Does Proletarian Post-Modernism exist?
January 29, 2014 | 6:20 pm
One of the more interesting – and very British – sub-genres to cross the TeleRead desk lately is Proletarian Post-Modernism – in the person of South London writer Stewart Home. Interviewed at length on the UK website of Vice Magazine (heir to the much-loved, much-missed fashion and counterculture magazine i-D) under the unassuming inoffensive title “There’s Still a Bourgeoisie That Needs Smashing,” Hume defines and articulates this supposed category of modern British fiction which – unbelievably – does seem to hang together.
Note that Home doesn’t actually say “There’s Still a Bourgeoisie That Needs Smashing.” What he does say is “it’s a bourgeois ideology that needs to be smashed,” with reference to Italian left-wing philosophers who incorporated post-modernism into radical politics. But that’s Vice headline-writers for you.
You can find more details of Proletarian Post-Modernism itself on Home’s album recording of a live performance with the same title, but in his eyes, and practice, it links British far-left/anarchist/unclassifiable agitprop with experimental writing and post-modernist philosophers, as well as writers “such as Alain Robbe-Grillet and the Surrealists.” Fellow writers he classes as fellow travelers include Irvine Welsh, John King, and China Miéville – all of them visibly experimental, and political. Alan Moore might well fit into the same Titanic lifeboat.
I don’t necessarily buy into any of Home’s politics – as son of model, socialite and bohemian counter-cultural activist Julia Callan-Thompson, he hardly counts as (union) card-carrying proletarian, and describes himself as “radically inauthentic since 1962.” But he represents a full-on British radical tradition in art and politics dating back at least as far as William Blake if not William Langland that has had a hard time making itself heard in recent years over the stultifying din from certain other more mainstream novelists.
I can’t find a single thing to fault in Home’s analysis (emphasis on the anal there, guys), of Martin Amis, Will Self, and much of the supposed New Lad Chic writing of a generation of British writers now well into their later years. “They were backward, stupid, reactionary and posh. The only reason they’re hogging the field is that they all went to the same public schools and university colleges as the people in publishing. But their writing is completely boring and virtually unreadable. Amis is just a right-wing twit, more interested in his teeth than anything else.”
Stewart Home still looks infinitely better than these withering hothouse growths. His promo video for Proletarian Post-Modernism consists basically of a fetish scene with porn star Gina Snake. His tribute to the cult of Diana the Blessed Martyr, 69 Things to Do with a Dead Princess, is published by top Scottish literary house Canongate Books. He does both art and literature “but I’ve had bigger arts prizes than I have literary ones.” What more do you need to know? Isn’t that edgy and stimulating the way that writing is supposed to be?