Monday, October 08, 2007


Tonight Hodmandod Senior and I went to a talk called Affluenza by Oliver James. He introduced his talk with this song (Mad World sung by Gary Jules). It is one of my favourites and always makes me think. The gist of the talk was that the values of modern society - particularly the English-speaking western societies - are driving us mad and I agree with him.

Materialism, attaching too much value to celebrity and social and physical appearance, causes us to suffer from depression and anxiety. Selfish capitalism, as propounded with such vigour by Margaret Thatcher and her successors has caused our society to become ill.

This, I believe, can be applied to the book industry too; the abolition of the net book agreement must have originally been inspired by greed. The result is that books are valued mainly as commodities and are sold like groceries; they are piled up like tomatoes and decorated with neon stickers advertising price not content. Books such as those 'written' by celebrities proliferate and are valued just because they sell in great number.

It is a bad time to be a writer; I have been told that again and again. Especially bad for writers like me who write for the love of the feeling that the words give us when we read them on the page. We write to convey a thought, an emotion or what we think is an important truth. It is an aspiration which is at odds with materialism and it is bound to make us ill.

So I intend to retreat for a while.


Blogger Anne S said...

I love the song Mad World too, but I am only familiar with the Tears for Fears version.

And I also totally concur with your views expressed in this post.

I go into book stores these days and am at loss to find a book that I might like. I used to love discovering obscure masterpieces in the past, eg Whittemore. These discoveries are few and far between these days.

Book sellers and major publishers appear to be very unadventurous these days.

Tue Oct 09, 12:11:00 am  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

"Retreat" is a rather soulful word, I note, and alien to the stories of acquiring wealth and pleasure and youth and beauty that are such favorites.

I'll be thinking of you sitting in a garden on your retreat, close by the fountain.

Good cheer, despite all!

Tue Oct 09, 04:54:00 am  
Anonymous Clare said...

I think this is the version used in the film Donnie Darko - it sounds so different with the slow piano backing. I like the Tears For Fears version too but it comes over more manically, I think.

Yes, I agree about the bookshops - I feel that too. They used to be places that had a slightly reverential feel - which I liked. Now they have the same atmosphere as any other shop. I expect they are selling more books though.

That Whitemore was wonderful - and quite different from anything else I'd read. I shall have to do a proper review once I get the chance. One thing seems to be crashing into another too much these days.

Thanks Marly - yes it is soulful because I am feeling soulful, I suppose. Ever since June I have been feeling like this and keep hoping to find a way out but I can't.

Tue Oct 09, 09:35:00 am  
Blogger Lee said...

Everything has indeed become a commodity, even old age. (As you can guess, I'm visiting my mum in her 'independent living' mausoleum.)

Tue Oct 09, 10:02:00 pm  
Blogger Anne S said...

I have since realised that the Gary Jules version of Mad World is the the one I fell in love with - the Donnie Darko version of course.

So glad you liked Whittemore - he is quite an individual writer. I recommend reading the rest of the Quartet or at least Jerusalem Poker which many people regard as the best book.

Wed Oct 10, 12:20:00 am  
Blogger Andrew Kenneally said...

I've a piece on materialism here, Clare, which might be of interest.

Thu Oct 11, 09:05:00 am  
Anonymous Andrew said...

And also a somewhat slapdash follow-on, Consumerism.

Thu Oct 11, 09:10:00 am  

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