Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Whatever Zola wants

From The Naked Civil Servant, by Quentin Crisp:

Now that the marketing of all goods, including books, has become a shameless hoax practised on innocent consumers, the works of M Zola are packaged to look as if they were by Mr Spillane. This ruse works because no one would dare to take a book back to a shop because it wasn't as filthy as the cover promised.

That was 40 years ago. Of course, now we can get any permutation of perversity we desire just by switching off SafeSearch, nobody looks to the literary classics for smut, at least not directly. They get the smut from the TV adaptations, or at least from Andrew Davies's heavy pre-transmission hints about the amount of filth he's packed in this time, although they never turn out to be as naughty as he suggests. Meanwhile, publishers have to sell Austen and Dickens and Gaskell on the basis of them being on the telly, with that one you like in it, you know, that one with the nice hair.

But Crisp's essential point still holds, I suppose. Nobody's ever taken a book back because it didn't have a damp Colin Firth in it.

7 comments:

Geoff said...

Imagine how dusty Quentin Crisp's books were!

Andrew Davies makes everything sound so simple. Then you try and read the books...

Chris said...

The tide has turned, though, surely? Telly is dying. The day will come when they try to sell the last reality docu-soap by trying to convince people it's as depraved as Dostoyevsky.

The recording of Quentin Crisp's New York 'Civil Servant' show is one of my very favourite things.

oyebilly said...

I saw some Austens t'other day with pink covers. Someone missing the point to an outstanding degree methinks.

Valerie said...

It's all very confusing. Meanwhile I just keep buying Hard Case Crime books. For the covers, of course.

Tim Footman said...

I reckon he's going to be caught out, Geoff, forced to admit that he's only ever read the Cole's Notes.

I'm reading the book for the first time, Chris. It's been a bit obscured by the adaptation and all the other brand extensions. Doesn't quite hang together, but it's great fun.

Does that debase Austen, Billy - or give the likes of Jenny Colgan unwarranted kudos, by association?

Is it just me, Valerie, or does the cover star of Fade to Blonde look like Heather Mills McCartney?

Annie said...

Quentin Crisp is one of my all time brave, revolutionary heroes. And a house-keeping inspiration to us all.

Tim Footman said...

He also claimed that the only things he consumed (unless someone else was paying) were Guinness and biscuits.