finger of the clock frightens him into action. Then suddenly he will snap into it. All the stale old phrases—“a book that no one should miss”, “something memorable on every page”, “of special value are the chapters dealing with, etc etc”—will jump into their places like iron filings obeying the magnet, and the review will end up at exactly the right length and with just about three minutes to go.
After sixty years of journalism little has changed. Indeed, it has probably got worse. Orwell, after all, is dead.
The decline of the pig’s head in butcher’s shop windows
In the past, when people were fully aware that what they were buying was a dead animal, the customer would check out the eyes for signs of decay. Milky? Sour complexion? Then it’s been hanging around too long. The trained consumer looked for signs of a healthy animal. At least, healthy until it was slaughtered. Nowadays, the consumer’s reaction to a disembodied pig’s head would be along the lines of “fucking hell! That’s a fucking pig’s head. Jesus, that’s revolting”, and they would promptly leave. The public want their food free range, organic, humanely reared and slaughtered, but they certainly don’t want anything resembling a dead animal.
According to http://www.wordcounter.com/cgi-bin/politicalresult.cgi, this blog is, amazingly, politically neutral.