22 November 2007

The End Of The World News

"All through history, mind limps after reality"

For no particular reason, I've started to read Anthony Burgess again - The End Of The World News this time, not sure what comes next. I've had several of his novels kicking around since I ground to a halt with the Enderby novels, nearly 20 years ago. I feel I ought to be ashamed, Burgess doesn't seem cool enough for me, for anyone who might read this but... I'm really enjoying The End Of The World News; it's middle middle-brow; not taxing, lightning fast to read (if you skip some of the songs) and yet leaves you with a odd aftertaste of slight learng, like it's the kind of 'entertainment' (his words) that you leave feeling a little smug and cleverer and maybe wanting to set fire to some tramps. Or manual workers.

Smug is a little lost as a literary genre it seems. I quite liked smug. Authors ought to be pleased with themselves, I think. Most of the 'soon-to-be-classic' novels I've read recently - that guff about the Raw Shark, the sweet nonsensicals of The End of Mr Y, the trash poems of Sharp Teeth etc etc - seem so afraid of seeming smug or pretentious (even when writing in verse, for Chrissakes!) that they end up reducing the writing to it's steely core, in awe of the old pulpy crime novelists - He walked in. Hot Room. Shot the guy twice. In the fuckface. Leaves dead slow. Mandrake root in hand.

They're turning into a kind of anti-Amis, treating words like mere descriptors (looking to film?), like the words themselves could chose themselves, like the idea itself is enough. Trust me, with the books above the idea is good but it isn't anywhere near enough.

Anthony Burgess seems ridiculously old school - using words for fun, for showing off, for art - but I feel drawn to him at the moment, like the old dead guy is hovering arounf the periphery, treading the liminal boards, sweeping that big hair of his away from his eyes and staring the young bucks down, challenging them to play with words.

The End Of The World News is silly and unecessary and clearly written by the kind of guy who owns libretti but...

Fuck it, I can't.

1 comment:

dub said...

Have you read Earthly Powers? TOTALLY smug - we're supposed to be in awe of its scope, its flair, its erudition. And despite yourself, you are!! Has the best opening sentence in any novel ever, to boot...

I might go and dig out End of the World News again :)

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