Friday, 2 March 2012
I'm off to Skegness today with my sceptical reporter's hat on. Appropriately, today is the birthday of a journalist and novelist I much admire: Tom Wolfe, born in Richmond, Virginia (1931). He wrote The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968), about Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. He also wrote The Right Stuff (1979), about the American space program. Though he viewed nonfiction as the best way to comment on the really important things in life, he also wrote three novels: The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987), A Man in Full (1998), and I am Charlotte Simmons (2004). His fourth novel, Back to Blood, is due out this year (2012).
In an essay published in 2007, Tom Wolfe argued that the newspaper industry would stand a much better chance of survival if newspaper editors encouraged reporters to "provide the emotional reality of the news, for it is the emotions, not the facts, that most engage and excite readers and in the end are the heart of most stories." He said journalists should use four literary devices in their work -- "to make the reader feel present in the scene described and even inside the skin of a particular character." They are: 1) constructing scenes; 2) dialogue -- lots of it; 3) carefully noting social status details, "everything from dress and furniture to the infinite status clues of speech"; and 4) point of view, "in the Henry Jamesian sense of putting the reader inside the mind of someone other than the writer." Well, I will try to follow Wolfe's advice.
For many years I have been curious to discover what makes UKIP, and their accident-prone leader Nigel Farage, tick. Are UKIP members Little Englanders or (worse) the NF in respectable disguise? I am going to have a long, hard look at them gathered in the Lincolnshire seaside resort made famous by the poster of a manic fisherman skipping over puddles in the sand. Will Skegness be bracing in a good way? The only way to find out is to go and put a metaphorical toe in the water.
I will report back tomorrow.