. . . but I had stuff to do. One time, this was going to be daily. Think I’ll settle for weekly. Won’t feel so bad about missing the odd post or two, and I’ll have all week to pretend I’ll write it tomorrow.
I belong to a couple of writers’ groups, based in the States. Well, they’re more organised than us over here. Anyway, you know how it is, you know it’s going to be a disappointment, you’ll end up all angry and frustrated, but you still watch Chelsea when they’re on terrestial. Or England play rugby. Sorry, that should read ‘try to play rugby’. Neither of these have anything to do with writers’ groups, other than the pretentiousness so often on show. ‘ Sylvia Snodgrass’, someone will sign herself (no, not literally) adding ‘Literary Writer, Inspiring Mentor, Gifted Mystic and Loved By Cats’.
I suspect that to be a writer in the States you have to have a cat. Or would have one, possibly two, if the landlord allowed. I just love that streak of sentimentality in a nation where a kid of ten can be sentenced to life imprisonment, and life means life. True, the kid might have killed someone (probably over a cat) but even so. No parole, no release when the men in white coats say, but life. And before anyone says that actually this is restricted to certain States, I know. Also o get a little p’d off with Americans saying don’t blame us for all the executions, especially when the condemned has the mental age of a chicken, that’s Texas. Oh, really? Washington is happy to sanction countries it thinks are bad, like Cuba. Or South Africa over apartheid. So why hasn’t Texas been sanctioned for all those executions? Or any State that locks up children for life? They could be refused Federal funding. The Dallas Cowboys excluded from the National Football League. The Miss Pre-Pubescent American Beauty Contest forbidden to stage pageants in the relevant States. There could be an arms embargo – less arms and ammunition, less chance of a fatal argument breaking out over kittens.
Now here’s the point. Finally. So many of the US members of these sites are serious Christians. . . with the occasional ‘me too, I never bombed no-one’ Muslim to keep the pot melting. There are plenty who aren’t, but it does appear that a belief in Christian values is as important as a love of cats and a really pretentious self-description if you want to be taken seriously as a writer in the US of A. Okay, none of this applies to Studs Terkel, Jimmy Breslin, John Updike, Ross Thomas and hundreds of others who actually made it big-time. I’m talking about the mainstream and the wannabees, the soul of a nation, the US version of a Daily Mail reader or someone who can read the Sun without moving their lips.
And it’s all the Internet’s fault. Millions of web-sites and forums. Bloody e-books. Quality control has vanished. The meek, the dumb, the ignorant and the smug have inherited the electronic world, are drowning out raw talent and genuine emotion with their mewling and purring and saccharine playfulness, all in the names of creativity and democracy and open access to all, because everyone’s entitled to make a living any way they can and you better not disagree, mister, or we’ll come and take away your cat.
Well, I’m glad we got that sorted out. Tea, anyone?
Oh, one other thing: far as I’m concerned the best, the greatest English writing in the past fifty, hundred years has overall been American. They make pretty good movies, too.