Its Better for You

Yay! Alan Moore came to town and I got to see him. Granted I was only one of about 400 drooling fanboys but still I can say with pride that I was there, in fact the whole little gang came along (gang pictured below)



I’ve heard and read many interviews with Alan Moore, and everytime I get a new insight from it. It isn’t hyperbole to say he is an absolute master craftsman among writers. If you haven’t read his work start with ‘From Hell’, or if you are feeling more light hearted try ‘Top Ten’. Read them both together and you’ll get an idea of his tremendous range.

Moore was in conversation with Ian Sinclair and the two focussed on the relationship of their writing to place, with both having made use of  London in their writing. Moore’s work has also long championed regional identity, with his prose writing to date all focusing on his hometown and still place of residence Northampton. It’s interesting that genre fiction often allows writers to occupy a regional identity where the literary mainstream is almost exclusively London centric. Maybe that has to do with success in the latter being being about who you know, and in the former being concerned with what you know. Certainly Moore seems to have built his career around an uncompromising focus on developing his craft, which for many writers gets lost in the scrabble for commercial survival.

There is a particular snobbery around writing that explores regional and local identity. On the one hand it goes against the glamour and mystique that blockbuster fiction strives for, and on the other it is often assumed that life outside majour metropolitian centres lacks the true complexity to create a compelling narrative from, unless of course you go to the other extreme of  the rural environment. But the vast swathes of average, boring suburbia where most of us actualy exist is almost unexplored in fiction terms. But aren’t we losing something by ignoring our own back yard like this? We end up in a world where all our stories are unattainable, trapped in locations we can never get to or that if we do fail to meet our expectations. And our actual enviroment remains locked in mundanity, never gathering the patina of myth and fantasy that bring magic out of the mundane. We should all see magic in the places where we live, as Mr Moore says its better for you that way.

I’ve thrown myself into a big story that is absolutely not set in the midlands, but I really want to seeze at least a couple of short stories into this year that use Leicester as a location. Sometimes I’m convinced Leicester is the most unremitingly mundane place in the world, then at others it seems almost supernaturaly unreal and strange. And its extreme mundanity is almost part of that strangeness, creating a forced feedback effect where the more normal the city seems the weirder it actualy is. I’d like to capture that feeling in a story at some point.

Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

2 thoughts on “Its Better for You

  1. Yep, he was absolutely amazing. Came in like a grizzled biker-talked like a prophet poet. I now have a new hero to stick up on my silly myspace.

    Would just like to point out – that’s a terrible picture of me up there ^ Well taken, but I’m incredibly unphotogenic… cameras shouldn’t be allowed!:)


  2. I agree about the regional thing: I almost feel I have to move to London if I’m ever to write actual stories. Unfortunately I actually think there is something in the idea that there is more complexity, and/or more resonance, or rather a resonance that’s easier to create when using familiar, pivotal landscapes. The sad fact is that every day in London is a story of sorts (often whether you like it or not), and it just isn’t the same in Leicester. Additionally, the threads of life and colour one picks up in a major, especially a historically major city, reverberate through everyone’s consciousness, they are instantly intertextual, mythical, whereas if you wrote about Leicester, you’d have to do all that myth making yourself.

    I think the possibilities are still there, but you have to strive harder for resonance. I think one way forward would be to explore what Leicester is on the map, the shared consciousness – not treat it like either a nonentity or a curiosity, but rather place it in the context of the rest of the world.

    It is a really interesting subject actually; I’ve noticed that in terms of rural Ireland, the place seems to literally wring poetry out of people. Leicester doesn’t do that, it’s too functional a place, but as you say, it is also a complex and unusual city in many ways: I think you in particular might have the kind of practical grasp of the way things happen here to make it work on paper.

    To be honest I plan to move somewhere cooler by the time I start writing novels ;-) .



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