Wednesday 29 July 2020

Taking potshots at shit hot hotshot novelists

"Who are the new male hotshot novelists?" screams the annoying headline. 

 "I asked everyone I interviewed for this piece to name as many important male novelists under 40 as they could. All of them struggled" amplifies literary hack James Marriot of The Times, in a pointless exercise in ageism and middlebrow whatiffery. 

There's a point worth making perhaps, but it's already made by the mugshots at the head of the article - Barnes, Rushdie, Martin Amis and Ishiguro - four big hitters, presumably all over forty. Well over.

Marriot's humdrum observation is that there seems no longer to be a regular new clutch of Oxbridge-educated blokey 'hotshots' boosted by their agents and publishers and (every few years) by GRANTA and other publications as "Best of British whatevers' to take over from the previous batch of Oxbridge-educated blokey hotshots, boosted by their agents etc. in a cultural dance as old as time. 

But that scenario hasn't really been the case since the mid-1970s, the last decade in which it was possible for a bookish young man on the make (always a young man) to fetch up at the offices of The New Statesman or The Spectator or The Listener or The Observer or Ian Hamilton's New Review or some other publication, and get a gig reviewing and eventually parlay that into a literary career of sorts. Those routes no longer exist and most of the publications have long since downsized their literary coverage, or simply disappeared along with the readership that made them viable. Of course and to be sure there's been a far greater focus on women writers in the decades since, and that I suppose took off with (Oxbridge-educated) Zadie Smith and White Teeth twenty years ago. Keen interest and a receptive readership surrounds each rising generation of exceptionally talented women writers. That's a Good Thing.

Rising reluctantly to Marriot's challenge, and off the top of my head, and just Brits, alphabetically, I can come up with  Will Eaves, Jonathan Gibbs, Michael Hughes, Anthony Joseph, Toby Litt, Paul Mendez, Wyl Menmuir, Courttia Newland, Simon Okotie, Alex Pheby, Lee Rourke, Paul Stanbridge, Tony White. (I don't know if they're under 40, and don't care. Age is as relevant to a writer as height, weight and starsign.) And there's plenty of non-Brits: Jack Cox, Jean-Baptiste del Amo, Mathias Énard, Hugh Fulham-Mcquillan,  Rónán Hession, Édouard Louis, Mike McCormack, George Saunders and so on and on and on and I'm not even breathing hard because anyone with a serious interest in literature could do the same. Marriot's article is behind a paywall so I don't know whose views he solicited, but perhaps he should expand his circle of acquaintances and broaden his reading horizons. Or just shut the fuck up.

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