‘Let’s Just Call it what it is/ The Gentler Side of Mankind’s Death Wish’: A ‘review’ of The Victorian in the Wall, some what in response to http://statesofdeliquescence.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/in-republic-of-happiness-and-radiance.html
As we turned away from the Bristol Old Vic, Lucian said “I guess it really speaks to the guilt of anyone who wants to be creative, but does nothing.” Which is one way of looking at it, although I thought The Victorian in the Wall went further than this. As he added, it was amazing that the lead character of a lazy writer-type could be acted so well by writer-actor-producer-songwriter-impressive-CV-type Will Adamsdale, who surely doesn’t share in the idiotic malaise of the character he created. Perhaps this suggests that the ‘guilt’ being played to was not just the guilt of being a writer type deliberately distracted by Facebook when ‘working from home’, but the guilt of just being a writer type full stop. One step further and we can conflate ‘writer type’ into sickly Big Society linguistics and instead use CREATIVE.
Yes, the guilt of being the egotist who refuses to do the day job full time because they wont give up on the Dream To Be a Writer. Adamsdale’s character Guy doesn’t just dream of being a writer, or of being a writer alongside a day job. Or of writing academic tracts that will set alight the worlds of five lonely nerds. He dreams, quite simply, of being “The Greatest Writer of His Generation…The Greatest Writer of His Generation…” and it is as catchy a song in the production as it is a concept. The same concept that has had everyone since Fitzgerald – including Hunter S. Thompson and myself – wanting to write The Great 21st Century Novel. The overflow of the dream into the writer’s ‘generation’ potentially lessens the egotism. It suggests that the writer has a duty to fulfil, a place within society and is needed by others. Why it may be that the writer is doing the rest of his/her generation a darn good favour by getting down on paper what everyone is feeling, but only they have the skill to put into inkblots.
Because the celebrity-obsession of journalism doesn’t just extend to how writers write about other people, it also extends to how they write about themselves. The little cult that is created around bloggers desperate to have a little identity created for themselves online. Don’t think I don’t include myself in this. And don’t think I don’t include those who write under pseudonyms, as that is often the epitome of creating an identity suited to a Breton tee-shirt.
And this is beginning to sound like one big shout, both at myself and at a load of other people…but that was unintended. I meant to say: writing is egotistical. Obviously. Perhaps the reason why no one really wants to adopt Roland Barthes because we don’t out words, like our children, to wander free from us and to take up residence with others in patterns unfamiliar to ourselves. We like, instead, to think about Roland Barthes as a person. As An Intellectual. Or, even better, A French Intellectual. Then we know of an identity that is aspirational or despicable. Or just sexy, because it is French. I wonder if Barthes would like for his ideas and words to not carry his name? If words and ideas could float out to whoever without the author wanting it to be known that ‘I created that!’. Could any of us really deal with that? They say the internet is superb for anonymity, but it also creates the opportunity for the opposite. The opportunity to create Profiles of oneself everywhere and this is something a lot of people like. When I am gone, my name and all these hyperlinks will survive me.
There is a traditional mode of doing things in journalism. One that is not dependent on the quality of the language used by the writer, but one that is dependent on creating the right kind of culture around the writer so that we want to follow them on twitter. So that we want to know what shoes they are wearing and not what books they are reading. There is a form of writing about the arts which demands the writer both become twitter-friendly whilst not once employing the word ‘I’ when writing a review. The words simultaneously appear from The Writer (Profile) and not from The Writer (personal). I am not allowed to say: “I loved this performance, it reminded me of a time when I was five and my mother read The Tiger Who Came To Tea to me in the bath.” But I am allowed to say: “The performance evokes memories of childhood bath times and early introductions to literature.” In the second case the question is: To Fucking Whom? Why not just be honest? Lucian and I discussed this also with regards to ‘erotic art’. So often the writer claims a work to be ‘erotic’, yet never to find it erotic. Personally. Like Kenneth Clark would never say the statue gave him an erection, only that the erotic is so very present within it. How else is something erotic unless there is a living being to experience it as erotic?
And one could go on with complaints about the form of journalism expected of one. I applied to In Between Time with a paragraph of writing that bleated about ‘wanting to explore creative writing in response to art as opposed to traditional forms of criticism.’ Or some such. As it is, I still fairly regularly walk out of a performance and within a few hours produce something that could easily have been ripped straight from The Burlington Magazine circa 1886. Because I slag it off and I say I want to do things differently and then find it easier not to when faced with limited time and no energy to correct people that assume I am incapable of writing a review ‘correctly’ if I chose to write one in a non-traditional way. Perhaps in part this is because I know that opting out of the traditional mold will almost certainly mean opting out of making any money writing reviews or writing about art. I also know that opting out is opting out of ever being The Greatest Writer of My Generation because I would be, let’s be honest, basically UNKNOWN.
The Tomb of The Unknown Writer is not something one aspires to lie in, in part because that chafes with some of the basic egotism of being a writer. I am scared. I do not want people to think I am an idiot. And part of me would like to just do it the Right Way and write reviews the way a review should be written and, you know, take over from Lyn Gardner or someone else Professional.
Part of my desire to write art writing differently was to include the personal response and the tangential response and the creative response. I now think that to truly include these things, in particular the personal, the answer might be, ironically, to relinquish the idea of ever having A Name. A leap of faith to relinquish control over the words produced and let them go into the ether as a separate work to the work they respond to, without knowing who they will reach or how they will be responded to.
Maybe anonymity will set us free and the words we create really will survive US.
 ‘Review’ in the sense that I watched the performance and then wrote something soon afterwards with said performance to some degree present within my brain