Can you believe we’re all still here, a year after The Donald became President. And our Former First Minister is about to make his debut as a chat show host? Does the world get any crazier? Of course it does. Scotland is in the grip (you won’t have noticed it) of a massive Cultural Conversation/Strategy/Consultation… and which word you choose to employ probably informs and is informed by what your understanding of culture means.
Robert Louis Stevenson, the man, the writer, the legacy (and the moustache) is a good case in point. Over the past decade he’s come out of the doldrums and, having been ‘marketed hard’ into the mainstream, is now no longer easily dismissed.
Let me make it clear here and now, I’ve long been a fan/advocate/champion of Stevenson as a writer so if I am critical it is not of his writing. And it may seem churlish of me to be critical of one of our own being brought back into the literary fold. It’s the literary fold itself that I have problems with – that and the methods which need to be employed to get ‘noticed’ or ‘brought back into’ that place.
Probably I’m just at odds with the modern world and the modern way of doing things. I accept that. But it sits uneasily with me that we are asked to don fake moustaches in support of RLS. That the only way for a writer to get ‘noticed’ is to become primarily an ‘iconic’ or ‘legendary’ marketing opportunity. What about the actual WRITING folks?
To that end, we’ve given over this month’s Gateway in tribute to RLS. Alongside the final part of ‘The Most Important thing in the World’ we present the first of a two parter by Leatham on Stevenson’s style – an interesting and as anticipated somewhat challenging read from the 1910’s– as well as SR Crockett’s 1895 Memoriam piece. We also feature a piece of RLS’s own writing, ‘Person’s of the Tale’, revealing another perspective on ‘pieces of eight.’ To show that it’s not just RLS with hidden depths we also shine a light on an RLS buddy, J.M.Barrie. This month he takes over from the Orraman in presenting a cultural critique in the form of a short play.
Are we simply jumping on a bandwagon, or offering a different perspective in tribute to a writer who stands, shoulder to shoulder among peers who have not yet been brought into the light of Leery’s lamp.
Flashlight alert. Watch out. Next year is the centenary of Muriel Spark – another overlooked Scots writer. As a woman she’s got the edge these days – she can be marketed for ‘feminism’ and ‘equality’ and all that. Just read the stories folks. That’s the real power of a writer after all.
The cultural ‘debate’ rumbles on in the mainstream and in the margins. Politicians become chat show hosts. Reality stars become Presidents. And silly season has become a year round experience! Might I suggest that those who do not learn from the past are now condemned to watch it in eternal return on television as ‘formats’ designed primarily to sell you both things and the ideology of things. In the virtual world it’s harder than ever to ‘keep it real.’
Happy St Andrews Day when it comes. As yet it’s still not a mainstream contender with Halloween/Trick or Treat, Christmas, Thanksgiving or New Years (!!). If you celebrate St Andrews Day, please do so responsibily – not to mark an iconic/branded ‘experience.’ Keep it real, pal.
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