Monday, 31 August 2009

French fields! A French tree!

I expect journalism to make me think, to tell me something I did not already know (and by this I do not mean gossip). Needless to say it mostly doesn't. One of the exceptions is a recent piece on Sebastian Faulks in the Daily Telegraph that I've found inspiring. Here's an excerpt:

Faulks suddenly had his subject. The financial fantasy world, tilting giddily on its axis, and other alarming disconnections of contemporary life. Screens that have supplanted human communication, the alternative life of chat-rooms, internet information that saps the quest for real knowledge, reality television undermining reality. “We are living in a fractured society,” he says. “Everyone is doing their own thing. I do think this atomisation, to use a vogue word, is a threat.”

Starting in 2005, the best-selling author of Birdsong, Human Traces and Engleby wrote 50,000 words of his novel set in present-day London and then paused to dash off Devil May Care, an authorised sequel to Ian Fleming’s James Bond books. When he returned to the present, three months later, “the world had really changed”. The banking system was about to implode.“The game was up. The writing was on the wall.” He quickly decided to anchor his book, A Week in December, in December 2007, “the last time people really believed they could go on with the boom for ever” — and to get it out as fast as possible.

Although the bloodless machinations of a hedge fund manager, John Veals, are at the cold centre of it, Faulks’s wider concerns about dehumanisation are explored through almost every other character, including a footballer and a student drawn to the ‘true message’ of Islam. “The sense of unreality in the financial world began to feed into other unrealities,” he explains. “What disturbs me is how increasingly reliant we are on this and this [he jabs at his computer screen and mobile phone]. When I went to France for the first time, aged nine, it was exciting. French fields! A French tree! But when my children go on holiday they don’t really notice the drive because they are texting or tapping. I’m not critical of them, but now everywhere is pretty much the same.”

For the full text go here

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