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This 182 message thread spans 13 pages:  < <   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12   13  > >  
  • Re: Literary fiction - a definition?
    by Account Closed at 12:46 on 15 February 2007
    Agreed. Care homes are a worse option than all but the very worst family, ie where the child is at risk from violence or abuse.
  • Re: Literary fiction - a definition?
    by ashlinn at 12:53 on 15 February 2007
    Aspirations are surely what you have, not what you might have if you could

    Deb, I think that aspirations are by definition what you would like to have, not what you have already. But your aspirations are formed necessarily by what you already have. If you are comfortably off you might aspire to the 'higher' things of life like education or 'self fulfillment' but if your children are hungry it might not be so high on the list of priorities.
  • Re: Literary fiction - a definition?
    by geoffmorris at 12:54 on 15 February 2007
    True but I'm not sure you'd be a fan of the alternatives either.....

    The solution would be to ensure that that people don't fall into that trap in the first place.

    I honestly think that all would be parents should attend mandatory parenting classes. The disintegration of communities hasn't really helped either.

    I'm all for the idea of the re-introduction of national service, but without necessarily gearing it towards the military.

    Have you read Freakonomics? There's a interesting section in there about how the huge downturn in crime in the late 70 and 80's was actually due to the legalisation of abortion.

    We could talk about this for hours but I have to get some work done. My boss is going to kill me otherwise!
  • Re: Literary fiction - a definition?
    by Account Closed at 12:58 on 15 February 2007
    Funnily enough Freakonomics is on the top of my pile of books to read next, along with The Tipping Point.
  • Re: Literary fiction - a definition?
    by EmmaD at 12:59 on 15 February 2007
    There's a memorial in the middle of Tredegar, one of the big pit towns in the Welsh Valleys, put up after Waterloo when Wales was almost entirely Welsh-speaking. And what does it say?

    The Duke of Wellington. England's hero.

    as if Wales was just another county of England. Then - very early, bless their Methodist hearts - Wales brought in universal free elementary education. In English. To help them overcome their linguistic disadvantage in making their way as Britons, it was thought. Enough to chip anyone's shoulder, I'd say.

    Of course the Welsh are as bad as anyone when it comes to prejudice. When I grew up in Cardiff, there was a lot of anti-English prejudice, and I can't imagine things are much different now. And then the North Welsh think the South Welsh aren't proper Welsh, and nobody else in Wales thinks that people from Hay-on-Wye are proper Welsh, and so it goes on...

    Which goes back to the class thing. It's people who feel their identity is threatened who spend most time and trouble to define what their identity is, i.e. the socially fluid middle classes, Christians when Islam becomes a significant force so they begin to define the boudaries of Christendom i.e. Europe, German Jews from Russian Jews in New York, which side of the tracks you come from or your children marry... Lord X knows he's a lord, and will say huntin' and shootin' and fishin' and fail his exams, like his cottagers, because no one would ever mistake them for each other. It's the tenant's son in the solicitor's office who nags his children to say -ing, and pass their exams...

  • Re: Literary fiction - a definition?
    by geoffmorris at 13:01 on 15 February 2007
    Freakonomics is a good starting point. So too is The Tipping Point, it's a bit simplistic and a little repetitive in places, but nevertheless an intresting introduction to a fascinating subject. You might want to check out Blink by Malcolm Gladwell too, again, a little simplistic but a good introductory text.
  • Re: Literary fiction - a definition?
    by polysharratt1 at 13:02 on 15 February 2007
    Time! 'Between the spasm and the desire falls the shadow...'

    Life is all a question of timing I think and I think that the secret rdenied to whole groups of people is access to a timely response.... It means that time itself is apportioned on the basis of your social position. It's about how quickly people respond to you, validate you. If you are someone who has a label then there is an institutionalised notion of how you get your response. This is a continuum, I think, througout the whole of society and is about the form of things, not their content. I think that if we had more control over the form of institutions rather than accepting the form as if it is realit, then we could really make an impact on social problems....


    I meant reality...not real lit
  • Re: Literary fiction - a definition?
    by Account Closed at 13:05 on 15 February 2007
    I love it when Lord Peter Wimsey says huntin' and shootin' and fishin' ... such a nice touch from the actors like Ian Carmichael, Edward Petherbridge etc. (Although it's also made fairly clear in the Sayers novels). You can just imagine lesser actors playing the aristo with a BBC newsreader accent and getting it so wrong.

    Actually I pretty much love it when Lord Peter Wimsey says anything.
  • Re: Literary fiction - a definition?
    by EmmaD at 13:11 on 15 February 2007
    Me too...

    Actually, there's a neat parallel with lazy comedians who reach for Welsh jokes, in Sayers' so-called anti-semitism, which is at about the same level. The love of her life was Jewish, while her Jewish characters are stock, in the days when it was acceptable.

    I've just read Barbara Reynold's biog of her - very good. Talking of accent, though, Sayers expected her surname to be pronounced 'Sairs', not 'Say-ers': nowadays that would sound not just posh, but ludicrous. Accents do change...

  • Re: Literary fiction - a definition?
    by debac at 13:18 on 15 February 2007
    Deb, I think that aspirations are by definition what you would like to have, not what you have already

    Yes, I know what the word means . I worded my msg badly. I was disagreeing with what Paula said:

    Aspiration is part of it but it's also about ability to aspire, having a voice in the first place

    I meant that you either have those aspirations or you don't, and that defines you to some extent. It's not about whether you might have those aspirations if your life was different - it's about whether you *do* have those aspirations.

    Do you follow me now?

  • Re: Literary fiction - a definition?
    by snowbell at 13:41 on 15 February 2007
    I agree that the disparagement of "middle-brow" fiction is probably borne of the disparagement of the middle classes, sadly

    I sadly haven't got the time to read through this long and complicated thread but I really disagree with this. For one this esoteric or "high" art is certainly not the pursuit of the upper classes. Similarly many comedy (low art presumably) greats have been middle-class.

    I think I have been guilty of making some cheap comment about middlebrow (blush) for which I apologise. But taking all this Leavis stuff out of it (Emma I have no idea about Queenie Leavis and not sure it is the same as the issues going on now. I want to say first that Emma's aims of interesting ideas in an accessible form is a great thing to aim for in my book. But what I call middlebrow isn't defined as this so maybe we're at total cross-purposes here.

    My PERSONAL bugbears are these, and I freely admit that many of these come from theatre rather than novels.

    I came at this originally as a defence of "low-art" - comedy mainly. What I dislike about theatre work I would define as "middle-brow" is a sort of smug "we are educated enough to understand some of these things but let's no go into anything too closely or subversively or else it might rock some of our certainties". There are so many pieces that substitute repetitious cod lyricism, superficial analogies with science that mean nothing and reveal nothing about science or art, a sonorous overly earnest serious voice to represent "serious" issues (just in case we snigger at the wrong point? I don't know) and something Emma brought up recently - the idea that dumping in some sort of angsty subject: anorexia, child abuse etc, in the right sonorous way is a substitute for saying anything and - lastly and most importantly - the idea that something is going to be explored in depth and then what we end up with is nothing more that some easy reinforcement of the values of that audience with no questioning. No questioning. That is what gets me. Bland.

    Now obviously there are also fantastic plays that are lyrical or have analogies with science or are serious or about child abuse or heartwarming tales that reinforce certainties can be really wonderful too. But those works are emphatically that - true lilting romanticism - not mindless repetition with the idea that that makes your play more profound. Plays that explore child abuse or science with real complexity or reality, not just using them as a weak symbol or analogy to reinforce the "profound" credentials of the play. Why I associate the above bad or superficial usage of those issues and styles with "middlebrow" is because that those are often the ones that are most popular with theatre audiences (who are often pretty middleclass and middleaged to be honest and WANT to feel they are going to something edifying but without much thought or engagement. The whole idea of edifying theatre is another thing that annoys me.)

    And I suppose what annoys me is the way people lord these BAD works over BRILLIANT works that are low-brow - that may say more, be more challenging, be funnier, be wilder, be more questioning, be more interesting as a barometer of society...

    So I think the term middle-brow is associated with that for me. It is nothing to do with middle-class as such, most people define themselves as middle-class these days, myself included. But I find my irritation with "middle-brow" is because of the thoughtless snobbery it has against wildness, crudeness, rowdiness, bawdiness,obscurity, intellectualness, darkness, experimentalness, clowning, comedy, rudeness - because it is either "above itself" or "bad taste" - and that is the result of simple snobbery in my view. Because it is the pretence of profundity, the pretence at saying something - without doing any of these things in case that is too disturbing or taxing for the audience. It is aware of it's place - and in a very paranoid way.

    So that is my experience. And perhaps it is a style thing. I have been to plenty of "high-art" conceptual art shows that are just are nothingy. (Many, in fact). I have seen much crap stand-up about testicles that weren't interesting in any way or funny either. So maybe it is time to throw these concepts away. I think it is perhaps partly a product of the fact that so much of the arts are dependent on government funding rather than Queenie Leavis, to be honest. We're back to the edifying idea again.

    What I would like to see is all these things mixed up much more. A bit more boldness altogether. But, I suspect, with all the recent conversations we've been having about marketing and the publishing industry that that a difficult one for writers. I may be wrong. Tell me I'm wrong. I'd like to be wrong, to be honest. Come on. I can take it.


    I just wanted to add that reading that through I realised that my mentioning of science in plays might be misconstrued as some kind of reference to Emma, which I totally didn't mean at all. It is just that plays where a science analogy became very popular a few years back and - although there were some good ones - some were frankly seemed to take some superficial phrase about science and then go aha - it's profound because our emotions could be said to be like that. Da-da. But usually it was just some meaningless linguistic phrase anyway with no real analogy drawn at all. Which seemed doubly irritating to me.


    Err...I do realise I've totally stormed in and done a bit of a Davy there... (no disrespect to Davy.)

    I'll get my coat.
  • Re: Literary fiction - a definition?
    by Account Closed at 13:43 on 15 February 2007
    I have seen much crap stand-up about testicles that weren't interesting

    I think I'd pay good money to see a comedian talking about "testicles that weren't interesting"...
  • Re: Literary fiction - a definition?
    by ashlinn at 13:46 on 15 February 2007
    Yes, I think I do but I do see Paula's point that it's hard to have certain aspirations if you're struggling.

    My initial point on class came from the fact that it seems to be a key issue in English society in a way that it isn't in other societies I've lived in. Other societies have different ways of grouping people and I'm not saying that they are better or worse, just different. I'm curious about the English class system because I haven't truely understood how it works and what it's based on.
  • Re: Literary fiction - a definition?
    by debac at 13:58 on 15 February 2007
    Snowbell, I think the reason you're disagreeing with me is that we're talking about different things. I'm not saying my definitions are right and yours are wrong - far from it - just that these definitions are hard to pin down and so we don't always use them in the same way.

    What you describe as the worst aspects of middle-brow are what I think of as the worst aspects (or primary aspects) of middle Englanders. (There's another "middle" to throw into the mix.) Provincial theatre is generally dire IMO. I live outside London and have given up going to theatre locally because they only put on dire crowd-pleasers which are exactly middle England.

    So I'm describing dire crowd-pleasers as middle England, but you'd describe them as middle-brow, and I'd say the latter was something entirely different! And some people would say crowd-pleasers are low brow.

    If Helen Dunmore is middle-brow (you may disagree) then I don't think she's up her own bum and neither do I think she shies away from bold or distasteful. One her recent novels is about a brother and sister who have (AIUI, having not yet read it) an incestuous relationship.

    I don't think comedy is low-brow, either. I think comedy can be low-brow or it can be very clever - either clever like the Royle Family, or clever like BlackAdder or Frasier, with lots of wit and verbal humour. Comedy with lots of wit and verbal humour would perhaps fall under middle-brow if you were going to classify tv shows in that way too (which is a bit of a leap, TBH, because they're so different to novels).

    I have to say I think you're knee-jerking a bit , but really I think this is a question of semantics. We all seem to mean different things by class, by middle-brow, by low-brow, and perhaps even by middle England.

  • Re: Literary fiction - a definition?
    by debac at 14:07 on 15 February 2007
    it's hard to have certain aspirations if you're struggling

    Absolutely. I don't disagree with that for a minute.

    But we started by talking about how class is defined, and I think it's defined to some extent by aspiration, so the fact that some people are in a position where they can't aspire to those things because they don't even know about them is relevant, and true, and part of the whole point.

    For instance, my Dad is very bright but he left school at 15 because he says he didn't even know there was such a thing as university. So he was constrained by his ignorance (not stupidity) of opportunities. It would have been hard for him to take those opportunities because of his background, but he didn't even know the opportunities were there to be taken if he could find a way. So at the time that was a relevant factor in defining his class, you could say.

    As for coming from abroad and not fully understanding the British class thing, I don't think people who've always lived here entirely do either! I just can't imagine things any other way, so I'm curious about how things are done in other countries. Are people more levelled socially and only defined by money and jobs?

  • This 182 message thread spans 13 pages:  < <   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12   13  > >