Cult footballers and followings

Dave Hill amusingly plugs his book 33 times over at Comment is Free. The novel is called The Adoption and is of course available online. I fear this plug may be too late for Christmas, however.

I do enjoy Dave’s blog – especially his thought on such slippery subjects as multiculturalism and political correctness – and I recommend his novel on this basis. It is interesting to see many others do the same: This is not merely a case of blogger-boys-club-back-scratching, but recommendations based on sincerely held beliefs about the quality of a writer’s output. Having said that, a novel is a very different type of writing than blogging, and there may not be a correlation between lengthy fiction, and pithy political opination.

Elsewhere, I hear that Highbury cult-figure Perry Groves’ autobiography is massively outselling Ashley Cole’s offering, due in no small part to the campaign for that very thing over at Arseblog. Dave Hill bemoans the focus in the book-trade in pushing a few bestsellers, leaving the less high profile authors to fend for themselves. The alternative model he suggests – that of bloggers bypassing the marketing hype and recommending alternatives – seems to be working in Groves’ favour, and at Cole’s expense.

Ashley now earns more in a week than Perry’s transfer fee to Arsenal twenty-years ago. He may be more famous at the moment, but will be remembered amongst the Arsenal fans for his involvement in the ‘tapping up‘ scandals, and being married to someone from Girls Aloud. In 2006, it seems an online campaign has snowballed, as readers come to realise that actually, Cole is a less interesting character than someone who has been out of the game for a decade.

To find that it is Perry Groves who has benefited from this phenomenon is unsurprising, as he was always a cult figure anyway. Often on the bench, he never reached the stratosphere of later stars such as Ian Wright and Tierry Henry, or even team-mates like Charlie Nicholas (for whom he set up the winning goal in Arsenal’s 1987 League Cup win). Nevertheless, Groves’ work ethic, bionic throw-ins, and an odd appearance (his nickname was ‘Tintin’ which is why I remember him so well) made him a Highbury favourite.

To come full circle: All this talk of cult figures (and of footballers marrying C-List celebrities) reminds me of the essay by digital artist Momus, which I quoted in my article on the Impact of Blogs for Writer’s News earlier this year. Momus’ point was that the new, digital media could allow people to by-pass the bottleneck of the mainstream outlets. The online world promised to be fertile territory for the unadulterated cult-figure. From my article:

Pandering to the lowest common denominator in the ‘mainstream’ can be a debilitating process … Through online publishing, an idiosyncratic writer can find viable target audiences, without diluting their work.

Attaining this niche-fame – a kind of cult following, perhaps – becomes increasingly attractive to the serious writer. As the digital artist Momus said: “In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen people.” We live in an era where mainstream celebrity seems entirely unrelated to talent. Finding a small, dedicated audience online may be a better measure of success, than C-list recognition in the mainstream.


This week, brevity is all the rage. Labour MP Tom Watson finds that plenty of sites are issuing six word story challenges.

Meanwhile, over at The Sharpener, Bondwoman has posted her take on John Reid’s immigration policies in equation form.

One of the more famous short short-stories is by Augusto Monterroso:

Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí.
(“When he awoke, the dinosaur was still there.”)

I always chuckle at that. What sordid goings on occurred the night before?

Book Jackets

Browsing the website of Irshad Manji, the ‘Muslim Refusnik’ who wrote The Trouble With Islam Today, it was interesting to note the variations (and similarities) between the book jacket designs in various countries worldwide.

My favourite is probably the image of the author’s mouth being censored (by the title), which appears in the French, Norwegian and USA editions. Finland, Belgium and Norway employ the same concept, but less effectively I think. By comparison, the English cover, depicting a group of Muslims at prayer, seems less imaginative, although the connotation with a phalanx of soldiers does convey one of the key concepts from the book:

Irshad Manji calls herself a Muslim refusenik. ‘That doesn’t mean I refuse to be a Muslim,’ she writes, ‘it simply means I refuse to join an army of automatons in the name of Allah.’
(from the Amazon blurb)

The English cover stands out as being very different from all the others. It is fascinating to look at what different publishers thought would sell well in the respective countries, and what best communicated the concepts of the book. Several jackets depict stone walls, while several others choose a veiled woman instead of Manji, with her uncovered, spiky hair. The covers for India and Canada are purely typographic. I am reminded of an article by my colleague Leo Warner, who wrote:

if you want to see a culture describe itself at the most organic level, you should observe the design and not the art.