Sunday, March 23, 2008

Didacticism

Quote from Philip Pullman in The Times yesterday:

Pullman is clear that fiction that's just a vehicle for carrying other meanings is not very good literature. His Dark Materials is first and foremost a rip-roaring yarn that has engrossed readers of all ages. All stories, he insists, do teach something or make some sort of statement, sometimes despite the writer's intentions. “Stories that don't think they're teaching anything are promoting conservatism because they're happy with the way things are,” he says.


Absolutely! A couple of nights ago I had the misfortune to see Show of Hands, a folk duo, at the Gosport Festival. Well, I say 'see', but I only managed two songs before I had to leave. Two more than I usually manage with them, though, it has to be said. What a pair of self-important, puffed-up blokes they are.

What gets me about them, and others like Coope, Boyes and Simpson, is the simplistic didacticism of their silly songs. The first one was about a Bristol Slaver ship, an absolutely classic target for these right-on, proper-thinking guys. Utter dross. Predictable, boring, patronising, trite. How can you make something so hideous into art so shallow?

Pullman has it spot on. Tell the story, leave the point to come out. These guys clearly decide 'I need to do a slavery song' and set out to write it. It doesn't work that way.

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