My thoughts on Noel Gallagher.

First to declare an interest: My wife has sung with Noel Gallagher. The choir she sings with backed him on a tour recently. She said he was the consummate professional. He did the gig then got into his car and drove home. So just as she was, rather belatedly, getting into the rock’n’roll lifestyle, it seemed that Noel was putting it behind him.

Anyhow, last week Noel Gallagher made a statement to the effect that he has no time for reading fiction. What he actually said was ‘novels are just a waste of fucking time.’ This has provoked some advocates of fiction to attack him in fairly unliterary language. A veritable twitterstorm among the literati.

My own reaction to Noel’s outburst is: fair enough. He was just being honest. Virtually everything either of the Gallaghers say is laced with ‘fuckings’, so it doesn’t imply that he was particularly angry about the issue, or that it was an ‘outburst’ at all as I just misleadingly labelled it. He was asked a question in an interview and he gave his honest answer. It wasn’t an attack on novelists.

A lot of people don’t read novels and there’s no reason why they should. My dad never read novels, for pretty much the same reason that Gallagher cites. He was unable to suspend disbelief. He could never get beyond the fact that what he was reading is made up. If we sat down to watch a film on telly, the first thing my dad would say was something like: ‘Is this true?’ Or ‘Did this actually happen?’ If the answer was no, he would lose interest. (We’ll leave aside the bigger question of what is ‘true’ in this context.)

It’s maybe odd that I decided to be a novelist, a maker up of tales. Perhaps a psychologist would have an explanation for this – or a field day. But I’ve always loved stories. Listening to them. Reading them. Telling them. Writing them down. I don’t think there’s anything Oedipal in my career choice.

Returning to Noel Gallagher, there is also the issue of class. Although there are exceptions, I have often worried that reading and writing and reviewing books are predominantly (not exclusively) middle-class occupations. If this is behind what Noel is saying, then I think he may be onto something.

However, I don’t think he’s right that the people who engage in those activities see themselves as above ‘the rest of us who fucking make records and write pathetic little songs for a living.’ (Hmm, don’t think ‘the rest of us’ make a living from writing songs, but again, let’s not get bogged down in that.) In my experience, many of the writers and editors I’ve met are very much in awe of songwriters and musicians. Typically, for them, Bob Dylan is a God.

I find Noel’s statement sad but understandable. It saddens me that he thinks writers of books see themselves as above other people. I don’t think this is universally true though it may be true in some instances.

It also saddens me that Noel Gallagher, as a creative artist, has closed himself off to one branch of human expression – a particularly rich and rewarding branch, in my opinion. His songs aren’t factual, though they might aspire to express human truths, to be true in that sense. I don’t think a novel, a good novel, is any different.

 



4 Thoughts

  1. Well written, Roger. The idea that writers think they’re better than anyone else is one of those absolutely enduring myths that are hard to knock down. I’d much rather hear the one that goes ‘they say there’s a novel in all of us’ that gets churned out sometimes when you tell someone you’re a writer. I had my chimney swept this morning by a chimney sweep who is also a writer with two degrees, one in English. Surely if he’s a chimney sweep it means he’s working class and not much good at reading and hates literature? No, not at all, and how I love seeing the balance of the daft English class system upset like this… speaking as an Aussi, that is. Lol.

  2. Roger says:

    Thanks Rebecca – yes, the class argument in itself doesn’t really hold up, does it, and is patronising. Sometimes people process their own inadequacies (or sense of them) by saying that other people are ‘stuck up’ or ‘superior’. Maybe that’s what’s going on here?

  3. My hubbie, who we suspect is an undiagnosed dyslexic, never reads. I think he started a Ben Elton once, during a delay in an airport many years ago (the book is still in his sock drawer, unfinished), and more recently he opened a biography, aimed at children, about Bradley Wiggins…which has pictures.

    Perhaps some of Mr Gallagher’s own reading abilities are not as good as he’d like them to be, so as you suggested, it’s easier to pour scorn on the creators of a work you can’t understand?

    Either way, as a reader and a writer, it makes me sad to think of all the good stuff he’s missing out on.

  4. Pete Cee says:

    Reading fiction is leisure. So is listening to music. Both a ‘waste of fucking time’ only if you think leisure is useless.

    I don’t imagine Noel objects to the idea that he’s a rock god to many people, his status elevated. I’m sure he enjoys that, despite the disingenuities (is that a word?) his persona requires of him. Above other people, then?

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