The frequently outspoken Noel Gallagher recently commented in the media about his distaste for fiction, describing it succinctly as “a waste of fucking time”. I, as an English student, disagree with statement on just about every level imaginable – he seems to be missing out entirely on the immensely transformative and enriching power of literature. However, in many ways he does have a point, and he reflects the honest opinions of millions of people across the worlds who do not read for pleasure and I think there is a lot we could learn by listening to him.
Gallagher’s comments on book titles in particular are revealing. He bemoans their obvious pretension, speaking of his wife bringing home a book called “The Incontinence of Elephants”, which as it happens, isn’t actually about elephants. Authors these days are so pushed to find inventive titles that the entire thing has slide into some kind of ridiculous self-parody. It’s understandable that many people become disillusioned with literature when book titles are so abstracted from the texts themselves.
He does however see the appeal in non-fiction “I’m reading this book at the minute – The Kennedy Tapes. It’s all about the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis – I can get into that.” So obviously he is not illiterate, in fact, he loves to read. But like many people he needs to be exposed to something that can hold his interest, and currently modern literature is not achieving that goal on a large scale. Books now are so detached from reality and the concerns of any normal person, and so focused on winning the approval of critics that readers such as Noel are inevitably going to feel left out. There would be many more male readers if we exposed them to things that they actually cared about.
It’s been common knowledge for the long time now that the main consumers of fiction have been women, and educated women at that. With best sellers of past few years being low brow chick lit like “Twilight” and “50 Shades of Grey”, I can easily imagine men as a whole being put off reading fiction. Working class men like Noel Gallagher are practically an ignored demographic amongst readers, and we need to be giving them more than football autobiographies.
The general air of pretention probably doesn’t help either. “They’re purporting to be intellectual, and… for you to write a book, is for you to say, ‘I am better than you’.” A situation has been created where just because something is printed on a page it is considered something “higher” than something filmed, and it becomes exclusive.
I’m not saying we should we should burn all our books because the man that wrote “Wonderwall” said that we should, what I am saying is that he represents the opinions of the frequently not represented, and that it would be wise to listen if we’re going to keep fiction alive in modern era. Fiction has in past, can still hold mass appeal and not merely be the preserve of the elite.