Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Things You Can Sell and the Things that Make You Swoon

God in heaven help us, the Guardian magazine runs a feature today on fashion in literature: 'Chic Lit', actress Emily Mortimer dressed in clothes echoing female characters from fiction (she's a writer's daughter too - John Mortimer - geddit?); journalist Helen Gordon writing as if authors from Austen to Douglas Coupland wrote about fashion simply to relish it, rather than (often satirically) as signifiers of their characters' personalities and conditions; and - most telling of all - books recently in print displayed next to the latest fashion accessories (a full page spread, for instance, in which Gabriel Garcia Marquez's A Life is suspended on a string next to a Gucci bag - why?)

Conjures some depressing images, doesn't it: publishers scrambling to be part of this latest, dummest kind of promotion, and editors turning manuscripts down because they can't quite see them on such a page... (You think I'm joking?)

Fortunately the Review makes up for this a little with an article from Nick Laird condemning just the kind of ethos in evidence here and showing how destructive it is for serious literature, though once again in making a special case for poetry he is rather dismissive of fiction:
A capitalist society ... teaches its citizens to think in terms of selling. Poetry manages, almost uniquely, to be outside of that, and this allows poets to make real art, without recourse to the market...
And there's a transcript of a speech by the sadly and recently late David Foster Wallace, which is so close to my own agenda in my current writing that (rather than those shoes and bags) it makes me want to swoon...
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