The play; Austen; Mouthpieces.
Ok, so I stuck with the play. But it took on a different situation; I now have a rough first draft - and it will come in, once formatted, to about 40-pages. Needless to say, it will be one act with no intermission. And those 40 pages don't account for cutting. And I still don't quite know what I'm saying - I only have a tenuous grasp of what it is. May seem odd to those who don't write - or those who have to know exactly before they write - that one can spend so much time just writing something they don't know the message of. But, as many a writer will say, puke up over the typewriter in the morning, clean up in the afternoon. Or, I write and rewrite to know what I'm saying. This writing process for me is different every time. It requires an awful lot of tenacity - it's digging. I probably won't get to look at it now for a couple of weeks. I'm in Manchester next weekend to see family, so that'll be out. Onwards, and all that.
One of my friends offered me some very kind and generous words of encouragement. A good few years ago she had one of her plays read out at the Royal Court. She could invite two people and I was one of them. And I felt hugely privileged to hear it. And I loved it. One can but dream of the Royal Court! It's there I saw the somewhat exhausting 'Product', a 60-minute monologue by Mark Ravenhill, who also performed it.
I'm off to the White Bear in Kennington next week to see a play about four women who come together to talk about some man. I'm being curt. I'm sure it'll be good. I'd be very happy to get a play on at a theatre pub.
So, I wrote a piece for Guardian CiF last week suggesting other feminists to grace the tenner other than Jane bloody Austen! The last sentence asked 'who would you choose'? As per normal most people wrote about how they disagreed with my choices but then didn't offer their own. The Jane Austen fans were out in force as one would expect, declaring to anybody who didn't like Jane Austen, or who, in their eyes underrated her, obviously haven't read her works. The thing that these Jane Austen fans don't and won't understand is that many people have read her and actually are not all that enamoured with what she wrote. To say that she somehow represents women or even women's experiences in the 19th century is utter nonsense. Again, Jane Austen like many other female writers, represents only the middle class woman. The one sat in the drawing room watching everyone. Yes, it is true that Jane Austen's works are widely known throughout the world, mainly through adaptations as costume dramas and films, but that is no reason for her to be put on our banknotes over and above those women who made a huge and significant difference. Or who represented women in a different way. Mary Wollstonecraft. Marie Stopes. One of the Brontes.
September sees the much awaited second novel by Paul Harding, Enon. Harding wrote the Pulitzer-winning debut novel Tinkers, which I adored. I know I've mentioned it on here before, but Paul Harding persisted for good few years in trying to find a publisher for Tinkers. This is despite the fact that Tinkers was the well-written product of an MFA. And theb it wins the bloody Pulitzer! in your face, publishing industry! I also read in the New Yorker last week about how Lionel Shriver's most successful novel, We need to talk about Kevin, was turned down by 30 publishers. And this from a woman who'd already had six or seven novels published previously. It really is a hard game, publishing. It reinforces my belief that for those writers who stay writing, it is akin to a neurosis.
Given that I don't watch much television, the last time I was in Wales, staying at my sisters, I watched an episode of We pay your benefits. The programme matched up working people with people who had been on benefits for quite a while. The programme featured Margaret and Nick, who were on the apprentice as Alan Sugar's trusted advisors. I thought the programme was quite balanced. It followed the pairings around, with the people who were in work questioning those on benefits, what they spent their benefits on, what sort of food they could buy with the money they got. It was interesting, I felt, that the people who were claiming, except for the media studies graduate, were all overweight. I don't suppose that it's very politically correct to say that. But it was my observation. I questioned this particularly when one of the obese women whose husband was unemployed, had to go to a food bank to get some food to feed themselves. I felt for the young man, the media studies graduate, because he was genuinely confused that he should be expected to work in a dead-end low-paid job when he had this degree. It was surely an indictment of what one can expect when almost half the population attend university. Perhaps we really do need to start looking at university and higher education as an end in itself, not just as a factory producing workers for the economy. What really got my back up though, is that today, in the New Statesman, I read an article by Laurie Penny. She must've wrote it last week, but she basically claims that the BBC is somehow colluding with the anti-welfare Tories. I must say I disagreed with her view. I was also annoyed by how she claimed that Nick and Margaret had no idea of what the claimants were going through because they are privileged professionals. That was not the case, as far as I was concerned. I believe that Nick Hewer is an ardent Labour supporter, and signed up to the old Labour, in which work is considered essential to one's well-being and life purpose. He also seemed to me quite sympathetic to the plight, if you can call it that, of the welfare claimants lives. Yet Laurie Penny presented them as being somehow representative of Iain Duncan Smith's need to crush those on benefits. I am getting really quite bored and yes irritated, by young public school educated writers, holding themselves up as champions of the oppressed, the minorities and the working class. Instead of having these young writers build up their careers and journalistic brands on the plights of the issues faced by these groups in society, why are we not, instead, hearing from the people direct? Direct experience is key. And hearing about peoples direct experiences conveys a deeper truth that cannot be so readily challenged. What we have instead, is a profession - journalism - that is packed to the rafters with the public school educated privileged class, who somehow see themselves as the next George Orwell. They are not, for the most part, the next George Orwell. They are residing in the online equivalent of Grub Street. I do not want my articles mediated in this way. Please, can we have some more authentic voices? Caitlin Moran, who writes that for The Times, is one such voice. She makes no bones of where she came from, and because of that she writes with a truth that cannot be denied. People like Laurie Penny, in fact, make these issues that they write of somehow laughable. Like the zealot, they cannot conceive of all the shades of grey in between the black and white, I'm sorry to say that, in many ways their version of being on the left is only the opposite of those on the far right. And I'm bored of it. I think I wrote on here previously, that is the last time I thought about this issue, was when Radio Four invited a group of people on to discuss social mobility. It was obscenely ironic that the people they had invited on to talk about social mobility were people who have not had any problems in becoming socially mobile. So what we get instead is posturing and theory and straplines and soundbites, and secondhand anecdotes about what it's like to be on minimum wage, or the dole. I really do hope that it becomes a bigger issue, this problem of privileged middle class journalists putting themselves up and building their careers as the mouthpieces of the people who should really be telling us directly. And to have the channels to do so.
So this is my longest post in quite a while. But that's all for now. Hopefully the next time I post I will be able to say a little bit more about my play, although I can say that it is about voice, and the importance of it, and the importance also of not putting people in pigeonholes.