When Are We Going To Build Some Statues For The Greats?

Read any good books lately? Yeah, plenty! Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated, Donna Tartt's The Little Friend, some Daniel Woodrell and Charles Willeford, and so on. One in particular stands out, and I'm wondering how to put this.

Erm, it doesn't matter how battle hardened we think we are. We all have our weak spots. So when a particular person finishes a work of art, and it is tossed into the market place, we have no choice other than to take notice. Try as hard as we like, but there is no choice. We can, however, respond to this in a variety of ways. These ways may range from studiously ignoring the work of art for as long as possible through to rapturously if nervously welcoming the finished product at the very first opportunity.

Take that Vic Godard. I am still studiously ignoring his Long Term Side Effect. I, however, nervously then rapturously welcomed his Sansend work as soon as I possibly could.

And who else but Vic plays tricks with my emotions? Shena Mackay of course. So how did I respond to the news her latest book Heligoland has been published? Mmm you bet! I wolfed it down in one, and I'm hungry for more. I was simply going to write here, in the tradition of each new Sea & Cake record, that I love the new Shena Mackay novel because it's exactly like a Shena Mackay novel. Only Shena Mackay can write a Shena Mackay book. And she's been writing them for forty years, and this is as lovely as any of the others!

It's all there. The so real and the surreal that I am sure someone mentioned years ago. The minutiae of South London, the quirks and absurdities, the sadness and craziness of modern day life. And then to offset this, there are the learned references and mad coincidences that always tickle me. And that is something that has always amazed about Shena's works. How can she know?

So this time, the book is called Heligoland, so soon after her arch fans in Saint Etienne have put out an LP called Finisterre. Oh don't tell me you don't know all the stuff about the shipping forecast and how it has changed down the years, and anyway Saint Etienne sort of fall into the same category as Vic and Shena don't they? The funny thing is they have been working on a film to go with Finisterre which is very London-centric. It picks up on a lot of the themes that crop up in this lovely book, like the modernist architectural vision and how things are being written out of history. And excuse my geography but hasn't it also got to be more than a coincidence that on Sansend Vic sings about the Sect being like four little urchins from down by the Elbe?

So, imagine how I feel. A cracking Vic Godard record and a beautiful Shena Mackay book in the space of a few months. Betcha don't believe me!

© 2003 John Carney