Skip to main content

Dystopic trends that shouldn't be ignored...

Today's news by the BBC that DNA of blameless children is being stored is quite disturbing. Perhaps they also (conveniently for a society that doesn't want to hold itself responsible) have ODD! The way in which this country demonises working-class children is nothing short of shameful and makes me feel as though we have regressed back to the Victorian times - social mobility is apparently back there anyway. It got me thinking about one of my favourite subjects - dystopias. I do believe there would be some dystopic elements to any society, even in what for many would be Utopia. But the dystopic elements of Britain today are overwhelmingly in force. Perhaps this is why there is also an irrefutable dystopic trend in contemporary literature. Apart from my own, A Clockwork Apple which highlights the two-tier education system in this country which has only got worse under New Labour, there is also Sarah Hall's The Carhullan Army, no doubt inspired by Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Dystopic novels are often so popular because of the way in which they employ that favoured Formalist technique of presenting the everyday anew - which also calls into question Georgy Lukacs argument that only realism could be true to leftist principles. That's why the humble novel can be so much more than just a good read, we don't hear too much of it now but practitioners of yore believed in the power of the novel to transform the way in which we view and experience our lives as well and help us to change society. Of course, what often gets (scathingly) held up as the tendentious novels are those which are unashamedly of the left - which also happen to be some of the truly great novels - those by George Orwell, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, and those of today including Cormac McCarthy. In all the talk of commercial fiction and the Richard & Judy list it's often this power of the dystopic, as seeing current societal issues anew, which is totally forgotten about and which is one of the most important aspects of literature.

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…

My PhD critical paper

I thought I'd upload the critical element of my PhD thesis. Hopefully, for those who are interested enough to read it, it will make sense despite the references to my creative work, which I can't upload as I'm seeking publication. And besides, at 68,000 words...

I'm also going to tweak section one of this three section critical paper with a view to journal publication because of the academic interest in the claims I make of Mary.

-Dedicated with love and respect to Dr Bruce Lloyd-

And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
Good people who taught me so much more than they realised


The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

I would also like to acknowledge the generous studentship that I was fortunate to be awarded by Kingston Universi…

Midwinter Break - Bernard McLaverty

The only other book that I've read of Bernard MacLaverty was the sublime Grace Notes, published in 1997, and shortlisted for the Booker Prize of the same year. That prize was awarded to an author of another similar hiatus recently broken, Arundhati Roy, of the widely acclaimed The God of Small Things. I was certain, when buying the kindle version of Midwinter Break, that MacLaverty's first book in seventeen years (Cal, 2001, was his most recent) had made both the Booker Longlist and Shortlist - but having just double-checked - am disappointed and confused to find it had made neither. MacLaverty's prose style feels Yatesian, after the late Richard Yates, US author of Revolutionary Road, and TheEaster Parade
Midwinter Break, set in Amsterdam, is written in the same deliciously clear and poignant prose that so widely marked out Grace Notes. The husby and I have not long returned from a late summer break in that same fabulous city. With the visit to the Rijksmuseum still fre…