"Then it is dark; a night where kings in golden suits ride elephants over the mountains." - John Cheever

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Will Self on catastrophe books

"Just because we've been crying wolf for decades now it doesn't mean that there isn't a whole pack of them, it just means they haven't come to blow your house down yet."

(I just read elsewhere that 'catastrophe' literally means a 'down stroke' in fortunes.)


Tom said...

I've never actually read a Will Self novel, but I do like loads of the stuff he comes out with. Interesting, though, that (as far as I know) no one has written a catastrophe novel that actually deals with climate change.

Col said...

I've read Will Self short stories, but I prefer his journalism, radio appearances etc. to his fiction.

I think there have been climate change catastrophe novel attempts, but more in the vein of the few not very serious (or good) Hollywood films that have come out (Day After Tomorrow, Waterworld). This thriller (just out in pb) meant to be good: http://bit.ly/80kl1W

There was a discussion in a corner of the blogosphere recently on climate change literature (or 'climelit' - a clumsy twitter tag that is too close to sounding rude) recently - but it ended up focusing more on non-fiction stuff.


I came across a summary of John Wyndham's 'The Kraken Wakes' the other day, and thought that might be a contender - it involves ice cap melting. Ironically, it was in 'The Seven Basic Plots', which you told me about. I've been using my circumstances to catch up on stuff I've meant to read over the last few years, and am currently working through that. The irony is that I only just realised that it's by the same Christopher Booker who co-founded Private Eye and is now a Sunday Telegraph columnist - and is a vociferous climate change sceptic. Enjoying less now that I know that, though that's not really relevant. It's still worth a read.

Col said...

Ian McEwan's next book has global warming theme.

And I think Iain Banks might be writing one too, unless I'm confused him with McEwan.

Here's the hyperlinks from the previous comment as live links:
The Rapture, Liz Jensen - http://bit.ly/80kl1W, plus review of it in Guardian by Irvine Welsh.


Tom said...

I gave up on the "Seven Basic plots" after 200 pages or so. It's an intriguing premise, and a good way to learn about lots of books I'd never read, but it's not very well written and soon starts to go a bit barmy. It doesn't entirely surprise me that he's become a climate crank - there are quite a lot of odd ideas that are very stridently presented in the book.

Col said...

I'm on about p170 and am coming to the same conclusion. Considering it took him 30 years to write, it does read a bit like a 6th form essay a lot of the time. Going to keep going until the end of Section 1 then stop - looks like he starts getting into Jungian archetypes after that, which I could do without.

Producing universal theories and then trying to force the world to fit them always causes problems - it's a form of fundamentalism. But then his Telegraph stance is similarly dogmatic and ideological. He's a massive Eurosceptic too.

It's a trait displayed by a lot of that old Private Eye crowd - their satirical scepticism shades easily into reactionary fogeyism.

John said...

There's a cabal of Torygraph climate sceptic types. Some definite psychological stuff going on - they're all white, male, middle aged, right wing, strident (nicely put Tom), reckon they know better than the specialists... I guess people with that kind of personality type are able to generate good copy.

Col said...

Think that's definitely true, John. Not many of the media commentators on climate change are actually scientists - with a few exceptions, most of them are reluctant to enter into the 'simplify then exaggerate' game, which is anathema to them. Whereas there are plenty of middle aged, well educated journos who feel they are clever enough to pass judgement on any subject.

I also think there's an element of guilt underlying that generation and type of person's denial. They grew up post war, through the economic growth and increasing wealth of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s - and now it turns out that it all might have had seriously adverse consequences. That and the more obvious reluctance to relinquish the comforts they feel they've earned. Climate change is like a personal attack on them and what they stand for, and so they react defensively.

Col said...

By the way, just read The Rapture (see above), and it's ok, but pretty fantastical in a Hollywood kind of Day After Tomorrow way - supernatural type stuff, very sudden massive disasters etc. Quite well done, but nonsense really.