Well, no one's actually said literature is the new art. Apart from me. Most people say it's the new music and they've got a point. Even more people say it's NOT the new music and talk about how literature can't use the gigs & merch model. And they're wrong. About the latter bit, anyway. But what I can't help feeling is that, whilst the music industry is something from which we can learn a lot - about downloads and gigging, and connecting with fans and streamlining businesses; it's actually to the art world we should be looking to understand literature.
I'm always sniping about Goldsmiths and CSM in the 90s and how they were glorified school tie networks, and how the MA Creative Writing from UEA threatened to become the same, but that's not what I mean.
What I mean is this: literature, with a publishing industry on its knees and a load of creative talent chomping to escape the shackles, is shaping up to be the next YBA (Young British artists - Sarah Lucas, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Rachel Whiteread, Michael Landy, Gavin Turk, sam Talyor Wood, The Chapman Brothers, The Wilson Twins et al ad inf).
It's not to do with new tech - not directly, anyway. It's more that I see more and more groups of writers outside the mainstream coming closer and closer to the big time by doing things their way. People like MCM, groups like Jet-Pack and Backword Books, our own beloved Year Zero, salons like Book Club Boutique. Perhaps most groundbreaking in her own way - and you'll laugh at me for saying - Catherine O'Fynn with her mild unassuming "this is just how I did it" approach.
It felt for a little while as though we may have got there a few years ago - as though someone had finally swept Amis and McEwan and Swift out with a broom and replaced them with a hungry new generation of people hungry to put ideas on paper. But A M Homes and Monica Ali and even the Great White Teeth Hope Zadie Smith just got subsumed into the same old same old mainstream. At least Tracey Emin took 20 years to sell out!
So what went wrong with the last generation of new hope? Well, to answer that, take a look at what went right with YBA. If one wants to generalise hideously and lay oneself open to all kinds of loopholes, then one can lay the answer at the feet of two men. And neither was called Saatchi.
What happened for YBA were Jay Jopling and Nick Serota. Curators. Jay Jopling, for those of you of more tender years than me, was the owner of White Cube, the gallery that not only showcased but promoted the work of the fledgeling YBAs. He was the PT Barnum, the - should we rather say - Malcolm MacLaren of YBA - the man who made everytone else think pickled sharks were cool. Nick Serota, of course, was the legendary Tate curator responsible for the Turner Prize.
That's what the literary world lacked when White Teeth, Brick Lane, The End of Alice hit the shelves. People who were prepared to take a generation - not just one or two but a wave - and bring them to the public. People who spotted talent, nurtured it, showed it off, and didn't care if there was a place for it in the mainstream - because through force of showmanship and chutzpah they created a parallel and more exciting space.
And that's the big issue the literary sphere faces today if it's going to see all that talent blossom into a golden age, a movement, a new dawn on the public consciousness, a whole fistful of cliches that boil down to one thing: getting the general public talking about books.
Because whether it was marvelling at the brilliance of Whiteread's inside-out house, or spitting disgust at Chris Ofili's dung-filled portraits, Emin's unmade bed, or Hirst's pregnant cow cut in two, the thing Jopling and Serota did was get people talking about art. And not just artworks. A decade or so ago you could walk down a high street in the UK and hear your average Jane and Joe Public discussing what art meant. When was the last time that happened with books? Sure, we talk about vampires or Lost Symbols, but you can't stand at the bus stop and hear people jibe "Ah, but is it literature?"
And that's what we need. We need someone to make the general public talk - with gasps of delight and disgust - about books. About this book and that book and "what is literature?"
So who will it be? You'd think it'd be a publisher, wouldn't you? Vicky Barnsley, maybe, at HC, or Jessica Weiner at Harper Studio, maybe even Scott Pack at Fifth Estate. They're doing good things, all of them. But. Oh but but but.
Maybe the agents then. What about? Well, precisely. Most writers will have heard of Nathan Bransford. Lovely guy. Enthusiastic. And his authors, his individual, exciting, but somehow with a common sense of purpose authors are? Well, precisely (to repeat myself).
So who WILL be the Jay Jopling of the Literary World? Richard Nash, of Soft Skull and Cursor fame, believes it will be him. No, whatever he tells you, he DOES. And he may be right. Maybe.
I'll give a good guess. A good guess is that it'll be one of two people. It'll be a celeb - an Oprah or a Richard & Judy (and you could make a case they've partially done it already, scoff ye not) who says "I'm gonna say f*ck mainstream books. I'm gonna have me a book club and choose me the best most exciting damn books on the planet WHEREVER they come from" and shouts them from the hills. Or it'll be the person who sets up a prize with a million pound pot for the best self-published book of the year (or maybe even the best unsigned ebook - and, by the way, where ARE the ebook only awards? hmmmmmm - and hires a team of rockstars as judges.
Just a guess. And trust me - one of them WILL happen. Within 18 months.
Or it could be one of us.
Now there's a thought.