September 18, 2007
Fiddling around with the idea that sections of "Against The Day" are built out of a series of pastiches of specific works of Victorian/Edwardian science fiction (the Vormance Expedition episode built from the opening of M.P.Shiel's "The Purple Cloud", the time machine sections paying open homage to H.G.Wells, the sand-ships something straight from Verne) I thought I'd better see if anyone on the net had already suggested this. Which, of course, they had. But in the process I found Michael Moorcock's review of the book, which was not only immensely entertaining but also contended that, talking in general, "the novel [will] not die if it [can] rediscover vulgarity". I'm no fan of polite books, or books that are sophisticated for the sake of sophistication, or novels that only deal with the common failings of "uncommon" (i.e. middle class intellectual) men. So I was rather taken with this manifesto. It's worth remembering that "Ulysses" was condemned as "base, vulgar, vicious and depraved" and that both "Slaughterhouse Five"and "The Grapes of Wrath" (along with many others) have at various times been cited, burned and banned in American states for their "vulgar" language. A little like complaining that the music is "too loud" when it's just too unfamiliar, I wonder if the accusation of vulgarity in literature is applied whenever a book has the power to shake its reader. Which may be a different point to the one Moorcock was making, but adds up to the conclusion that wherever you see the word "vulgar" being bandied around, there's probably something worth reading.