Monday, 13 June 2011

Newness, that Newfangled Thing

Our topic today is newness. Or rather a certain obsession with the new and its supposed hierarchical superiority to the old. Well, at least in terms of artistic consumerism; i.e. reading books or comics, watching films, or listening to music. I would never suggest that the new in and of itself has a higher hierarchical position in, for instance, old-school academia. Although, it is worthwhile noticing the common critical (academic or otherwise) favouritism of originality, of which I've written before.

While I do not necessarily see the necessity for originality as a quality marker of storytelling, I can certainly understand the endeavour to go where no author, artist, film maker or songwriter has gone before (even though the likelihood of an actual success in that seems meagre and more illusory than real), what I want to discuss here and now is the notion held by more than a few people (and naturally fostered by the market place) that only the latest thing is good enough. This is not to say that whatever the latest thing is is original (or even claims to be), but the idea of defining newness in these fields as only the latest thing is foreign to me.

As a reader, viewer or listener, I utterly fail to see why I have to be obsessed with the latest thing.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying we cannot appreciate the latest thing to be published or produced for our reading, viewing or listening pleasures. But why be obsessed with it? When there are so many things in all temporal directions from us, yet to be discovered. Some of which we've surely not yet even heard.

Let me confess openly: I have not read every book or comic ever written or published, not seen every film film ever made nor heard every song ever recorded. In fact, I have not even read/seen/heard all the ones I know would like to. This is quite simply because the treasure chest of such material is nigh infinite (at least in comparison to my own time here on Earth), and everything that I've not (yet) read, seen or heard is something new... to me.

Obviously this is not a condition unique to me. I would dare say that there is no one out there who has literally read, seen or heard everything in any of the mentioned categories. Thus, we need to rethink what newness is, I would argue. We cannot allow our treasure chests of the imagination to be dominated by a simple market place insistence on the latest hype; that is to say, newness only as that newfangled thing which like a flash in the pan is here today and gone tomorrow. It is true that not all books, comics, films or music remain in the public consciousness (in fact, it is probably more true to say that few do). But even a passing fancy is something which somebody may pick up long after that moment is gone, and enjoy or not, in very much the same manner people could whenever the hype was on.

In fact, perhaps some of these things will find a better appeal when they are not over-marketed and only get to stand on their own two legs. I'm not saying that the fame will be eternal, but there may nevertheless be an appreciation of finding something new, as in previously unread, unseen or unheard (perhaps even unheard of).

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