Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Where has all the magic gone?

Lucky J K Rowlings. The talented, multi-millionaire writer is currently everywhere as her new novel (written for an adult audience and distinctly wizard-poor by the sound of it ) is about to be published and the media are salivating about a possible flop.

But lucky J K Rowling , nonetheless.

Here is one detail of the interview I heard on Radio Four this morning that struck a particular chord. She said, (I summarise), that now that she can pay her bills she does not need to put out any work that isn't to her complete satisfaction. So she took her time and wrote the novel she really wanted to write and published it when it was good and ready. Had inspiration not struck she would not have bothered. And she ruled out wringing any more spurious sequels to Harry Potter's story just for the sake of publishing more books. She is done with Harry, she said

J K Rowling's own life story is extraordinary enough: from (metaphorical) rags to (very real) riches through talent and hard work as well as amazing luck. No lottery winner she. So when luck struck and she was given the opportunity of not having to worry about her bills this freed her not to do nothing but  to work better.

I hope she spares a thought for the many millions of us who do not have such luxury - and I don't mean the luxury of dropping out and eating caviar with a soup spoon from the sculpted navel of a (male, in my case) supermodel but the luxury of being able to work (whatever it is we do do) to a standard that can make us proud.

The reality of the world of work today (for those lucky enough to still hold down a job) is a constant, near total, de-spiriting, life-sapping battle between shrinking means, often absurd or ill-defined ends and megalomanic or incompetent bosses/ organisations/ bureaucracies,.

We'd love to be professional, competent, to show what we can do, to make a tangible difference, to concentrate on ends/results but we are constantly pushed back (often after enduring the daily commute in animal crates on rails) into undignified scrambles against time, mediocrity, office politics, chair-warming, face-saving, back-stabbing and process, endless process.  

Maybe it was ever thus - or at least since we stopped hunting animals and killing them with our bare hands. And this might explain why, despite work being the activity that absorbs most of everyone's time (unlike, say, falling in love, or exotic travel or being the caught up in a jewellery heist)  there are so few novels telling the story of work. It is, sad to say, for the most part an un-heroic little tale of daily mortifications to our intelligence and diminishing returns for our energy and time on this earth when it could be the triumph of humanity over death, destiny and raw matter.

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