scarecrow editorial

Monday, October 17, 2005


4: De Novo

What should a current student of British post ‘50s literature be confronted with today? How should s/he be provoked? What defines a work of British Literature? What makes any British writer academically plausible? And which British writers of fiction classify an age? A Literary Style? A movement? A shift in Literary perspective? Which works of British Literary fiction can force inspiring debate? It’s the eternal question folks! In a current epoch where more novels are being published each year than at any other moment in history how do we weed out the good from the bad?

The novelist Ellis Sharp recently set his readers the task of devising their own alternative Top 10 British writers of fiction since 1950, having lately observed the tired state of the average university campus’ reading list Ellis, rather provocatively as per usual, produced his own list to help kick start this debate. And a mighty fine list it is too. [See here for his Top 10 Literary Criticism titles].

So, and in following Ellis Sharp’s instruction, we [here at scarecrow] have produced our very own alternative list, and after careful deliberation feel we have produced an unbiased Top 10 that showcases a broad spectrum of literary styles, socio-political awareness, wit and accomplishment fit for any university reading list. These books aren’t necessarily given to you in any order of preference [well, except, maybe, Ann Quin] and aren’t our favourite novels of all time - the list isn’t devised in such a way. Vanity projects are useless. The list is formed to encourage debate, to challenge and open the eyes of an eager student willing to read away from a staid, old and tired Literary Canon. See what you think below - do you agree? Some of you may recoil in horror, some of you may whoop great paroxysms of joy. Some of you may have seen it all before. It’s, as they say, over to you:

1: Ann Quin - Berg.

2: J. G. Ballard - High Rise.

3: Irvine Welsh - Trainspotting.

4: Jeanette Winterson - Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit.

5: Iris Murdoch - The Sea, The Sea.

6: Alexander Trocchi - Young Adam.

7: Kazuo Ishiguro - The Remains Of The Day.

8: B.S. Johnson - Christie Marly’s Own Double-Entry.

9: Hanif Kureshi - The Buddha Of Suburbia.

10: John Wyndham- The Chrysalids.

So there you go. That’s our list. We hope it makes some sense to you - and yes, it’s not as “Cultish” as some may have first presumed. But hey, it’s not always about being cool. Many, many, many books/titles were considered [and we may even publish an alternative list to this alternative - how far can these things go on?], but the 10 titles above, we feel, fully illustrate the complexities and challenging differentiations within the British form. Some have had bigger impacts than others, but all have made their own unique mark within the realms of British/world Literature.

And if we wanted to get really personal then the following three [all way ahead of the pack we hope you'll agree] would have to be included also:

1: Ellis Sharp - Unbelievable Things.

2: Stewart Home - 69 Thing to Do with a Dead Princess.

3: Iain Sinclair - White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings.

Lee Rourke © 2005.


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