‘the crimz & the killers & the nonsiz & the rapiss & the arsoniss & shit’
- Canteen Culture by Ike Eze-anyika
Faber, 295 pp, £9.99, March 2000, ISBN 0 571 20079 6
- Charlieunclenorfolktango by Tony White
Codex, 158 pp, £7.95, December 1999, ISBN 1 899598 13 8
- Filth by Irvine Welsh
Vintage, 392 pp, £5.99, August 1999, ISBN 0 09 959111 1
Fictional representations of real events from Hillsborough to the Stephen Lawrence case – mostly in the form of plays and television dramas – have played a surprisingly large part in shaping national debates about the police and police culture. Novels, however, tend either to use the figure of the detective to investigate larger questions than those of routine police work, or to fall back on the conventional oppositions (efficiency and incompetence, probity and graft) which tend to prop up the morphology of the fictional plod. When three novels emerge which explicitly or implicitly claim to deal with questions of police power and its abuses, it’s hard not to hope for something more than straightforward inversions of the mythic neighbourhood bobby. Unfortunately, the only one of these books with any insight into the daily grind of law enforcement and the attitudes it engenders is a failure as a novel; the other two, no masterpieces themselves, content themselves with posturing and caricature.
Vol. 22 No. 8 · 13 April 2000
Christopher Tayler asserts (LRB, 30 March) that my novel is ‘unreadable’, yet from his rather misguided review, it appears that he managed to read it. Yet surely if he wanted to read something that ‘explicitly or implicitly claimed to deal with questions of police power and its abuses’ then he should have got a copy of the Macpherson Report (that too is ‘bizarre, depressing’ – more so, indeed, than my own novel), rather than affecting to criticise Ike Eze-anyika, Irvine Welsh and myself for our failures to perform this function. Perhaps Tayler would like to write to me care of the editors of the LRB and let me know which ‘questions’ he thinks my next novel ought to ‘deal with’. I’ll happily suggest a dark place where he can put his agenda. Better than that; I’ll give him a hand.
Vol. 22 No. 9 · 27 April 2000
Never send a toff to do a man's work. Christopher Tayler's sniffy review of Tony White's Charlieunclenorfolktango (LRB, 30 March) was hilarious. Not as good as Martin Amis, eh? Is it not a bit sad that the Laurel & Hardy-esque double-act of Amis and Self – a couple of turgid upper-middle-class fogies who write like Victorians – are still regarded as benchmarks of enfant terriblism? Surely the 21st century needs a new literature, a Punk Lit, an Avant-Pulp, a New Brutalism: writing that apes, matches, parodies and supersedes the exhilarating pace of the popular culture which surrounds it. Would you send your ballet critic to a football game? How about an informed and well-researched article on the explosion of action novels written by survivors of the punk generation? Hell, I'll even write it for you. Shake things up a bit, hmm?