Paying For It

I've been reflecting on my previous post, and I think I know one of the reasons why Scottish publishing is so masculine. I think it has a lot to do with Calvinism, and the general 'we'll pay for it' - or 'we'll pey fer it' as they say down here, whenever a watery sun pokes its head out - mentality of so many inhabitants of this country that I love so much. And make no mistake, I do. Love it I mean. But the default setting of many Scottish men in particular is pessimistic verging on dour. And that goes for publishers as well. You know who you are.
I'm also convinced that this inherent truculence lies at the root of so much of the religious bigotry that still dogs the Central Belt. Even now, when I'm asked where I went to school, I know that there will be a slight - very slight, these days - reaction to the name of a school which is so obviously Catholic. What did you expect, I want to say, from the daughter of a Pole married to an Irishwoman?
The original (and possibly reasonable in the circumstances) suspicion of outside political interference has been replaced by a completely unreasonable suspicion of the drama, colour, exuberance and general all round theatricality that is such a characteristic of the church of Rome. It's a characteristic of big, bold romantic novels as well. Couple that with the exploration of love, relationships and the occasional promise of a happy ending, which are part and parcel of commercial women's fiction and you can see how the 'it'll all end in tears' brigade would object. Such things make them uncomfortable, embarrass them, not least because they are - God forbid - enjoyable: a guily pleasure, as somebody commented about my own novel, The Curiosity Cabinet.
Some members of the arts establishment often couple this dourness with literary snobbery. I occasionally play a party game of discussing TV programmes with people who don't know me well, waiting for them to tell me, as they invariably do, how they 'can't stand soaps.' Oddly enough, they always know the plotlines. I wait for an opportune moment, and then tell them that I love Coronation Street. (True). A look of dismay crosses their faces as though I have made some dreadful faux pas. Quite often they ask why, and I tell them because I think it's a well made drama with some of the best parts for older people you will ever see on television, brilliantly written, directed, and acted. Why would anyone need or want to disapprove of something so entertaining, something, moreover, that gives harmless pleasure to so many people?
The sad thing is that when Scots loosen up a bit they can and do write passionate love songs and stories that would put the rest of the world to shame. I have, on the whole, met far more hopelessly romantic Scottish men than women, so these guys must go around in a constant state of repression. A woman who indulges in real life romance usually knows what she's doing and generally keeps something back. A parachute of sorts. When a man falls, he falls harder, faster and more comprehensively. Icarus to the life. Not, mind you, that those men who do dare to write about such things get much approval from their fellows . Or at least not until they're dead. Then it's alright. Like poor old Rabbie Burns, they have well and truly peyed fer it, and can be mourned with due dour solemnity.

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