Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I have measured out my life...

In characteristically self-destructive mode, I began my book about The Noughties (available at all good stores, etc) with assertions by Ferdinand Mount and Niall Ferguson* that decades are essentially arbitrary chunks of time and their use in book titles and the like is simply a matter of journalistic convenience. Of course, I wasn’t the only writer who failed to be discouraged by these outbursts of common sense, as my tome battled in the Christmas 2009 market with titles about the 1970s and 1980s, like one of those celeb-talking-head-list shows but with A-levels.

And writers (or maybe publishers and – it is to be hoped – readers) are becoming even more wedded to the notion that life fits into a calendar-shaped box, not less. I’m currently reading a book about 1922, and there are recently released volumes about 1913 and 1979 on my wish list. And the process will doubtless get increasingly more specific, narrowing things down to months or days. Pretty soon you’ll be able to commission a breathless narrative about the day you were born, complete with a TV tie-in featuring a breathless, slightly paunchy TV historian clambering over battlefields and poring over newspaper archives and pausing meaningfully at junctures that seem to be just as arbitrary as the periods chosen. Hell, why not just write about individual moments? I was doing that years ago...

* Actually, that’s not true. I began it with a quotation by Prince. About a specific year. Can’t remember which one though... 

1 comment:

The Chicken's Consigliere said...

Oh Hi Tim Footman, it's me, Chicken. I got tired of being on hold so I'm leaving you a comment. What happened in 1979 that captured your interest? Were you not there? What happened in 1913? 1922? Are you becoming an expert on all the years? If it were me, I would try doing them in order. And it wouldn't matter a bit because I retain almost nothing. I've yet to decide whether that is a blessing or a curse.