Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about literary elitism, particularly with regards to my own work-in-progress, The Caitiff. The trouble is, I can never be sure if the few responses I have received to the small snippets of work I have shown to others are a desire to keep me happy with my own work, an instantaneous reaction to the style or simple contempt at the sentence structure and often extraneous word choices I decide to use (you can probably count extraneous there as a prime example).
Though the down to earth part of me, the part that I tend to adopt most days and with people I don’t know too well, claims that such elitism is wrong and unnecessary and leads to the degree of pretension which many artistic circles suffer from, until all art is created only for the applause of other artists, the part of me which longs to adopt a literary lifestyle tells me that elitism is fantastic.
Of course certain writers of the past are infinitely more talented than the drivel of today! Compare any modern fiction to such a text as Camus’ The Fall, and I would be fascinated to hear any argument which claimed that the modern alternative is of higher quality.
But this elitism is not simply confined to literature; I am of the opinion that an overwhelming majority of modern music is horrible and vacuous and the people who consume it are brain-dead morons. I am a musical elitist, as much as I am a literary one.
And how can I not place myself above those vile creatures with whom I share public transport, who throw crisps at young women on their way home from work and who only react will slack faces when I ask them if their parents were related (actually happened a couple of days ago; I also asked what it felt like to have mothers whom idolised Moll Flanders but, thankfully, that one went over their heads); how can I not tell myself that I am a better person than them which, in turn, leads me to believe in my own elitism. I am a personal elitist, as much as a musical one.
Of course, I don’t think that all modern literature (though that is in increasingly short supply) or all good music (of which, thankfully, there are still a few good bands) is lacking in meaning, talent or purpose, of course not. Will Varley’s Sketch Of A Last Day is one of my favourite books ever written (though I do love the guy’s music as well) and I come close to idolising the Gaslight Anthem, Frank Turner and Beans On Toast (even though I don’t agree with a lot of what these people often say), but I cannot help but feel a certain sense of superiority when someone says that they read Mills & Boon, or call themselves a book lover without being able to finish Into The Labyrinth or Brave New World.
Of course, I’m not perfect. There are many examples of literature which I don’t particularly enjoy reading but, instead, I enjoy having read. Cwmardy, for instance, was a fantastic novel, but I felt bored reading it. Others, such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover, I simply think are terrible and I cannot understand how people can idolise such a waste of paper.
But, anyway, I’m going to have a proper think about it and I’ll probably write something long and convoluted when I finish this mind-numbing internship.
And no, before you ask, that isn’t elitism, this internship really is cripplingly dull.