06.04.08, The Scourge of Mammon

I am writing about a specific case, but it doesn’t mean we don’t all know of those selfish people who, without respect for the outcome, scrabble, possibly cheat, and certainly can ruin not only the economy of individuals, but the economy of a country. I remember there was a man, I forget his name, who played the financial markets in America, in the 70s or 80s, to the extent that he crippled the economy of some of the European countries and then himself became a billionaire.

The specific case I’m talking about here was raised by my Dutch friend Jan, during a telephone conversation I had the other day. We were talking about the English language, which he speaks perfectly, with a very wide vocabulary. He was talking about this blog, and saying he couldn’t understand why if I had the level of acceptance and the vast number of pages read every month, I hadn’t been requested to contribute to a newspaper. Of course he is my friend. I have been writing for my own amusement from I left university in 1950, until two years ago, when I started writing the blog. I wrote doggerel, short stories and about 15 novels. I wrote to solve a problem. For example I am writing a novel at the moment about a highly capable detective who was blinded by acid being thrown in his face, and yet became a consultant to the police. When I had finished a novel I sent it off, it was rejected, so instead of sending it to a few more, I sat down and wrote another novel, because that was my interest, not really publication. There was a young man some years ago whom my daughter knew, who had written a novel and had I think anything from 60 to 100 refusals before he was accepted, but when he was, the novel was actually a bestseller.

Times have changed, if you want to be published you either have to be a journalist, with the contacts that that entails, or to have a name in show business, or be a politician, or be famous for some other reason. It seems that you don’t even have to be able to write, ghost writers will be knocking on your door, and the chances of publication are very high. The reason for this is that the public today are not so much interested in the written word for its own sake. Many of us read books because the subject must interest us, but often the way in which the book is written, its approach to the subject and its vocabulary are even more entertaining. The classics are so because of the English, some of it is antiquated and for that reason even more interesting. This applies to plays and films also. Possibly some of the reasons why people are reading books less, is not only because of television, and the Internet where they read snippets, but also, perhaps at school they were no longer taught the appreciation of fine prose, as a subject in itself. To take a modern-day example, the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice has some lovely archaic English which I find a joy to listen to. There are examples that beat the trend like the Harry Potter series.

However, I suspect the real reason is Mammon. The urge to make money, which generally involves high levels of publicity, together with, in many cases, salacious tittle tattle. This is not a cry from the heart of a frustrated old man, I never had great aspirations, and was always too busy trying something else to worry if I didn’t succeed in one particular sphere. In effect of course with respect to writing, in the long-run, I have had a surprising success, thanks to the generosity of my grandson. What this is, is a plea to the book trade, or even people who are disgustingly wealthy, to fund new writers of promise, as a speculation and, if you like, charity, so that money, and a high return is not necessarily the prime movers, the quality and language are.

Categorized as General

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