Mytho-poetics for a new millennium: decoding satire in Sebastian Faulks, Amanda Craig and Jim Crace

Authors: Dix, H.

Journal: C21 Literature: Journal of 21st-century Writings

Volume: 1

Issue: 1

ISSN: 2045-5216


Mytho-poetics for a new millennium: decoding satire in Sebastian Faulks, Amanda Craig and Jim Crace

Satire ranks among the most ancient and venerated of literary forms. In the 21st century, satire is available in a range of media: on film and television, via the internet, in the print media and (still) in fiction. Satire provides a humorous glance at what is simplistically labelled celebrity culture. Its targets, from politicians to actors and from business leaders to sportsmen, are presented as the celebrities or famous figures prominent in particular fields. What is often absent from representations of celebrity culture in the popular media is a sense of how that culture is constructed and conveyed. Sources of satire in the popular media play a part in constructing the very culture that they offer to satirise.

This paper will suggest that recent novels by Sebastian Faulks, Amanda Craig and Jim Crace offer a different kind of satire. Craig’s Hearts and Minds and Faulks’s Week in December satirise the celebrity culture of contemporary London, a city mired in economic recession and post-9/11 suspicion. Craig does so by locating her protagonist within a publishing house and Faulks does so through the eyes of several different characters who comment on their favourite websites, television programmes and even art galleries.

At one level, the pleasure offered by these texts for the reader is trying to decode or identify which contemporary politician/ artist/ sportsman/ ‘celebrity’ is being satirised in the fiction. The paper will suggest that such a pleasure is entirely dependent on an interaction between the novel in question and a range of other ‘new’ media narratives on television and the internet where these ‘celebrities’ are represented. The reader’s imagination provides a nexus or focal point for such interaction to occur.

At another level, however, the novels in question satirise not only this or that individual celebrity, but also the whole culture of representing celebrities through different media narratives. In other words, what is satirised is the practice of satire itself: satire upon satire.

The paper will argue that Jim Crace’s Six also employs a meta-satirical fictional practice. His protagonist is an actor in an unnamed developing country interested in the trappings of celebrity culture, so that again, what is satirised is both the individual target and the means of cultural representation. Crace’s novel is strangely poetic: many of the sentences and lines uttered by the characters are written in iambic pentameters and sometimes rhyming couplets. His poetic approach to writing satire in prose fiction gives the novel, like his earlier Arcadia, an unusual quality. It is a writing practice that is realist on the one hand, and stylised and mythical on the other. The paper will suggest that combining meta-satirical writing with a mytho-poetic imagination gives rise to a new fictional writing practice, appropriate to the cultural, economic and political conditions of the 21st century.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Hywel Dix