Thursday, January 29, 2015

Eleanor Catton's views are tediously predictable

There has been a great deal of comment here in New Zealand about Mann-Booker Prize-winning author Eleanor Catton's comments to an Indian literary festival. No country likes its prominent citizens being disloyal and New Zealanders seem to be particularly sensitive about this sort of thing. Personally, I think it is a bit of a storm in teacup and I have to say I agree with some of her comments, particularly the bit about the strange belief New Zealanders had (at least up until recent years) that their writers were less great than writers from Britain and America. I suppose the only part of her comments that is disappointing to me is her statement about the current middle-of-the-road John Key-led government being "neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture."

Anyone who regularly reads my blog will know that I am no fan or defender of the Key Government and it is not that Catton is criticising the government that disappoints me. It is rather that her left-wing views are so damned predictable. Writers, actors, musicians and others in the so-called creative sector are tediously conformist in their politics and, in my view, invariably hypocritical and disingenuous. I can only interpret Catton's comment about the government not caring about culture as meaning it does not care enough about her cultural output to bestow large sums of money on her personally.

Actually, there are a few exceptions to the tedious political conformity of the entertainment sector and one that comes to mind is British singer Adele. Her comments several years ago on high taxes and the National Health Service were a breath of fresh air. Likewise, James Blunt's recent response to a senior British Labour MP's comments about Blunt's 'privileged background' were brilliantly apt. I am sure there are many more singers, writers and actors who don't share the left-wing faith of many of their peers. It is a pity more of them don't have the courage to say come out publicly and say so. Certainly, there is nothing brave in Eleanor Catton spouting her entirely predictable, run-of-the-mill, bien pensant views.

1 comment:

Mark Blackham said...

Totally agree - you make a good point. Catton seems to have just parroted a liturgy received from the international club for literary snobs. I think she intended the reading to gain her entry to that club - it wasn't aimed at NZers. The lack of original thought in her critique was more surprising than the discovery that a writer with intellectual pretensions had no time for the stupidity of ordinary people.