Friday, 1 February 2013

Pop: Cannonballs for the brain damaged

There is a very tall hill in my life. It rises up almost high enough that the top is invisible against the clouds, only a tiny pinprick of unbearingly bright light shining out to remind me that there is something at the top worth climbing it for. The cause of this light is a city, made from white bricked houses with wooden beams criss-crossing the front and crimson front doors with golden numbers. All the street lamps are tall and black, spitting out rough circles of amber light across the cobblestone streets and the ever-polite people say 'Guten Morgen' or 'Gute Nacht' but never expect any deeper conversation. There are flowers in flowerpots and grass is kept short and neat behind little brick walls with little iron gates. It’s always cold so that the fire can always be burning away in the living room to provide a healthy glow through the gaps in the curtains that span the bay windows and in the winter, snow forms a layer across the roofs and the leaves of the occasional tree that stands in the front garden. 

But from where I stand there is only the spot of light and I stare at it from a dark forest filled with noises I don’t like and trees that poke me and scratch me if I dare take a step. The people don’t wear clothes on their top halves as they clamber through the undergrowth swearing at anyone who isn’t scared enough by the knives that they hold ineffectually backwards in their hairy palms. It’s always too hot or the people around me are complaining that is too cold and they demand conversation in order to tell me that liking the cold is akin to liking Hitler, or whichever Middle Eastern leader I’ve been told to hate this month. 

Recently my light went out. When I stood on my tip toes and looked out through a gap in the straggly leaves of prickly trees I couldn’t see anything at the top of the hill and the reason for this was Life of Pi. My utopia was always the literary industry, a world full of people with an appreciation for literature and a love of the written world. I held their awards up as a standard to strive for, I always dreamed that one day I would be good enough to achieve recognition, even if that just meant being considered for one of the lesser prizes. 

Then I read Life of Pi, a Man Booker prize winning novel. I read it because Blip had to read it for his university course and I like to keep on top of his reading list so that he has someone to discuss the novels with. Having a soft spot for victorian literature means that so far I have loved every novel that’s been thrown in front of me and so I was excited to read a modern novel that had been thrown into the pile with such esteemed works of art as Jane Eyre, The Secret Garden, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

It was horrific. I have no problem with modern novels; some of the best books I’ve read were written in my lifetime, but this monstrosity was like trudging through something a child had written. It was full of exposition, it spelt out everything as if the reader were presumed to have brain damage and it flippantly rushed over anything interesting as if the author were just trying to spit out the ending as fast as possible. Reading it was like reading the first draft of a novel, the bit where all of the ideas are laid out in a loose order so that the hard work of putting in description, theme, character development and style could then be attempted. Without any attempt at these later stages of novel writing, what was left was a clumsy story with the potential to be something half-decent that destroyed any individual readings or deeper analysis. It was all vomited there on the plate for any idiot to see. To give an idea of how bad this book was, it actually used capital letters for emphasis and if you think that’s acceptable in a novel you would probably think this the best book ever written and I advise you to go now and waste your money on it. 

My point is, this atrocity to literature won the Man Booker prize. People from the city on the hill read this book and thought that it deserved an award.They were too busy not talking to each other and enjoying the warmth of their fireplaces to realise that it was never a book, it was a cannonball thrown from the swearing t-shirtless creatures in the forest and was intended as a weapon, but of course if you leave even them in a room with type-writers for long enough someone will give them an award.

People are always striving for something; everyone has a utopia that they are working towards. But like everything that is put on too high a pedestal, eventually the supports aren’t going to hold it and the dream is going to come crashing down to the level that everything else is at. It isn’t any fault of the utopia, it’s the fault of the person who has put it in that unfair position, who believed that by climbing up and destroying themselves to get there they would be greeted with something that lived up to their expectations at the end. Expectations are fantastic but they should never be met, we should always have something to work towards. Because when the light goes out and you’re left in the forest with nothing to climb to, suddenly the idea of the light seems a lot more important than ever reaching it. 

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