Skip to main content

Apple, anyone?

A Clockwork Apple poured out of me in its current form after many attempts to write the same story in a more traditional social realist manner. What I found, no, felt, was this constantly nagging feeling of insubstantiality - social realism was not cutting the mustard. Perhaps because it only lends itself really well to the lives of the middle classes - despite what Georgy Lukacs said about realism being best to write the lives of the working class and highlight 'the struggle'. Why? Because the middle classes (a very broad definition) spend so much of their time with convention, being, as they are, the instigators of it.

They also gave birth to the novel - the rise of the novel runs parallel with the rise of the bourgeoisie, and therefore it has, in many ways, always been their form. The working classes have taken instead to mis-lit and memoir and, of course, the 'telly', specifically the soap opera.

In my MA paper, the subject of which was The Unheard Voice from, and of, the Working-Class Woman I found that, in those works of working class women written by working class women, for example, Union Street, Blow Your House Down and Liza's England, by Pat Barker, I always felt there was a lack of depth, as though it was conveying the depressing lack of interiority frequently the trademark of the representation of the working class.

Working-class man, however, has done a little better with the novel. Angry Young Men like Sillitoe, Barstow, Braine and Storey.

Yet class, or social inequality does not gain too much coverage these days. It certainly shows how much governing institutions are out of touch when Tony Blair, and perhaps should have been seen as a warning when, in 1999, announced that the Class War was over. It is not. It just became covered up and enmeshed with other issues. And what literautre has dominated? Chick-lit. I'm sorry, but it says nothing to me about my life, to use a Morrissey lyric. These women think they're being so individualistic but, if we refer to Elaine Showalter's paradigm in her book A Literature of Their Own the chick-lit novel is still stuck firmly at first base - a struggle to conform to the patriarchal notion of feminine, as opposed to a novel of protest (feminist) or simply women, being (female).

Protest and being, for me, mean getting in touch with one's own inner Etna, or anger. It is an anger that scares men, but many women I know reek of it, and spend inordinate amounts of time hiding it behind a nice, feminine smile. If we look at the novel in terms of raw women's anger and convention then Jane Austen, that safe bourgieous young woman who had the time and education to 'observe' the intricacies of convention belongs to the latter. In fact she is the mother of chick-lit. And Mills & Boon. Now, the raw, primitive anger of being beholden to one's circumstances and desperately seeking freedom lies with Mary Wollstonecraft, through the Bronte sisters, from which there is an absence not present in the Austen camp.

What do we get of the working-class woman in the novel? We either get the middle-class missionary treatment, an attempt at 'educating Rita' or we don't figure, except as CHAVs, which is more suited to the box than the book.

The novel needs shaking up. It needs Angry Young Women. It needs their resentment, their anger, their passion, their hopes, dreams and disappointments. It needs them. It needs us. Please, shove shit-lit out of the way - it doesn't rouse, only deludes. We have to get real.

Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

Booker Shortlist announced

It's been a while... I know. Dog walking on the Downs, a bit of theatre, a bit of baking, a bit of writing etcetera etcetera. I also managed to read two complete books in the past month, which I was so pleased about. I had not read a whole book for about a year. The first was A Lie About My Father by Scottish poet/writer, John Burnside; a very well written memoir about father and son, but like all memoirs, some unreliability I felt. Poignant and tragic in equal measure. Then my husband returned from Cyprus (too hot for me this time of year, I can barely cope with England!) with Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. He loved it. And then I read it and also loved it. I had originally picked it up several years ago but didn't get beyond Amiens, where the first section is set, but was really glad I did this time around. Another incredibly well written book in the style of a good Victorian! I felt a bit unsure about bits of Elizabeth, in the later section, but I have never learnt so muc…

Days Without End and Mosul's Avengers

So fed up am I of buying books that I don't finish, that I decided I would go to the local library for a copy of Sebastian Barry's latest novel, Days Without End, which has just been awarded the Costa Prize. Unfortunately, I could only borrow it on the proviso that it was return by 1 February. I returned it the day after, without having finished it. I was about three quarters through, and will now have to go out and buy it for the final quarter. I loved Barry's The Secret Scripture, and on every publication of a new work, his star rises. Days Without End follows two boys, one descended from native Americans, and the other having arrived on one of the notorious coffin ships from famine struck Sligo. The tale is brave, funny, touching, but most of all Barry has achieved the perfect pitch. It is quite remarkable.

Another remarkable work comes in the form of reportage in the New Yorker (February 6, 2017) The Avengers of Mosul, by Luke Mogelson 'A Reporter at Large'.