I feel that I should clarify here, I have a great respect for Salt Publishing. Some of the creations they have published, particularly their anthologies of short stories, have been fantastic. However, their recent call for submissions, for an eBook collection entitled ‘Modern Dreams’, or rather the description of this collection, has kind of rubbed me the wrong way.
Maybe I’m just being too sensitive, but after yesterday’s relatively vitriolic response, I don’t feel particularly sensitive. I don’t feel as though the slightest thing has managed to annoy me, (well, not more than usual at any rate).
But the description given for this call for submissions seems to me to be pretty fucking pathetic.
‘We want issue-led works that tell the truth about what life is like for the young in these islands. Crime, drugs, fun, hope, immigration, integration, joblessness, laughs, love, loss, loyalty, music, sex, surviving and tragedy in modern Britain. We want to hear the stories that will make us sit up and stare in wonder. Lie awake at night. The stories that will break our hearts. Make us laugh out loud. Make us cry. The stories that tell the truth.’
There does seem to be something in this paragraph in particular which appears, at least to me, to be quite patronising. Is that what those behind the publishing industry really think life is like for us ‘young people’ in modern Britain? God knows, I hardly hold myself as the typical standard for youth, but I would not say I am so different from many other people my age.
The simple fact is that most people my age don’t care. Crime is not as big a problem as the media makes it out to be, and the criminals typically are of my age anyway. Drugs and fun go hand in hand, and few people my age see them as a problem or, in fact, take them regularly (even if it simply a result of not being able to afford the damn things). Hope isn’t there, immigration is something only the bigots pay attention to. Joblessness is a problem, true, but no more than it is for older people or parents desperately trying to keep their children fed.
The honesty of youth these days is boredom. It is political ignorance, societal apathy and the belief that we are all unique and special and that, as we have been told all our lives, we are destined to go on and get fantastic jobs, ignoring the fact that, up here in Wigan, someone needs to work the factories and serve the coffee and force a smile onto their face as another fat, carping women or drunken old man tries to pay for a bag of crisps or a bottle of JD in change.
The truth is not likely to keep you awake, it isn’t going to make you sit up in wonder, it won’t make you laugh or cry or break your heart. Any story wholly honest would be of staring at the grey pavement, on a grey morning, at your black shoes with the worn heel, and having nowhere to go. The criminals and the teenage parents YOU want for your narratives are not the heroes you dream they are.
We’re all lost in a world made by the generations before us, raised on the idea that we are all either Princesses or Princes, failing to spot the economic idiocy of that ideology.
Now, I’m not blaming the previous generation (i.e, you) entirely, because if even half the people my age actually gave a shit then we could probably do something about this monotone world. Even I don’t, really, but I wish I did. I try to, but how can I, how can we, when they’re too busy with their mass-produced music and their sickly sweaty grinding I’m too busy writing meaningless prose the internet will tell me to die for writing.
My name is John Carey. I am 21 years old, I live in Orrell, just outside of Wigan, in the North West of England, and I am too apathetic to do anything more than complain about the state of my world on the internet. What a rallying call I could let loose! If only I didn’t have vaguely defined plans later, to drink until I can fool myself into believing I can write, that people want the prose I can offer, or any prose at all.
That I can molest the mantle of Orwell, as though he was a drunk girl outside a club and I was some shaven-headed thug. That I can change the world, or at least draw attention to the parts of the world that NEED changing. Fuck. What do I know about the world anyway? I’m still little more than a child in a body that is nowhere nearly as ‘manly’ as I would wish.
Anyway, sorry about the way this thing developed. I think yesterday’s sterling opinions might have rattled me a little more than I would care to admit.