I’ve also been aware for many years that those members of the elite with some kind of talent often gravitate to the arts. It’s the soft career option for them. It’s all about the money, you see. When your inheritance is safely tucked away for a rainy day, and when mummy and daddy’s cash is only a phone call away, you can afford to spend countless unpaid hours perfecting your skills in drama or music or art. With no worries about finding the money to pay the mortgage or feed the kids, you can afford to take risks in your chosen career, to experiment, to be creative. And if your particular talent is writing, well, you can focus unhindered on crafting the next Man Booker prize-winner, can’t you, Ms Mantel? Then, of course, there are the people you know “in the business”, the ones you or daddy went to school with. You get the idea?
Like I say, the outcome of the study was no big surprise to me. As a confirmed socialist from a working-class background, it obviously angered me. The sad fact is, though, that in British society the supremacy of the privately educated elite is a given. And there’s nothing we peasants can do to alter the fact; it’s unassailable. So I simply acknowledged the headline and moved on. Then the other day I read this trailer for a Radio 4 programme and changed my mind:
Roald Dahl’s letters to his mother from boarding school are a tribute to 1930’s grammar teaching, or at any rate to Dahl’s literary skills. The letters, being read each day this week, reveal a lost world of fagging, mortar boards and exploding soup tins at Repton in Derbyshire. Dahl describes one teacher as having “a face like a field elderberry and a moustache like an African jungle”. Contrary to the glum recollections of many former boarding school inmates, Dahl loves the place, telling mama: “It’s topping here.”
By the way, the radio programme was titled Love from Boy. Oh, excuse me, I need to go and vomit…
There, that’s better. Yes, Love from Boy. It got me thinking. Perhaps there is something the peasants could do to lessen the supremacy of the privileged elite in the world of books. What if you, me, our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren, ad infinitum, were to boycott the works of the members of that elite, both past and present? You never know, in time collectively we might be able to topple some literary giants.
So my proposed boycott would apply to famous authors with a privileged background, the latter criterion being easily established from a quick examination of the authors’ early years profiles on Wikipedia. Obviously, his Repton boarding school credentials would ensure that Dahl was included in the boycott. A big fuck off to BFG, then. Enid Blyton would also be included. As would Beatrix Potter. And Arthur Ransome. And RLS, sadly. And Ian Fleming, not so sadly. The list goes on and on, testament to the extent of the past literary elite’s influence on our lives.
Which brings me to famous authors in the present. The most famous of all is probably J K Rowling, or so the telly told me the other night. Did you know that many of her Scottish fans recently put her name forward in a magazine survey to find The Most Famous Living Scot (sic)? Sic? Fucking sick, right enough.
Anyway, JKR. Is her tale of struggling in impoverishment in Edinburgh really just a casual lie that became a myth that turned into a global legend? I’ll leave you to answer that one and to decide whether or not her works should be boycotted on the grounds of a privileged upbringing. Before you decide on the latter, though, you might want to take a look at the picture of her childhood home on Wikipedia, you might want to listen to her polished voice and you might want to ask yourself where her intricate knowledge of the workings of exclusive boarding schools came from. Personally, I would give a big fuck off to Harry Potter as well.
And what about me, I hear you ask. Well, as Simon & Garfunkel once sang, “I am just a poor boy, though my story's seldom told.” So you’re allowed to read my books. You’ll find them here.