When Writers Were Cool

by joseph ridgwell

  

Finally, I woke up one sunshine morning in the beat apartment of a hanger on around the arts and wondered where the time went and what was to come of me. They were everywhere and everyone was out to get me. And it wasn’t paranoia, the fuckers really were out to get yours truly. So be it, if I was going down, then I was taking a few of em with me. One phone call. That was all it would take. One phone call to the man in black…

And yet, that was all big talk, more hot air by Ridgwell, the man who always did walk a lonely street, as a lone bugler blew the Last Call on the corner of an East London cobbled turning somewhere in the heart of the Jago. And in Petticoat Lane the illumination hit me. Whatever happened to the days when writers were cool?

And as I ruminated on this literary conundrum, whilst simultaneously focusing on the reality that the boozers of Old Smokey only opened at the barbaric time of 12.00PM, my electrified brain ventricles considered the crazed idea that maybe writers were still cool, but the cool writers remained, as yet, unidentified.

So where are the Jack Kerouacs, Hemmingway’s, Sylvia Plath’s, Oscar Wilde’s, Camus’s, Celine’s, Cookie Mueller’s, Terry Southern’s, Carson McCuller’s, Bukowski’s, and Burrough’s of the 21st Century?

Sometimes, if you want to get to the nitty gritty, you have to dig a little deeper. When observing the current cultural morass I’m reminded of something the elusive wordsmith, HP Tinker once said and I quote:

HPT:  I am very interested in writing books . . . just not novels. There are too many novels nowadays. We need to encourage novelists to stop writing them. It’s a failing form that has fallen into the hands of Vulgarians. If it continues its present trajectory the novel will wither and die. Nobody will be remotely interested.

Now of course these prophetic words have yet to be realised as novels, ones by Katie Price, anyway, still sell in the bucket load. But the idea that the mighty novel has fallen into the hands on Vulgarians does, I feel, merit some justification. In my opinion the words of Aldous Huxley are a good barometer of what a novel should be, and once more I quote:

The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. “Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does.” They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.”

 

Obviously the above quote has nothing to do with the writing of novels, but that’s the kinda of guy I am, a weirdie, twisted, who gives a shit?

Maverick writers were cool, are cool and will always be cool, you just have to know your onions to chance across their elusive works. The cool elite are out there, some operating at the peak of their powers, others languishng in penniless obscurity. But seek and ye shall find… and, if you never in your lifetime bother to seek out these illuminating bop prose scribes, well in the immortal words of ultra cool wordsmith, Cookie Mueller, ‘No, my son, but you’re forgiven. Go now in peace.’

 

Or if you are a seeker of truth and still on the prowl, in the words of the Barbarians: ‘I’m saying this to all of you, all of you who think you’ll never make it. All of you guys and girls, coz you think you’re so bad off. Or maybe you think you’re a little different or strange. Listen to me now coz I’ve lived through it all. Don’t turn away, you gotta keep on trying…

Joseph R Portobello, Easter 2012