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Holland Park Press

The ailing Child of the Times

28 March 2012
Literature is just as surely a child of the society from which it springs as are movies, car design, fashion, architecture and even language itself.

In the nineteenth century the fascination with science and the belief that man had no limitations in his pursuit of knowledge, led to the science fiction of H.G.Wells and Jules Verne. It gave us Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Stevenson's Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

In the twentieth century two World Wars, numerous other conflicts and the notion of glory in the field of battle gave us the Dam Busters, Reach for the Sky and the Cruel Sea.

The twenty-first century, however, is something of an enigma, although in fairness it has barely got underway. There is a growing awareness of the collapse of the family unit and of the spawning of a feckless youth as a result.

Organised religion is falling from grace, pilloried in the media over manifold sins and wickedness. The Holy Grail nowadays sparkles with money and celebrity. Achieving moral greatness is considered as lame as buying clothes in a charity shop.

This age of disillusionment and insecurity has produced a literature obsessed with escapism and fantasy. Everyone wants to write about wizards, fairy castles and enchanted islands or, if they have a darker bent, vampires and zombies. This is a well that has long run dry, as has the torrent of remakes of original titles - Titanic, Knight Rider, Alice in Wonderland, The Poseidon Adventure, Sherlock Holmes ad nauseam, and on and on.

But this too is no more than a passing phase. Change is as inevitable as the seasons. And the wind, I think, is blowing from the east.
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