Monday, 3 February 2020


I’m a traditionalist. I love books, the smell of them and being surrounded by a lot of them. My wife noticed as we walk along a street in Brighton I’ll say “lovely house” and she’ll look and always through the window there’ll be a wall full of books. I love libraries and their protocol of whispered conversation and the rustle of a turning page. Libraries feel like places discoveries are made or a new insight revealed. They are full of unspoken ‘eurekas.’ That silence of reading is wonderfully deafening.

Over 180,000 books are published each year in the UK, more books published per capita and available than in any other country in the world.

And it gets worse. Nearly everyone I meet nowadays says they have a book in them. Should we be unlucky enough for it to get out and be published we should hold that wannabe author down and push it back in as fast as possible.

The problem is being noticed let alone read. The huge Waterstones in Piccadilly is daunting for any author and should help cure their urges to write. So a series of authors have put swear words in their titles to stand out:
Here are just a few:

Humans – a Brief History of how we F*cked it all up
Poems for a World gone to Sh*t
Get Sh*t Done
Everything is F*cked
The Subtle Art of not giving a F*ck
No-one gives a Sh*t about your product
How to be f*cking awesome

I’m depressed in the same way the late David Abbott, that most urbane of advertising professionals, was with the emergence and laddish launch of FCUK – ‘nudge , nudge wink, wink’ they seemed to be saying – ‘I swore in the High Street’.

I much prefer Jane Austen’s Emma to its possible rewritten version for the 2020s ‘F*cking Supercilious B*itch’. But stop. Am I being eccentric and just antiquated in my views?
I think the occasional imprecation has a brilliant, electrifying and redefining effect. If - in the midst of the recent Royal furores - the Queen were to have been overheard to snap “F*ck it!” it would have been understandable and, because so shocking, have perfectly and concisely reflected her pent-up frustration.

In Mrs Brown’s Boys, recent winner of the British Comedy Awards (not a popular win amongst the literati that one) the word ‘fecking’ is in such constant use it seems like a form of punctuation and has no shock-value at all. Whilst in 1963 when Kenneth Tynan said ‘f*ck’ on National TV it was akin to Brexit, coronavirus and an earthquake all at once in terms of nuclear impact.

Originally I’d wanted to call our recent book ‘Start Ups, Pop-Ups and Cock-Ups’  which was deemed too risqué by the publisher. Craven? Mistaken? Maybe but a least they were taking a view about manners.  The writers who announce themselves with F*ck and Sh*t are taking an unpleasant short-cut.

Being noticed is one thing. Being any good is something else.

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