Monday, December 29, 2008

Clive v. Cyril - journalism built to last

In his memoir North Face of Soho, Clive James describes how reading Orwell's collected journalism led him to realize that 'periodical journalism could be built to last' ... 'Here was the proof that it took effort to write plain prose but, if you could do so, the results might have the effect of poetry.'

Against this we can set Cyril Connolly's remark in The Unquiet Grave: 'All excursions into journalism, broadcasting, propaganda and writing for the films, however grandiose, are doomed to disappointment. To put of our best into these forms is another folly, since thereby we condemn good ideas as well as bad to oblivion.'

'To put of our best' is clearly what James aims at. He is conscious of this, writing of 'the standard accusation, often levelled at my prose, that I was putting everything I had in the shop window'.

Connolly's remarks were first published in the periodical Horizon, so that now they seem to go some way to offering their own refutation.

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