Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Great British Novel

In the wake of what might be a new contender for the Great American Novel, ‘The Art of Fielding’ by Chad Harbach, I rather suppose that it’s natural for us secret Atlantophiles to wonder what our response should be. What great tome, what powerful epic can we summon to conjure up, in the wake of Thomas Hardy and Dickens who came before, what Britain really is
Well there shouldn’t be one. Not ever. I am immediately distrustful of anything that begins with the phrase ‘The Great British...’. To be quite honest I’d be afraid that ‘The Great British Novel’ would be somewhat akin to lauded cultural masterwork, ‘The Great British Bake-off’: hunger inducing, but ultimately sickly and mainly consumed by the unemployed or mentally ill. Also messy. Oh so messy. 

My heart swells with love for my country. 

By the way, this absolutely isn’t one of those “isn’t Britain rubbish ho ho ho” articles. Bugger them. I love this place and hate the endless insufferable misery that gets churned out to us in opinion pieces everywhere. 
When I was a kid one of my favourite books was called “Scribbler”. It’s about having a dreadfully grey old life until a Banksy-esque colour vigilante brightens up everybody’s day. It’s Shane Meadows without the harrowing bits. Maybe. 

I haven’t got a clue whether ‘Scribbler’ is by a British writer and I can’t find it anywhere, but if there is one contender for The Great British Novel then ‘Scribbler’ should be it. Look, I’m not saying all art should be Tiny Tim: a broad smile and an upbeat attitude despite the fact that Timmy’s most likely destiny is death by malnourishment and tuberculosis. What I am saying is that art should be there to uplift us. And, like the Scribbler’s graffiti, it should be everywhere. 
There is an ongoing narrative right now about whether ‘the arts’ should be state funded or not and, brushing that aside I am often aghast at the examples that are dragged out as ‘our art’. Sure, we have incredible theatre, scores of opera houses and free galleries, but where are the mentions of the cranks, the crack-pots, the joyful amateurs? Where are the women who rush home after work to build forests from their 2 year old’s yoghurt pots? Because that’s how I see us- a nation of amateur nut-bars. A nationality defined by weirdness just waiting to be shown to the world.
And this year is the perfect time to do it! It’s 2012- the olympics. Everyone’s going to be here watching perfectly choreographed, big-stage arena shows that have been tested, rehearsed and rendered spectacular and just a little insipid. Let’s give them a show they’ll never forget. 2012, The year where 65 million people collectively air out their crazy, because what kind of ridiculous nation has a ‘great central dream’ anyway? Not us, we think baked beans and blood sausage are appropriate for breakfast. Forget the Great British Novel. Long live Great British Eccentricity, or baking, whichever gets your goat. 
Eccentric does not however equate to being a massive tool, like this Robin Williams-alike. Although I would genuinely prefer him to be our head of state when Lizzie dies, but that's another story entirely...

It’s 2012. Happy New Year.

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