Sunday, 18 September 2011

Is This Man Really Suitable To Promote Literacy?

Ladies and gentlemen, some of whom might like to read a book, I bring you glorious news of Bristol's Big Read. The Big Read aims to get people into reading, promote literacy, and generally promote the love of books. The man promoting this year's Big Read in Bristol is Jeffrey Archer. Yes, I did say JEFFREY ARCHER. He of the fragrant wife. If you don't know what I'm talking about, young people, let me tell you, when you're sunk deep in years of recession and social decay, the only thing that'll get you through the bad times is a quality sex and sleaze scandal, and that's why, right now, what you really, really need is a Tory Government.

Jeffrey Archer. Eww.
Anyway, if you can't be bothered to read the comprehensive list of scandals that have dogged Mr Archer, let me precis. Jeffrey Archer was, for much of the 80's, Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party. In 1987 he initiated, and won, a libel case against a paper who claimed he had given money to a prostitute. In 2001 new information regarding the case came to light, and he was convicted of perjury and perverting the course of justice, and sentenced to four years in prison.

He is also, regrettably, an author. Archer's latest oeuvre, Only Time Will Tell, is set in Bristol. This is why he is here, promoting himself, er, sorry, promoting reading. The Telegraph, that notorious left-wing rag, had this to say about it. "Only Time Will Tell reads like a misery memoir, albeit one written by an accomplished narcissistic fantasist with a penchant for genealogical mysteries'. If you want to know what it's about, I commend you to John Crace's Digested Read, here. I was going to post more reviews, but sadly, most of the broadsheet papers hadn't bothered. Poor, poor, Jeffrey.

I can't comment on the quality of Archer's books myself, since I've never read one, but should you wish to, you could pick most of them up on Amazon, for 1p each. Which is great, as gas is a terrible price these days, and I've been wondering how to heat the house, this winter.

Robert Louis Stevenson. Rrrrrrr.
In previous years, books featured in the Big Read included Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson, and The Seige, by Helen Dunmore. Dunmore is a bona fide resident of Bristol, and an award-winning author. Louis Stevenson based part of Treasure Island on the Landoger Trow Pub, which you can visit today. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote all kinds of travel, letters, essays and stories as well as succesful adventure novels. He is also, in my opinion, much sexier than any skinny, coughing, greasy-haired Victorian chap has a right to be. He took a keen interest in skewering cant, humbug, and hyprocrisy, which brings me to my next point.

Jeffrey Archer is a card-carrying Tory. The current Tory government is responsible for the largest round of library closures in recent history, thus reducing the chances of people getting their hands on actual quality literature, like Treasure Island, or The Seige, and forcing them to resort to buying Jeffrey Archer novels for 1p.

Bristol City Library, with South-West literature agency Cyprus Well, and Visit Bristol, are collaborating with Archer's Publisher, Pan MacMillan, to promote this project. All of these, with the exception of Pan, are public agencies. Bristol City Libraries is funded by the City Council, as is Visit Bristol. Cyprus Well is funded by the Arts Council. Both Bristol City Council and the Arts Council have recently implemented in an extensive array of cuts. Jeffrey Archer is a millionaire.

When I contacted Bristol Libraries to express my dismay I recieved this tweet. 
Bristol Libraries

@ Hi, thanks for yr comment. Many readers love JA, each to their own! No public (only publisher's) money. Other stuff coming soon!

I have to take issue with this. They might not be spending money on buying Jeffrey Archer's books, but if their staff, resources, and buildings are being used, then Jeffrey Archer is certainly being supported by public money. I ask you: when people are having their benefits and services cut, is this really the kind of man the taxpayer should be supporting? 

Jeffrey Archer will be at Bristol Central Library at 7pm, Friday 23rd September 2011, should you wish to nip down there. Apparently, tickets are still available.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I saw the posters for this in t'library yesterday. Shockin'. Maybe Jeffrey's publishers aren't aware that Bristol boasts a branch of Hooters; surely a far more suitable venue for an Archer book event, and sending out a clearer signal about Bristol Council's values.