Sunday, 19 April 2009
...to Absolute Disgrace
...well, not there yet. We are only on the three dots in between. The early family life is very good. I don't think it is good simply because I am interested in the life of someone I know and like, but because the facts themselves are interesting, the observations drawn from those facts are interesting, and because the nice blend of language registers signalled at the beginning of the has gathered a certain amount of pace by then.
Some reviewers of the book have talked about humour and laughter, how they thought a lot of this was funny, like some kind of display of wit, and while there is certainly humour and wit my foreign self doesn't laugh. That may be because laughter is a function of recognition, and nothing of this is really recognisable to me. Reading it I wonder that I am a poet at all, a poet in English that is. How could I possibly be working in a culture of which this is the language, these the core experiences. Please read my poems, says the Man in the Moon. I bring you Moon sensibility in the English language!
But no, it isn't entirely like that. The cultural patterns are strange but the emotions are not.
For surely Stokies are not interested solely in other Stokies. Stokieness isn't the only valid form of being. And for all the talk of loyalty and guilt and mates, we know this, the author knows it, and most of those constituting the inner circle of the imagination - whether that is the Stoke circle, the North circle, the working class circle, or any other damn circle - know that being outside, even if only in the imagination, is a condition of understanding the centre.
I am, of course, exaggerating when I say I recognise nothing. I recognise both the description of British Rail sandwiches as "a single sliver of processed cheese pressed between two slices of Mother's Pride scraped down with margarine" and the slightly troubled, defensive gesture of rejecting the "racist television comedians" who made such sandwiches a butt of their jokes.
'Please don't associate me with them,' goes the subtext. 'I am cool about such things.' And I guess he is. But I am glad he doesn't go on to deliver a sermon on it.
One of these days I will find someone who admits to having found those comedians - all working class, pretty well all northern - funny at the time. And, while on the subject, I may one day find someone who admitted enjoying the Black and White Minstrel Show, because, assuredly the show had huge audiences, nor were they all members of the National Front.
The author would simply have been too young for that, but in general I am not in favour of retrospective cool and retrospective virtue. Not, at any rate, at a safe distance. Circles and centres are not necessarily what we remember them to have been. I mean my own circles too, because, well, it would be pointless if I didn't.