If you have ever wandered the streets of Beerlight or enjoyed the works of Jeff Lint (books or documentary on AylettVision on YouTube) or Dinner with Argle on YouTube, then you may be aware of the originality of Steve Aylett.
In the Heart of the Original, Steve Aylett writes his first official non-fiction on the subject. As one might expect, it is written with vim and vigour with more than a soupcon of experimentation and humour. The core is the argument that art, in particular, needs more originality to be pushed.
As Aylett argues, there is a large amount of recycling that happens of ideas which is claimed as original. Truly original in some cases. In a slightly haphazard fashion, the author skips across many authors and books, showing how they were original before becoming accepted.
The part I do have an issue with is that mining the past might not be original. If this didn’t happen we might not have Eliot’s Wasteland or Chaucer, both of which are original in execution and style but rely upon knowledge of the past.
Perhaps what he is getting at is the amount of similar novels and works of art available. Some are touted as original when they are retreads. I do question whether this is due to a lack of understanding or knowledge of theirs and related genres. Without stating it, he attacks the “wannabe” culture that has been increasingly engendered, looking for clones and variations of successful ventures, rather than creating other successes.
It builds on the arguments in Lint and the accompanying And Your Point Is? (Yatterings blog post). Companies such as Unbound or the small presses are revitalising older publishing models. Out of this arises the opportunity for interesting and original authors. What worries me, and perhaps Aylett, is that the underlying culture is in deep trouble, but is this cyclical? Are we just in the dark before we get the next punk movement (which will be subsumed, this is the way things go)? I hope so.
Yet this is a book that should be read and enjoyed. Then read his other books.