Skip to main content

Guardian Top 100

The Guardian has listed the top 100 people in the new digital landscape of publishing and reading in Britain.  Several of those at the top, associated with Amazon, and Google, and Apple, are American, as are a few top authors, including James Patterson, and Dan Brown.  Lots of agents and managing directors appear.  A few novelists appear - JK RowlingIan McEwan, Zadie Smith and Salman Rushdie, for instance, as well as Stephen Fry.  We also get a trio of poets, Carol Ann Duffy, Seamus Heaney, and Andrew Motion.  Patronisingly, #100 is "You" - the readers, tweeters, and bloggers.  It is a sort of depressing list.  It shows, to my mind, that whoever compiles these doesn't "get" the real shift that is coming - how radical the shift just may be.  I was surprised not to see Chris Hamilton-Emery, or Neil Astley, or Michael Schmidt, for poetry - each had brilliantly marketed it these past few decades using new ideas and retaining editorial intelligence.  No actual bloggers were mentioned; or content pirates; or indeed, any organisers of literary or cultural events in the digital underground.  No one involved with creative writing in the UK was mentioned - the major new force in generating excellent writers.

Yes, this may be a power list, but it is also a mainstream, obvious list, a tip of the iceberg, that will be of little use to anyone wondering what comes next.  In 2003, I predicted much of this, when CNN filmed my (Salt published) e-book coming out, the fastest book at that time, published one week after the contract being signed.  For almost a decade I have used the Internet to warn, cajole, and argue for (and sometimes against) the value of social networking and the Internet, to create alternate readerships, and new platforms for writers and readers.  Apart from the American geniuses at the top of this list, very few in British publishing have done much, until very recently (for instance The Waste Land e-version) to really capitalise on, what the digital sweep means.  The reason - what remains unrecognised is the direct threat to an established hierarchy that the digital world represents - a hierarchy paradoxically bolstered by such quaint lists as these.  The true powerful writers are those writing now, perhaps studying creative writing, planning their first book, whose brilliant ideas will feed the games, books, films, and other content of the future, some of it unimaginable; and the most exciting publishers are those even now imagining radical new ways of redefining the way literature is thought of in the UK.

Comments

This list was just appalling. I'm afraid The Guardian has now lost all credibility with me, having wasted its time and energy on this meaningless exercise. Does everything have to be about power, I ask myself. How can the paper want to be taken seriously as a place where literature is discussed when they reckon that Jamie Oliver is worth scrutiny as an influential author?
Anonymous said…
Tony Lewis-Jones writes:

I think they're 'winding you up' TS. Everyone knows you
are a major Mover & Shaker. I went to an event today under
the banner of '100 Thousand Poets for Change' - these readings are
being organised worldwide, and clearly your 100 Poets Against
The War is being referenced - don't expect The Guardian
to recognise it though, they all have blue underwear!
Poetry Pleases! said…
Dear Todd

Yes, I was a bit surprised to see no poetry editors on the list. I would have thought that Neil Astley might have scraped in somewhere. No one can seriously deny that his 'Staying Alive' trilogy has been hugely influential in the world of poetry. By any normal reckoning he is at least as influential as Lord Motion.

Best wishes from Simon

Popular posts from this blog

Review of the new Simple Minds album - Walk Between Worlds

Taste is a matter of opinion - or so goes one opinion. Aesthetics, a branch of pistols at dawn, is unlikely to become unruffled and resolved any time soon, and meantime it is possible to argue, in this post-post-modern age, an age of voter rage, that political opinion trumps taste anyway. We like what we say is art. And what we say is art is what likes us.

Simple Minds - the Scottish band founded around 1977 with the pale faces and beautiful cheekbones, and perfect indie hair cuts - comes from a time before that - from a Glasgow of poverty and working-class socialism, and religiosity, in a pre-Internet time when the heights of modernity were signalled by Kraftwerk, large synthesisers, and dancing like Bowie at 3 am in a Berlin club.

To say that early Simple Minds was mannered is like accusing Joyce of being experimental. Doh. The band sought to merge the icy innovations of German music with British and American pioneers of glam and proto-punk, like Iggy Pop; their heroes were contrived,…

THE WINNER OF THE SIXTH FORTNIGHT PRIZE IS...



Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.



Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
I becamea dot of sand

JOHN ASHBERY HAS DIED

With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.