The Impossibility Of Keeping Up
At a book launch last year, a lady author of middling years said to me; ‘Oh, I suppose you’re one of these people who do The Twitter,’ making it sound like a 1920s dance craze.
But I take her point. Since the advent of rolling news, keeping up with trending ideas and tropes has become impossible. Do you know who ‘Becky with the good hair’ is, or why people love Alexa and hate ‘the shitting banker’? Have you caught GOT 6 yet? This is different from current news, which in the UK includes the Hillsborough fallout and in the US the possibility of Trump becoming the GOP candidate (somewhat misreported in today’s Guardian, by the way).
Does it matter that we let the ephemera slide past and remember only the things that stick? I think there’s a balance to be struck here, because if we don’t keep gathering information we run the danger of being marooned in the past, as the Daily Telegraph proved when it ran an article on ‘The 30 Funniest Books Of All Time’ and barely managed to include anything from this century.
Equally, who’ll care about the fluctuations in Apple’s stock next week, and who even understands the Daily Mail’s headline, ‘Disgraced footballer Adam Johnson’s ex-partner Stacey Flounders relaxes with Coleen Rooney on Dubai getaway’? I had to read that twice because I first thought that ‘flounders’ was a verb.
As a novelist I find that you can’t afford to use too many topical subjects; books take too long to write and publish. In a fast-changing media world books are the slow-cookers, and the ones that stick often do so simply because their appearance accidentally chimes with a public mood. It’s not something that authors and publishers can control or plan for.
The answer? Scan trends, pick out items that interest you personally, but don’t worry whether they have traction with the public. You know what they say about bandwagons; by the time you try to jump on one, it’s already passed.
PS. That thing at the top is Alexa.