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January 21, 2014

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Rafi

Why We Should Subsidise Hipster Novelists' Housing.

Is the Guardian working on the parody-proof headline?

Anon

Who hasn’t read a contemporary novel set in Melbourne or Sydney

Judging by the sales figures for contemporary novels, quite a lot of people haven't.

Henry

Who will write about those ordinary people and their non-artistic lives if we don’t encourage Ms Delaney and her peers to live way above their means in places they can’t afford?

Thereby making their first-hand observations of real-life even more suspect than they already were.

Again, I can’t help feeling there’s a message here about supply and demand, dreary things like that

Yes, I can't help but notice that much entertainment isn't very good, for one thing. We switch on the TV to see artificially created celebs humiliating not-very-good singers on talent shows.

You can read some semi-serious journalists in the Times. None of them compares to Bernard Levin, but perhaps he was a special case - literary skill seems to be having something of a downturn.

But the Graun exposes us to the witterings of these little cliques of people (I've briefly been a member of one such) who want to be creative, but aren't in fact very good yet. Not that they tell each other this fact; insincere praise for one another's work is one of their most finely honed talents - possibly arresting further development as writers or thinkers..

Greg

"Why should people who have to clean hospital wards subsidise the housing of some hipster novelist?"

Sounds something like the sort of conversation a pickpocket might engage you with as he reaches for your wallet.

Dr Cromarty

Two phrases spring to mind:

1. "Got 20p for a cup of tea, mate?"
2. "Because I'm worth it!"

David

insincere praise for one another’s work is one of their most finely honed talents - possibly arresting further development as writers or thinkers

That’s what struck me – and what often strikes me about such people. It’s not just the arrogance, though it is a thing to behold. It’s that the arrogance is so casual, so effortless. So practised. It’s like breathing for some people. I get the impression that Ms Delaney’s colossal sense of entitlement doesn’t get challenged much, at least not within earshot. Which may explain the rather feeble rationalisation.

tempdog

most novelists cannot live off their work. They need a second (or even third) job to keep on writing.

If you can't make it pay, isn't it more of a hobby then a job? Shall we support stamp collectors and free divers while we're at it? How 'bout garage bands?

Nik White

The perennial question among most creative people I know is not what to create, but how to create: how am I going to write this book/play/polemic and also pay the rent?

It's a thinker for sure.

Perhaps those creative people might look for the answer in the careers of successful writers who – by some apparently unknown means – were able to hold down full-time jobs yet still knock out what many consider to be masterpieces:

Bram Stoker (business manager), Franz Kafka (insurance agent), Jorge Luis Borges and Philip Larkin (Librarians both), William Carlos Williams (doctor), Roddy Doyle (high school teacher while writing some of his best known novels, i.e. The Commitments) or T. S. Eliot, who apparently worked in a bank when he composed The Wasteland.

Jack Vance even managed to write his Dying Earth saga novels while serving in the US Navy in the Pacific in World War II, not to mention all those poets who managed to write affecting works from the bottom of a trench in Flanders fields.

She also seems to quite have quite forgotten that even being able to write full-time may not be quite what it's cracked up to be. The strenuous demands of having to be constantly writing frayed the nerves and/or strained the eyes of Charles Dickens, Feodor Dostoevsky, George Gissing, Philip K Dick to name but a few.

David

Perhaps those creative people might look for the answer in the careers of successful writers who – by some apparently unknown means – were able to hold down full-time jobs yet still knock out what many consider to be masterpieces

Indeed. Despite having been involved in quite a few “creative” projects - dodgy bands, a dodgy label and now, God help me, blogging - I still find that sense of entitlement quite alien. It never occurred to me that I somehow had a right to live in a more happening part of town, regardless of my means. As if simply calling oneself an artist in and of itself put others in your debt.

Watcher

I was talking to the wife of a successful novelist recently, and he apparently made a living fitting kitchens for people while getting established. Actually, he still did it between bouts of writing, partly for the money and partly because it gave him time to think and get out and meet people at the same time. Amazing how that can help an author get a handle on people.

To be able to write a person has to have an idea for a story that someone else will want to read, and do it by finding time to write 2000 words a day. Over three months this would mean the writer has around 180,000 words which can make a decent sized book. True, editing afterwards is a bitch but if a person can spare two hours each day to write (typing 1000 words an hour isn't hard) then hey presto, job done.

Providing houses for the terminally lazy isn't the way forward, other than to make gub'mints feel good.

R. Sherman

@Nik White. Let's not forget Wallace Stevens, poet and insurance executive.

Craig Mc

At least they're literally rent-seeking this time. Or is that literary?

rjmadden

I thought the idea was you wrote a great book, sold lots of copies and the film rights, etc and then bought a big house in the right part of town. Now it turns out you have to live in the right part of town before you can even think about writing the book.

David

I thought the idea was you wrote a great book, sold lots of copies and the film rights, etc and then bought a big house in the right part of town.

Goodness, no, what an antiquated notion. Cart precedes horse, and cake before vegetables. It’s the modern way. Besides, there’s no guarantee that someone who calls himself a writer will write anything good and/or popular, or anything at all. The expected adoration and swimming pool full of cash may never materialise. Indeed, probably won’t. At least this way, whatever happens, he gets to live above his means at some other sucker’s expense.

Ten
Again, I can’t help feeling there’s a message here about supply and demand, dreary things like that

I can't help but feeling a Great Morality is also in the offing. Consider the JeremiadBullfrog Maxim, wherein Delaney, having rightly grasped a gravitas that others who have not grasped that gravitas surely cannot grasp the gravitas of, alludes to its self-evident righteousness.

And murmuring Guardian readers, being of such stern and decisive stuff that they murmur, murmured approvingly. For fear of not seeing the Emperor's New Clothes.

I find it amusing that this ilk frequently refers to itself as 'reality-based' or 'progressive' or some such, and adheres to a strict Darwinian material constructionism the kind of which you'd think would rule out such wishful flights of fancy as first matter of business.

But this reality only they can routinely defile with their own illogic, apparently. I guess when you write your reality you can do with it as you please.

David

Incidentally, if anyone had assumed that Ms Delaney’s whininess and sense of entitlement were some one-off aberration and utterly out of character, her earlier Guardian articles suggest otherwise. Apparently, it’s just ghastly and unfair that some of her friends can afford to dine out even more often than she does. Spending $80 a head in a decent restaurant once a week just isn’t enough. It’s practically torture.

Severian

Henry nailed it. Most of this crap is just that -- crap. Pretentious people praising each other to the stars, through undergrad, MFA program, the micro-zine scene. You could almost write a computer program to generate their "prose."

Terri sat at her iMac in her posh-yet-affordable loft. The screen staring back at her like the lidless eye of a dead fish, while outside the traffic honked and bleated like the cries of animals being hunted in the vast urban veldt. With a sigh she switched off the monitor, and for a moment she could catch her reflection there -- frazzled, yet sexy, like a thirtysomething MFA grad in a vibrant-yet-safe taxpayer funded loft. She sighed again, thinking how technology had finally caught up with Nietzsche. When you gaze into the abyss of your laptop, it also gazes into you.

Dan

For me, the most interesting two words in her whole piece come where she discusses Sydney and its six apartments: 'Those chosen'

Who chooses and whom will they choose, I wonder?

I think I can guess the politics of the chosen.

David

Not entirely unrelated, there’s also this from the Guardian: “The US should greatly increase its public support for the arts and journalism. Otherwise many will continue to need welfare aid.” The author, Amien Essif, says, “There’s not much money in writing these days.” To prove his point, he tells us how difficult it is to make even a modest living by, in his case, writing about “consumerism, gentrification and hegemony.” And so, says he, the taxpayer must be made to “subsidise creativity.” Yes, all those people who see no value in what he does should be compelled to bankroll it anyway. Because, being both artistic and leftwing, he’s just that important. This anti-capitalist “creative” who can’t spell ‘waiter’.

Nik White

Incidentally, if anyone had assumed that Ms Delaney’s whininess and sense of entitlement were some one-off aberration and utterly out of character, her earlier Guardian articles suggest otherwise.

Holy crap-weasle but there are some gems in that Food blog from Delaney:

    By the time it gets to the weekend and I really want to go out – properly late, multiple taxis, several venues, a cover charge or a trip to the bottle shop – there is no money left in the kitty after these expensive mid-week suppers.

Goodness me!

    So why don't I just stop going out – or head to Victoria St in Richmond where you can have twenty dumplings for $12? That would be fine if I was eating alone. … but I don’t want to miss out: not on the restaurants but the company of my friends.

What's a girl to do!

    For a long time everyone had the same amount of money.

If only there were some sort of scheme through which the money her friends earn could be more evenly distributed between them …

    But in the late-20s things went a bit haywire. Getting together for a meal became more fraught in ways that were never discussed. These are now the restaurant years.

The 'restaurant years' – oh please let that be the title of her forthcoming novel.

    The excellent US website The Billfold, which looks at how different people manage their cashflow – often brings up the “restaurant dilemma”. What happens if you earn less than your friends? Do you go to the restaurant and not order much? Or go and not drink and then be the annoying person who wants to split the bill per item? Or do you suggest you meet somewhere cheaper – say down at the grubby end of Victoria St?

What kind of friends are these exactly? Don’t they have Wetherspoons Down Under?

David

Holy crap-weasle

I may have to borrow that.

B Moe

"At least they're literally rent-seeking this time."

So to a True Believer Progressive these would be rent-seeking missals?

Sam Duncan

“Compromise clouds every decision.”

Oh, you've noticed? Welcome to the universe.

pst314

"When you gaze into the abyss of your laptop, it also gazes into you."

Especially if the NSA or Chinese State Security are interested in you.

matt

This anti-capitalist “creative” who can’t spell ‘waiter’.

I had to go to the article and check that you were being serious about that. And it's still there uncorrected like a booger on the screen. I'm not the best proofreader, but even I spotted it immediately. LOL

Steve 2 - The Stevening

The thing is, it's easier to become a writer now than ever before. True, you won't necessarily make a living out of it, but that was always the case.

You don't need a publisher to give you a book deal. Just write something, self publish it on the Kindle store or a competing marketplace, maybe have a blog and facebook page to help promote yourself, and you're good to go.

If there's an audience anywhere in the world for your writing, you'll be able to sell books to them without publishers acting as a gatekeeper.

Some of the self published authors on Kindle are making a very nice living out of this business model.

Their books are more likely to be romance novels or action tales about zombie apocalypses than pretentious literary works about being downtrodden by capitalism in the posh parts of Sydney though.

There is a fantastic English novelist on Kindle whose self published horror and supernatural tales I can't recommend highly enough. His name is Luke Smitherd, and you can read his books like "The Stone Man" for the improbably trifling sum of 77p, hours of solid entertainment for less than the price of a can of Coke from a vending machine.

He reminds me of early Stephen King, but with a Coventry accent.

matt

Perhaps we are being insufficiently cruel in not thinking this through. Let's come up with a program where The Humble Among Us get decent monthly stipend for their "artistic" output. After 3 years whether they are financially self-sufficient (without subsidy) or not it ends. BUT if they fail to produce, by some measure, much of anything, they have to work for two years in a Peace Corps like placement to "work off" some of the funding. For the Aussie Delaney, she could teach in a remote aboriginal community in the centre or far north. Here in Canada, I am sure there are some nice Inuit/Innu communities on Baffin Island that could use a teacher. Pack your warm clothes hipster and remember your dining options will be helpfully limited!

JuliaM

"The city of Sydney recently tried to address the problem of artists being priced out..."

This is a problem? One that a government can spare the time to sort out? Really?!?

tempdog

BUT if they fail to produce, by some measure, much of anything, they have to work for two years in a Peace Corps like placement to "work off" some of the funding.

The Commissioned Corps of the U.S./U.K./[Country of Your Choice] Public Education Service. Hum, sounds like an idea for a story...

But why wait till they actually fail? Can't we run their ass thru grammer drills at writer's boot camp before we give them the money?

(To clarify, there actually is a Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service & also one for the (U.S.) National Weather Service. The NWS one even had a decent reason for existing.)

John torkildsen

I put myself through University (Bachelor of Engineering) y woking 2 to 3 jobs at time.
Why should some shiftless troglodyte marxist expect me to pay for her adventures in hatred of the very people who pay her bills?

Jon Powers

I put myself through University (Bachelor of Engineering) y woking 2 to 3 jobs at time.
Why should some shiftless troglodyte marxist expect me to pay for her adventures in hatred of the very people who pay her bills?

Because the patriarchy.

Jazza

So does this female want all of the major cities turned over to rental assistance just for the "arts" crowd so they need not work for a living but 'work" for no living FOREVER?
There are bolt lists of those would=be 'artists" of innumerable types
Guess it's Ok with her that the rest of the folk of working age contribute forever to their "lifestyle" for no real result--move over, old age pensioners, disability receivers, New Start takers and Single Parents, you have competition at the public teat!
Ms Deveny would like Australia to be a fully socialist country but not communistno doubt cos then only those who "did" sanctioned (read propaganda" "art" would survive.
Nice "work" if you can get it ,but I vote NO!
Ps Is she related to the OTHER Deveny?Shudder!

HomerF

I sometimes find it disturbing to be brutally honest to these arts types. I for one cannot really stand and truly detest these pretentious petals who wouldn't know what art is even if it pukes on their face and my heinous critical streak really comes out when they get into my face. But then again it gets tempered whenever I'm reminded of one Adolf Hitler and what happened when one of his arts teachers made a critique of his talent. But, then again, crushing a hippy's hope is really fun.

Nicholas Sweeting

Remember the Keatings? Did the actor who got $200k to write his biography ever finish it?

Hal

But without writers living in the city, we also risk missing out on that city’s stories being captured on the page.

The last time I checked, the most prolific source of such pages was still called the newspaper.

And then for text in general, there is now---and for the last 20 years---the WWW, while noting that the internet is, of course, even older than that . . .

cuckoo

Re: the Keatings. One could also ask, did eminent artist and ex-Playschool presenter Noni Hazelhurst ever produce the theatrical extravaganza she said she was going to use her Keating money on? Answer: no. Did Robyn Nevin ever complete that post-grad degree she was going to spend her Keating money on? If she did, I never heard about it. I work in an cultural organization that dispenses (much smaller) grants to 'creative' artists, tied to specific projects promised by the artist. Easily 50 percent of these never deliver anything. And of course not a word is ever said.

dicentra

J.K. Rowling is unavailable for comment, as she is convulsing with laughter deep in the depths of her Scottish manor.

dicentra

"When you gaze into the abyss of your laptop, it also gazes into you."

That's why God invented electrical tape to cover your webcam lens.

rental assistance just for the "arts" crowd so they need not work for a living but 'work" for no living

I'm reminded of the flashback scene in Absolutely Fabulous when Patsy's Bohemian mother gives birth to her among other equally self-absorbed twits. "Take it away! And bring me another lover!"

Most respectable Bohemians used to find a rich patron who'd spot them a place to crash, where they'd be as useless and pretentious as possible but on the dime of a willing participant, not the taxpayer.

ACTOldFart

But .... but .... I already can read authors who speak with authentic and highly perceptive voices about Australian cities. For Sydney, there is Peter Corriss; for Melbourne, Shane Maloney and Peter Temple; for Brisbane, Jeanette Turner Hospital. And they are not Ms Delaney's cossetted luvvies - they are authors whose books sell, because people want to read them. As usual, the market provides for peoples' needs way better than any crack-brained, taxpayer-funded piece of bureaucratic interference.

And on the get-a-real-job theme, what do the following not-insignificant authors have in common: Geoffrey Chaucer; Herman Melville; W M Thackeray; Bram Stoker; Nathaniel Hawthorne; and Robert Burns? They all worked at some stage in their lives in their respective countries' customs or excise organisations. From other fields, you can throw in Adam Smith, Tom Paine and the douanier Rousseau. So no cosy, trendy little flat in Paddo or Alexandria for you and your mates, Ms Delaney. It's on the bus to Port Botany for you, where you can ferret around amongst jiffy bags and brown paper parcels, looking for contraband cigars or cracked bottles of strawberry jam, and perhaps incidentally picking up whatever influence it is that honest work has in producing the Melvilles, etc of this world. Maybe its something to do with being exposed to reality.

Kevin

The average income in Australia is $66,000!? Way to go Australia! That's quite above average in the states, especially if both adults are making it.

Sadly, it's making me a bit envious, so... you stink Australia!

;)

Bob Down

OT, but this post and the comments are just brilliant - as are all the other posts and the comments in them.
It is about time I paypalled a small something in - so I have - thank you all.
And a special thanks to Steve2 for this, my favorite comment so far.

JuliaM

"Who hasn’t read a contemporary novel set in Melbourne or Sydney (not that there are many of them) and thrilled with recognition at the places re-imagined, dense with other people’s interior lives? It’s how empathy develops.!

Gosh, I always thought they could just make that stuff up. You know, with them being artists and all…

bgates

But without writers living in the city, we also risk missing out on that city’s stories being captured on the page.

This is also an argument for government subsidized time travel.

Jake

As a member of our creative caste, Ms Delaney wants to capture the buzz and thrum of city life. She wants to inspire “recognition” and, above all, “empathy.” It’s just that she’d prefer not to empathise too much with those non-creative people. Say, by working for a living and paying her own bills.

That's worth the price of a drink. *hits tip jar*

David

Bob & Jake,

Much appreciated.


I’ve just been following some of the re-tweets of Ms Delaney’s article. One supporter, an opponent of “ruthless neoliberalism,” likes the idea of the taxpayer “subsidising writers’ [housing] in order to create more vibrant, self-reflective cities.” She doesn’t seem to register the oddness of a person having their lifestyle subsidised in this way by virtue of simply being a novelist, or would-be novelist. Or just vaguely “creative.”

But if you go with the premise and ignore the immense conceit, I’m not sure why it shouldn’t extend to any number of other “creative” occupations – say, philosophers, upholsterers and cake makers, any of which could be said to enhance our collective vibrancy. And this cultural vivaciousness would presumably have to be managed by some likeminded bureaucracy: “There’s a nice flat going in the avenue just off High Street - get me an unemployed poet, stat! And we need more clowns and jugglers in Sector G.”

mojo

Starving artists is good, it gives them impetus to create and thus stave off death by cold and hunger. As an added benefit, the ones who actually freeze/starve reduce the "useless wanker"population.

So, all good, eh?

pst314

"This anti-capitalist “creative” who can’t spell ‘waiter’."

The Truly Enlightened spell it "waitron".

David Gillies

This idea that people like Delaney are the sole repositories of 'creativity' really gets my goat. I have, over the past few years and entirely ex novo, built software that is used to make people real money (me included). I started with pretty much a blank slate. I had to make decisions on 'how to create'. That the stuff I produced has real-world application does not detract from the fact that it required imagination, skill and discernment. The average engineer creates - really creates - more stuff of lasting intellectual, cultural and aesthetic value every two months than most Grauniad pan-handlers create in a lifetime.

dicentra

I have, over the past few years and entirely ex novo, built software

Software development is an exceptionally creative activity. The programmers where I work have to learn how to file patents because they're innovating all over the place (careful where you step).

It may not be explicitly artistic, as in aesthetic, but it's definitely creative.

WTP

Yeah, Mr. Gillies, story of my life as well. What grates most is how even the best novels, movies, etc. have holes in their plot, disconnects with how things really work in the real world, etc. Not to mention the occasional grammatical error. Some of that s*t wouldn't even compile and most could never pass a stress test. Which is how we end up with web sites like obambicare. Inspired by the kind of people who build castles in the air and collect Oscars, Pulitzers, and other praise along with plenty of bucks. Which is why I kind of admire even the worst movie producers over some of the best writers. At least the movie guy has to put something in the can at the end of his effort.

AC1

>The average engineer creates - really creates - more stuff of lasting intellectual, cultural and aesthetic value every two months than most Grauniad pan-handlers create in a lifetime.

+ googolplex

and the good ones do even more.

BenSix

But there are all sorts of amusing sketches to be based around the concept of novelists pitching to city councils.

"We feel that Los Angeles has transcended the "perverts and murder" stereotypes, Mr Chandler..."

"Couldn't it be "Fun and Friendship in Las Vegas", Mr Thompson?"

"Well, Mr Selby, we do have a few suggestions..."

David

“Well, Mr Selby, we do have a few suggestions...”

[ Chortles into coffee. Wipes chin. ]

Hal

A possible solution to Ms. Delaney's perception of insufficiency turned up in the online comics this morning, which I got reminded of once I got back home this evening . . . perhaps Ms. Delaney and her ilk might be content with assessing that only after they have achieved the artistic heights of This might they then have cause to start to complain.

David

Ah, but Ms Delaney feels that she and her peers should be treated as if they were successful, with the material benefits of being successful, irrespective of whether they actually are, or ever will be. It saves so much time and effort, especially for them.

Ray

"But without writers living in the city, we also risk missing out on that city’s stories being captured on the page."

I believe I'm willing to run that risk.

But then, I'm just that kind of crazy gambler.

Mazzuchelli

Have you been to any modern art showings lately? It is absolutely hilarious. My stepdaughter had a recent opening at a hipster museum in a hipster city in the hipster state of Colorado. My stepdaughter was commissioned to produce a piece for the show with four other gals from around the country also invited to bring examples of their work. Right off the bat one knows there'll be a substantial feminist component, and there was. Then each of the works' descriptions tied themselves into narrative knots demonstrating their left wing bonafides, e. g., social justice, income inequality, racism, pollution, the entire laundry list. I asked my stepdaughter how her work would appear if she wasn't hemmed in by all the left wing talking points. No comment.

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