p.s. Could you argue that the Dutch are The Beatles of world football? If you love music you surely must appreciate The Beatles and likewise the Dutch if you love your football. Both remind you that it’s not just the winning, but how the game is played.
(Just in case any body’s intrigued by the thought of a show called Terry McIntyre Classy Bitch there’s a YouTube channel dedicated to it. It’s www.youtube.com/user/fanofthetanzy , but don’t come crying to me.)
There are some people whose whole career can be recommended, those who even when they misfire are interesting enough to make them indispensable. Elvis Costello, Tom Waits and KateBush are three who immediately come to mind, and I would add Edwyn Collins to such a list. Orange Juice were a formative band for me, helping to lure a pre-teen away from a possible future which included the far tighter trousers of Heavy Metal. For that alone I am indebted, but he has always reappeared over the years with knowing lyrics, melodies and a rare warmth.
For more info please check http://www.edwyncollins.com/
The fallout from James Kelman’s appearance at the Edinburgh Book Festival continued in The Sunday Herald. I’m not sure what’s happened to this paper and its weekly sister The Herald in the last year. At the moment they remind me of the kids in the playground pushing unwilling participants into the middle of a circle and chanting ‘fight, fight, fight’. Jasper Hamill’s article (see below) talks of ‘brutal put downs’ and ‘blistering attacks’ and goes on to describe how ‘Literary Scotland’ has been ‘torn apart’ by Kelman’s comments. Really? I know newspapers are having to create controversy as they increasingly lose out to other medium when it comes to breaking the news, but their current editorial stance, at least in terms of covering art and culture, is desperate. Much as I love the idea of fights breaking out behind Charlotte Square between gangs of ‘genre’ and ‘radical’ writers, circling each other like The Sharks and The Jets, this is just an attempt to reaffirm those old, and surely now redundant, categories of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art.
I may be wrong about this, but I don’t believe that Kelman is making these points for personal gain. He speaks on behalf of writers who do not fit any ‘genre’, and therefore are not easily packaged. His profile has never been higher, and part of that profile is ‘the angry man of Scottish letters’, something he will be fully aware of, and uses to try and effect change. Although his critical acclaim may not transfer to Rankinesque sales, nobody could argue that he lacks status. His argument was consistent with his wider concerns about suppression of language and the working classes by the education system and a capitalist society. The 2003 collection of essays and talks “and the judges said…” properly deals with his views and is well worth looking at, even if you don’t agree, although the novels are the real place to understand his political and artistic stance. Denise Mina’s opinion piece (also below), written to answer Kelman’s accusations, concludes that such arguments only push readers towards genre fiction. She may be right, but must see that such a state of affairs is not desirable. Genre fiction by definition only admits certain styles and voices. If other fiction is pushed aside then Scotland’s literature is diminished. The real shame about the sensational coverage of this debate, the personal attacks and divisive language, is that they obscure a very important conversation that could be taking place about the best way to introduce and promote literature to make it more inclusive rather than exclusive.
This first post is a little mission statement as to the reason for writing this blog. Contemporary writing and commentary that deals with Scottish art and culture often obsesses over questions of inclusion and exclusion, questions that usually arise from the thorny issue of nation. This blog aims to, if not ignore such questions, demote them to the sidelines as all aspects of art and culture are discussed and dissected. I cannot deny that I am Scots, writing in Scotland, and will concentrate (although not exclusively) on Scottish writers, poets, music, films, TV, art, comedy etc, but ‘where and when’ is of far less importance to me than ‘what and why’. Discussions can be had elsewhere as to what is or is not Scots and often they become a barrier to the enjoyment of that which is under discussion.
And that is what this blog is really for, to celebrate, debate and enjoy art in its widest sense. To deal with the art itself, and allow discussion and comment that looks at the old and new anew. To not take too seriously something which I take very seriously indeed. We have an ongoing relationship with our respective cultures throughout our lives and it is important to remember the relationship as it was when first consummated. The joy, wonder and the reason we fell in love in the first place with bands, films, poems and books. Like all relationships it changes, becomes more ‘serious’ as time goes by, and although I cannot pretend that a wary, weary and cynical side will be suppressed fully, (nor would I wish it so,where is the fun in that) I want to focus on my belief that art in all its forms can give us a reason for living better lives.
My first post proper will be thoughts on John Byrne’s Tutti Frutti which I have just watched for the first time since it originally screened in 1987. What struck me is the way that Byrne created a thoroughly Scottish drama, one that wears its roots and knowledge lightly, giving reference to outside cultural influence without apology, and does so with a light touch and a self-mocking sense of humour.
It is in this spirit that I write this blog. Of course this may change at any time, but until it does please excuse the indulgence and read on…