We’re all used to hearing and uttering the odd eff-bomb. With the recent ruling in Australia that yelling the ‘f word’ on public property is no longer offensive – because it is inserted in everyday language – we may wonder whether there’s any power left in potty-mouthed petulance.
There are some of us who may remember that Australian comedian Rodney Rude in the 1980s was considered ‘fringe’ because of his profane stand-up routines. Today, most comedians pepper their prose in the same vein and no one blinks – and we are bored. So bored.
The problem is when swearing is the norm, it becomes irrelevant. However, all great prose remains relevant – from generation to generation.
If profanity no longer has punch, why bother using it at all? I have often felt, in listening to comedians, that swearing is the last reserve of the unimaginative. It’s very lazy writing – and demonstrates a total lack of mental dexterity and imagination. The best comedians have an instinct for figurative language, and strong imagery. It’s the re-imagining of situational comedy that makes us laugh the hardest – and those who rely on craft, rather than crass, will last the longest.
When you’re rich, you’re busy living the life people dream about, and when you’re poor, you’re busting your guts to put a meal on the table. It could be argued then, that the success of the novel as one of the most prolific of English literary forms is that it is a site of middle class experiences and sensibilities, aspirations and of course, consumption.
The novel, if nothing else, is a mirror of class consciousness with imagined (and real) narratives that often reflect its audience’ perception of self. And why not – who doesn’t like to read and write stories about themselves to a sympathetic crowd?
While the term bourgeois is pejorative in origin, no one can argue the cultural significance and contribution of the middle classes to what the literati would consider ‘high art’.
Most novels in the western canon reflect characters’ struggles in their rise and fall of moral, social and financial status – of which the middle class experience is mostly about. So in this sense, while the middle class is often derided in popular discourse as being a rich wannabe that lacks social grace or compunction, take a minute to consider that entire industries, socio / political economies and indeed our own cultural identities are being supported, informed and shaped not by ephemeral heroes – but by the very real aspirations of people who live in three bedroom houses with a backyard and a gas burner barbie. Awesome!
Till next time, crack a queer whid!
Psst! What we would consider a complex and well-structured novel today, is a result from the combination of Defoe’s sensitive understanding of social and material reality with Samuel Richardson’s (1689-1761) awareness of human complexities in personalities that struggle against private and public social forces. Love your work gentlemen!