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Saturday, 26 January 2008

Money and Amis

Martin Amis is a famous British novelist - maybe the most famous - and he thinks of himself as something of an Orwell, too - an essayist lucidly battling dogma and cant where he sees it. He is also a university lecturer, and his hourly rate has just been published, as £3000. That's just under 100 times more than most any other lecturer makes (it tends to be around £37). Obviously, the department was buying a brand, as well as a creative writing teacher - and the number of applicants went up by 50% when his position was announced. However, creative writing departments in the UK are dangerously close to making the same cheapening and trivialising mistakes the poetry community has already made of late - that is, in the process of seeking to popularise what they do, they have begun to use the marketing and PR techniques of the advertising and political spheres.

It is often said, sotto voce, that British Poetry needs a "Saatchi" - that is, a rich, spin doctor, to "sell it" to the public. Stuff and nonsense. All this branding and selling smacks of desperation, and sends the signal that creative writing departments are only relevant if, like at sexy London cocktail parties, you get to network with big names. Actually, the aim of such creative writing workshops, is to learn to write - and sometimes, the best workshop leaders are not the most famous, or the most over-paid. Amis is very aware of money's tasteless effects - others should be, too.
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