Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Julie Burchill is an odd thing but a good one. A New Statesman piece I wrote almost exactly a decade ago explains. Her key virtue is that, even when wrong, she sees to the heart of the matter. In The Guardian today, she trashes Jeanette Winterson for being nasty about Tesco, which, says Burchill, is wonderful. As usual with Burchill, the piece fades badly - the end is devoid of any intellectual punch. But, as usual, she gets to the point. Winterson had spoken of wanting shops that offered 'passion, commitment - something more than a transaction.' To which Burchill responds, 'Maybe I'm lucky, but personally I find I get all the validation passion and commitment I need from my family, friends, religion and voluntary work; that I might go looking for proof of my worth over the wet fish counter seems quite eye-wateringly daft.' This is rhetorically brilliant. She is here calling the bluff of the clever and the smug. It is a given among the bienpensants that shopping for food must be a time-consuming quest for authenticity and self-actualisation. Prigs, who are really snobs, delight in saying this is what you must do, it is an act of religious observance. Burchill outflanks them all by claiming a much more serious list of authentic pursuits. After all, no matter how you tart it up, shopping is still just shopping. This is a perfect confrontation between incommensurable conceptions of authenticity. Burchill has, once again, seen to the heart of the matter and made me happy.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 7:45 am