I'd like to be able to attend the David Peace symposium taking place at the University of Brighton tomorrow (3 June), but I can't. In fact, noting that Dr Daniel Lea was still 'tbc', I even considered submitting a proposal of my own, just in case...
My proposal wouldn't have resembled Dr Lea's at all, but his title – 'David Peace and Yorkshire Masculinity' – relates to something that struck me often in reading the Red Riding Quartet.
If you think of the rhetoric of the Quartet, its style, its tone, in all its compulsive, hysterical mania, its shrill banshee-wailing, its death-driven lyricism, its delirious need to disclose... If you think of that extraordinary dégueuelade of BJ's at the end of 1983... (a dégueulade is a stomach-emptying vomit)... If you think of 1983 as the process by which John Pigott arrives at a point at which he can disclose a crucial element of his past to the reader... If you think of Nietzsche: 'Only the bravest of us only rarely has the courage for what he actually knows...' And if you think of Peace himself, getting into fight after fight as an adolescent punk (who dressed like a punk) in Leeds pubs...
Then think of the stereotypical laconic-going-on-taciturn-going-on-monosyllabic Yorkshireman. Think of the deadening sarcasm, the emotional autism of machismo, the ruthless way in which a particular blunt commonsense exerts itself to cut down and exterminate any kind of deviation or departure from its own monoculture... You know the type: only comfortable thinking as a pack, only capable of speaking to mock what someone else says.
Peace's entire style can be understood as a protest against the deadening silence of this kind of masculinity.
What I can't decide is whether that leaves Peace vulnerable to a certain kind of bathos.
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