Stick with me (or scroll down for my final comments if the two column format is too boring.).. I'm just trying to find ways to use this technology for discussion/analysis that does not involve the one after the other thread line we've become used to, which is really pretty inadequate for any proper discussion and which drives me (and others I'm sure) mad on Facebook or chat rooms. And would do here too.
Adding comments to a post is a strange beast, it doesn't really ensure that a sensible conversation is had - this sort of media is innately one sided. I say my piece and you agree or disagree. If you comment then it could take me days to respond or someone else might respond to you or change the 'thread' and we all end up dissatisfied. I'd like responses to my posts, of course, but unless you're prepared to put a full response into a comments box, I'd rather you wrote your own blog post, referencing this and we 'chatted' that way.
I like to think of this sort of arena as like either a) letter writing (but in a public arena) or 'articles' (without them having to be academic or mainstream media) which can be expanded upon, refuted, riffed or rebutted with as much thought as was put into the original piece. So you may see that this is a bit of a knitting experiment with online culture, I'm working without a pattern here and who knows what may develop from it. I just feel we have to have better ways to communicate online than the default mechanisms of social media which we have adopted. I don't think these are imposed on us or fixed, I think we've lazily adopted them and its for us to raise our game and change the way we communicate online.
The main character in the wee analysis that follows is one Douglas Stuart Wilson, who wrote the post. Let’s call him the agent provocateur/ lover of George Douglas Brown. What got me into this is that one of his gripes is that there's no cultural commentary (though he wants 'middle brow' style) and so I thought I'd just give him a wee run for his money. As you lot will all be aware, McRenegades is well up for cultural commentary - from the perspective of the wee voice of course - which I suspect is not 'middle brow' enough for Mr Wilson. Sorry chum, but it's our world too.
Douglas Stuart Wilson
Good news: "The House With The Green Shutters" has recently been translated into Spanish by a new Madrid publishing house, ardicia editorial. Sara Blanco Sanchez´s translation reads excellently. Is this the greatest Scottish novel of the Twentieth Century? It must be in the top five at least. In any case, it is certainly the most perspicacious about Scotland and the Scots character I can think of: completely damning. What a huge loss George Douglas Brown's death was to Scottish literature... and if anybody wants to know why we need a language Academy now, then take a look at THWTGS again, and see how much Scots we have lost since it was written in 1900 or so. What will be left to save another generation or two from now?
Stuart Patterson :
What'll be left will still be plenty though diminished, & very much down to the hard work of those actively involved in preserving & teaching & disseminating it.
Douglas Stuart Wilson Plenty? Not plenty compared to the Scots George Douglas Brown could call on. We need an state funded, stand alone Language Academy of Scotland NOW....the SNP govt are betraying Scottish culture... I see Fiona Hyslop was in Shetland promoting knitting....that is SNP vision of culture amounts to..friggin handicrafts and knitting....!!! What a joke of a national party....
Peter Burnett yeh . . . this book . . . is simply our finest hour
Douglas Stuart Wilson Absolutely Peter....what a great writer he was...outstanding....
The thing we have lost is the rhythm, the facility, the knack of Scots, the vocab you can look up or work out....there is a line in THWTGS which makes specific reference to the inventiveness of the Scots peasant for summing up a man or a scene with a line...it's all gone....it drives me out of my mind the way Scotland's languages have been abandoned....and we get all this emphasis on the politics....the SNP are indistinguishable from the Unionists in terms of culture....
Stuart Paterson Agree with your points about what we need, but am not getting into a political slanging match about it. We're starting to move forward now, much much better than pre-Holyrood. And Scots is still very much alive in many places.
Stuart Paterson And I'd rank the book up there with Gillespie.
DSW: I am no trying to start a slanging match. It is fair to say that after 8 years of SNP govt not much has changed....the SNP left-wing politics centered strategy to win indie is the wrong strategy....culture leads politics, not the other way around. Would we have won with that strategy? No, I doubt it, but we would be a lot further forward IMO... nobody talks about Scottish culture, and there is nowhere to write about it, all the new free press sites but nothing about Scottish culture.....it's dire, man....
Stuart Paterson O there is. You're just not looking hard enough. I'm on holiday & on a smartphone so And will continue this more in detail tomorrow if you like. Though I too rail against the Anglicised institutions calling themselves 'Scottish' wink emoticon
Douglas Stuart Wilson Look forward to that Stuart Paterson.
Stuart Paterson (ie, the SPL, SBT, CS etc)
Douglas Stuart Wilson Stuart Paterson. I mean a weekly or a bi-monthly broad, middle brow cultural Scottish magazine or journal...and of course international...something like The London Review or Books. We have nothing. Lots of small quarterlies, obsessed with the short story (Why? I don't know) but no venue for a conversation. The free press? Almost nothing and politicized. The newspapers used to perform that function to a large extent, but the newspapers these are unreadable "swinish garbage"....
Stuart Paterson The National & Herald ought to be doing much more in that respect. Lallans gets fuck all funding. And on it goes. Still, have applied for the Scots Scriever post in hope rather than expectation.
Douglas Stuart Wilson Well, I hope you get it sir....The National is fine on politics....but where are the Scottish writers on culture? For the first half of the 20th century, almost all writers, including GDB, worked as journalists as well as writers....but not any more...Massie, Gray in the National, okay....but the bent is always political...I am satiated with Scottish politics and starved of Scottish culture....
Stuart Paterson Massie is a tosser & long outmoded smile emoticon Hope Alasdair's getting better, he'd an affa coup doon the stairs the ither week, ribs broukit an heid cracked. And as for the kowtowing likes o Lochhead et al, dinnae get me stertit. Ooops, feel a libel case coming on.
Douglas Stuart Wilson I agree with that 100%....the SBT trust should be scrapped, yesterday....and the money should be spent on a National Academy of Languages....a modest Academy, but an Academy....that would be a centre and it would be run by writers, not these awful bureaucrats....it might also offer writers a way of making a living even for a year or two, on a rotating basis...it would have a monthly publication and it would join up Scottish writers all around the world - and foreign publishers and translators - and represent Scottish letters throughout the world...
Stuart Paterson Peter, that's a great post.
Peter Burnett There are so many things that money could do . . . but governments create monopolies, that's what they do. Starting with their monopoly on violence, on education, on health etc etc etc. It's like the 11 mill they gave to Amazon here in Scotland (along with tax benefits) - - another monopoly cemented. If more writers resisted the SBT then things might be different - - but there is an unusual reverse at play here. It was always culture first, at least with the writers I grew up admiring. Now it is all career . . . shitting themselves about their social media bios and 'getting on' with the right bureaucrats. I kid you not. I have been living and working with this for 15 years now
Douglas Stuart Wilson That is true but there have always been writers like that: careerists; the majority...fair enough and the Creative Writing courses...don't get me started on that......that Peter is the danger with the Academy too...it is a great idea, but it would probably just end up being run by the same bigwigs anyway....still, it would certainly help the languages....I am all for starting a vanguard....a vanguard of disgruntled writers...
The book DSW is referring to is one I never really took to. The characters all seem so mean.
Is it the 'greatest Scottish novel of the 20th century?' as DSW suggests, I somehow doubt it.
Is it 'the most perspicacious about Scotland and the Scots character I can think of'?
I know it's meant to be some sort of proto-modernist indictment on 'Kailyard' but for me it just showed a view of rural Scotland from the perspective of one who wanted desperately to escape from it, and thus saw no value in it. Yet, entertainingly, when published, it was for a time described as 'Kailyard itself'! Either way, for me it's more representative of the shift towards the privileging of urban culture rather than offering anything really important to say about rural Scots culture or way of life.
DSW wants a Language Academy - this is the crux of his post. His argument is that we have 'lost' Scots words like those used by GMB in '1900 or so' - you'd think that if he was that keen to conserve language he'd be able to be specific on dates at least. (It was published in 1901) And, perhaps you'd expect him to know a few more of the late 19th century /early 20th century texts which are full of Scots - S.R.Crockett, William Alexander to name but two.
SP's reply suggests that DSW is somewhat overegging the pudding - he suggests that lots of people are currently working hard to keep Scots alive. S.P is a well kent Scottish poet (one might see him within the cultural elite)- I don't know where DSW stands in this respect, but from the rest of the post he's clearly got it in for both Scottish Book Trust and Scottish National Party.
The two way conversation goes on for a bit:
DSW gets to his point - but this is just a rant. Requirement for 'state funded' but not by this government! So his beef is variously with SNP's cultural policy and with rural culture. 'friggin handicrafts and knitting' is not culture in his view - might I suggest he's a somewhat narrow view of what culture is. And that he's got a real downer on rural culture (which explains his love of GDB's work I suppose) Of course he's entitled both to his own opinion and to like what he likes, but I find it disingenuous to be dismissing both a political party and a swathe of rural culture in this way. Many of us have NO cultural need or requirement for a 'Language Academy of Scotland.'
Someone else enters the fray to big up GDB. Fair enough
DSW - yes, I'm not alone. Let's all praise GDB.
Then back to his main point - I recoil with horror as he mentions 'the inventiveness of the Scots peasant' How patronising.
He's got a right bee in his bonnet about politics and culture though - which is what this is really all about. He's really just against the Scots Language Policy of the SNP. Which is fine, that's his opinion, and I'm not sure what I think of it either. But it hardly warrants a full scale attack - 'Scottish languages have been abandoned' (aye mate, read some S.R.Crockett instead of dismissing it as Kailyard would be a start!) And as with all rants disguised as cultural commentary, it falls down when he suggests that the SNP and Unionists are 'indistinguishable in terms of culture' I could write a book about how stupid this comment is...
SP is more temperate - just suggests that there is an issue worth discussing here but political slanging match is not the way to do it. And he points out that Scots is still very much alive (yes, and doesn't need an Academy to tell us how to do it right!)
SP throws his hat in the wall and loves GDB too... we're all agreed on that. But again, for my money there is still a big elephant in the room in that GDB is the 'accepted' cultural norm - the one taught in academic circles... so that the people bigging it up in many ways are just regurgitating 'cultural' party line of the academic/elite. Where is the discussion/ acknowledgement of the other 'great' works of Scottish fiction from around that time?
DSW is still just pissed off with SNP. 'culture leads politics not the other way round.' His 'would we have won' suggests that we are all in the know about his political stance, which I can only suppose to be a No voting Labour view - I take this from his 'state funded' requirement, but then he seems pretty right wing in his attitudes towards what is accepted as culture, so I remain confused. But here's the main thing. He states that nobody talks about Scottish culture and there is nowhere to write about it.... rubbish man. There's here for a start. You're welcome. But you'd need to raise the game and actually talk about culture rather than just slag off the SNP. His point is just 'I haven't found anywhere where I can read/write about culture from my opinion and not get into an argument' - hmmm... either he's not looking or he's not open minded enough to actually engage in debate. But then, if knitting can't be a cultural activity...
SP thankfully calls him out on this. Points out that there is plenty of places where culture is discussed. and offers to discuss this with him privately.
SP notes the Scottish Poetry Library, the Scottish Book Trust and Common Space - all of which I suggest are 'cultural elite' BIG Voice places - but they are the kind of thing DSW would want except I suspect he's persona non gratis in them, in other words he's not in that particular elite and so he'd like to form his own version of them. What that will add to the cultural life of the rest of us I'm not sure. An 'Academy' - just what the rural working class Scot is looking for in life! But we go into a wee debate over the relative values of cultural output ..
And here again, his language is revealing: ' broad, middle brow cultural Scottish magazine or journal.' Oh my word. And this is of more cultural value
and/or appeal to the mass of Scots than knitting???
He wants something like the London Review of Books... that's him positioned firmly as aspirational of middle class values then - whether he's on the right or on the left....
He's not keen on newspapers which is fair enough - calling them garbage. I'd suggest that what's wrong with the cultural content in newspapers (and magazines including whatever magazine he'd like) is that they are market driven that it's a pay to play world (see my 'it gets my goat') and all DSW wants is the chance to create and be a big fish in his own little version of this. At least, that's how it reads to me.
SP is in agreement and also feels not 'in' the elite far enough - he's put his hat in the ring for Scriever - aye, let's see who gets that. Do any of us really believe it won't be one of the well established 'cultural elite' It's interesting that SP seems to position himself outside that elite. But then everyone seems to. No one wants to admit they're in the in crowd.
DSW seems to find the National fine for politics - yet he doesn't like the 'culture' Basically this is a punt for his version of culture to be promoted more widely. Again, I laugh as he mentions writers as journalists - what about S.R.Crockett???
He doesn't like the way that culture is shown as political in 'The National' and doesn't seem to understand that this is always going to be the case, that his own version of culture is political in the comments he's making himself. He's had enough of politics and not enough of culture. I suggest he needs to explore more. If you stay in the narrow field of the Big Voice media it's not surprising you aren't finding what you want.
SP replies - and really all this shows us is the usual thing of jockeying for position within the elite - SP 'knows' Alasdair Grey (whose novel lanark is surely 'better' - if we play those games - than GDB's House) Doesn't like Massie and Lochhead. Ah, capitalism, the monster that feeds on itself, is the only comment I can make. Or 'play nicely children.' ? Or 'so this is how the other half culturally live' - Anyway, make of it what you will...
Our boys are now in agreement and DSW suggests scrapping the SBT - this just reads of -they don't give me money so they aren't doing a good job, Let's set up something that works for me... 'a modest Academy' - what world is this man living in? Run by writers - oh, I see, funding for writers not beaurocrats... again, even while I might agree with some of what he's saying, the whole way he says it just makes it look like his whole interest is in job for him... his dream is for him to become centre stage isn't it?
In the weird way that FB has it seems that SP is replying to a post before Peter Burnett has written it...
but PB's point is that governments create monopolies. He brings culture/politics/ career debate into the arena.... for me the problem with all this is that the comments sections of FB are just not the place for any joined up, reasoned debate about culture, politics or anything. They are soundbite, rant world and you need a blog at least to do it justice - BUT these guys want to take their place in the traditional Big Voice world rather than explore how to challenge it. They want to have their say in print rather than find ways of having proper, grown up discussion via new media - which is FREE and which means giving of your time and being open to discussion and trying to develop points properly... but that sort of discourse generally gets lost in 'social media'... Well guys, here's a place. We'll take your authored pieces about culture and politics. We
won't pay you of course, but you're offered a slot in our forum any time. If you're not really just more concerned about being seen and heard by the 'middle brow' elite you denigrate yet seem desperate to be part of - the ruling part!
DSW realises at last that the Academy might just be the same old same old... and he wants to start a 'vanguard of disgruntled writers' ... hmm... wonder what he thinks of McRenegades, though of course he probably doesn't know we exist. Maybe we don't exist if he and his kind don't know about us?
The debate goes on and if you're interested enough I'm sure you can find it for yourself. I'd just point out that later into this discussion, Cally Phillips put her head above the parapet, mentioned McRen and me (thanks Cally) and was roundly ignored by all and sundry!!! Well, apart from one guy, but the main players didn't engage with her - which shows how keen they are to engage in cultural debate when it offers an alternative perspective. I rest my case.
It's at times like this that I realise one can put far too much store in social media. Things like this suck you into an activity that has even less cultural value than knitting (again, a bit of satire there folks - knitting is a far more useful activity than FB chat in my opinion). Another part of me says, wait a minute boy, you're being sold a pup. This FB thread, and many others like it are actually private conversations - or the kind of party chat you've avoided all your life - masquerading as serious cultural debate. The phrase intellectual masturbation has doubtless become a cliche, but I fear it's also a growing reality in our social media obsessed world. To waste my time trying to apply any kind of discourse analysis to it is really just to waste my time. I make the mental note not to get thus sucked in again. If this is cultural commentary I despair.
It's not just social media that's at it though. But there's no surprise there. Yet people do seem to be constantly surprised. The Guardian this weekend featured a 'family' article by Wigtown Book Festival Adrian Turpin - fair enough you might think, but it had nothing to do with the Book Festival, it was a (ridiculous - my intepretation) piece about a missing engagement ring. The piece itself is pretty trivial, an example of Jeremy and Victoria by any other name, but it does worry me about the propensity people have these days for showing themselves as complete arseholes and not seeming to realise it, face with the lure of being given the forum (or paid) for writing about their lives.
More than that - on the meta level, we should perhaps not be surprised that Big Voice world allows its paid up members to pontificate like that. It is just FB threads writ large. If you read newspapers you should, I suppose, appreciate that it's a pay to play world, that the reviews are paid for, that the comment is opinion, that it's YOU as purchaser, consumer who privileges this world and this world view. It's an alien one to me which is why I try to avoid it (I came across the Guardian thing on FB by the way!) It was only slightly less shocking than the woman who posted about the contents of her car boot, which she had cleared out for the first time in 4 years! Who THE FUCK is interested? Was my thought. Followed by 'do you have no shame' - the same question I ask of the Engagement ring story - these people need to take a long hard look at themselves and their understanding of the way to engage with society. THIS is the interesting point underneath all my ranting I suppose - how we use social media and how our identities are tied up in it. And how much it has become our forum for cultural expression and commentary and the dangers of that! For myself, I feel like a sort of pond feeder when I go onto FB... anyone else get that?
There's loads of food for thought for me in the above which I hope to explore further (and in more depth) in future articles (posts). I don't know what I'm knitting yet, but it's a creative act none the less. I, however, have to get back to The New Gateway... the project I'm working on which will be on your screens early in 2016.