Monday, 4 February 2013

Junknoise

Further to the ‘I’d prefer not to’ post below: I heard last week (and truly can’t remember from who) about two writers who, invited to talk to creative students, gave them what seems to have become the standard spiel: that to be a writer these days you have not just to write but to tweet, message, blog, self-publicise. And after they’d gone, the students’ tutor – bless her/him – apologised for inviting them.

I read yesterday a piece (essay? rant?) by the architect Rem Koolhaas titled Junkspace (think shopping malls, airport departure lounges, motorway junctions and service stations, etc) which is terrific. (‘Junkspace is overripe and undernourishing at the same time, a colossal security blanket that covers the earth in a stranglehold of seduction ...’) It clarifies things. Junknoise will now serve as my term for, as well as politicians spouting on Question Time, poets spouting about their new books or readings on Facebook; and all publicity guff and press releases, inclusive of those put out by awarders of prizes; and news items about books and TV programmes about books; etc.

Junknoise despite most of it being silent, on screens rather than in the airwaves. One review of Chris Ware’s recent graphic novel Building Stories praised its recognition of the ubiquity of laptop, tablet and phone screens, a standard feature of daily life that doesn’t seem to have entered the consciousness of most text fiction. Enter any cafĂ© or train or Tube carriage (or even room) and you’ll find a high proportion of the occupants hunched over screens, most of which will be displaying junknoise.

Junknoise is the environment we inhabit. It happened because it became technologically possible, and because the dominant form of public expression, towards which all other forms tend, has for a long time been advertising. It sucks, and occasionally I’m tempted by the postcard I was sent last year that shows the cave in Scotland where Bonnie Prince Charlie hid out for a while. But I don’t think I’d make a good hermit. So I shrug and carry on, contributing my own share (this blog post itself, for example) to Junknoise.

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