Much as I resent having to spend so much of my time hiding from the news underneath my bed, I am equally perturbed by a trend towards the ‘marvellous’ in society. We’re accustomed to politicians saying that everything is ‘marvellous’ – except of course anything that the opposition says or does – and actors. Long, long ago, and briefly, I was one of those and always had huge problems with the whole canonisation of anyone famous thing. I always thought that Lawrence Olivier was a terrible actor, although I kept that to myself as you can imagine. As theatrical saints go, he’s still A list.
The same goes for the world of literature. A long time ago, not in a galaxy far, far away but not further than Peebles, I was part of an author event that made me want to pull my own fingers off. There were a group of writers, all of us crime fiction authors and, for a while, we had a very interesting discussion amongst ourselves and with our audience. That is until suddenly, everything got ‘marvellous’.
It was all down to one author, who shall remain nameless. This person, while not even mentioning anybody else’s books was so in love with writing and with anything written by anyone who was a bestseller, I began to feel as if I might just be the slackest, least enthusiastic and unappreciative novelist in the world. Luckily I wasn’t alone, several of my colleagues that day felt exactly the same. It was all so bloody ‘amazing’ and ‘marvellous’ I felt almost duty bound to try and compete. But I didn’t.
I’m a person who doesn’t like extremes unless it pertains to things like mountains, gorges, Gothic architecture or drag acts. I don’t do religious extremism, political shenanigans, excessive doom or insane optimism. I’ve tried the two latter elements and found them to be bollocks. Also, at the moment, when the world, much as I might try to ignore it, is tearing itself apart, it cannot be said on any level to be ‘marvellous’. And that applies particularly to authors, I think.
We don’t have to write politics into our crime fiction but I think that a lot of us believe that we kind of have a duty to do just that. If I don’t at least allude to the state of the UK, in the Hakim and Arnold stories or modern Turkey with Ikmen, then I don’t think that, for me, I’m really doing my job. In neither case are things ‘fantastic’ at the moment. They are not, thank goodness, as bad as things are in Gaza, but these two societies are far from perfect and there are a lot of problems. In addition, as authors, unless we are very successful, our lives are not easy, especially financially. A lot of avenues to cash, like giving talks are now no longer available to us because organisations like libraries haven’t got any money. So we have to give our services away for free. Which is fine for some people. It’s tough for me.
Also ‘marvellous’ is so ‘dinner party’ talk, I always think. It’s fashionable to say you ‘love’ someone or some book or other when you don’t. I was born in a house with coal fires and an outside toilet, I’m used to saying what I think. It doesn’t sit well. And it’s so frequently bullshit. People often don’t notice middle aged women who look like Jonathan Meades which means I can move like a ghost through lots of situations. And believe me, in private, everything is not ‘marvellous’. That latest best selling book by that woman is ‘shit’ really, but ‘I have to say I like it because I don’t want to get on the wrong side or her’ or ‘she can help my career if I say I love her stuff’ or even ‘when I’m famous, I’ll tell the truth’. It’s a luvvie game and I hate it and so I do not play. Maybe if I did I’d be more successful, but I also wouldn’t be me. I will NEVER put down another author or their books even if I don’t like them, because that is probably my problem and not theirs. But at the same time I won’t say I think a thing is ‘marvellous’ when I think it isn’t.
Say ‘no’ to luvviness people, let’s all give it up and stop being such arse’oles.