Prospect readers have their say.by Prospect / June 20, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
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Everything’s for the best
Does it matter that Simon Jenkins, apart from saying nothing new or amusing or well-expressed, is wrong when he says that Harold Pinter and Kingsley Amis were “angry young men”? Pinter took no part in that supposed movement. Kingsley Amis actually refused to contribute to Declaration, which was a collection of essays that publicised “the angries,” nearly all of whom were on the make via politics to fame. One key, unmentioned figure of the time was Colin Wilson, whose affectations of intellectual cosmopolitanism heralded the intrusion into cultural punditry of a non-graduate, unconnected outsider indeed, who was first saluted and then dismissed the literary service.
As for there being no female writers, Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook was soon an important, if now obsolete, manifesto, as was her first book about Africa (The Grass Is Singing). Shelagh Delaney’s plays made a big impact at the Royal Court; Edna O’Brien made her name in one way and another. If Jenkins thinks that today’s London competes in the arts with New York, what pictures has he seen, what plays has he admired, what authors does he hurry to read? If you compare David Hockney’s recent appalling show with the work of, say, Victor Pasmore, in the 50s and 60s, and the overweight sculpture of A Gormley with Henry Moore or Michael Ayrton, only a clownish apostle of presentism could possibly find our contemporaries superior. Ayrton’s criticism alone proves how much more a writer in those times could rely on the cultural broad-mindedness of his readers than can today’s puff-writing journalistic pundits. Look at The Rudiments of Paradise for evidence.