Thursday, January 11, 2007


Why I Dislike Dylan Thomas

I am a writer and I live in Wales. I am thus daily compelled to deal with the spectre of Dylan Thomas, who looms over Swansea like the grimy shadow of a half-empty beer glass on a mouldy wall. I remember having to read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog at school. I found the book boring but inoffensive, nothing to love but nothing to get into a rage about. As for his poetry, I can only repeat that I'm not a great lover of poetry by anyone and his work does absolutely nothing for me.

Fine, I don't like Dylan Thomas. That's just an expression of my personal taste. But this simple statement -- "I don't like Dylan Thomas" -- often elicits an agreement along the lines of: "Yes, his language was too wordy, too flowery, not gritty enough!"

The reason I dislike Dylan Thomas has nothing to do with his use of language! My dislike of Dylan Thomas is not another way of saying that I prefer sparse, unadorned, trivial, simplistic sentences that heavily convey the messages of social realism. I don't want the spectre of Thomas to be replaced by the zombie of Tresize. The reason I dislike Thomas is because of his lack of IDEAS.

By 'ideas' I don't mean any kind of idea, for instance the idea that Mae Rose-Cottage likes to rouge her nipples with lipstick: I mean high level ideas, conceptual breakthroughs, the creation of new paradigms, paradoxes, the pushing of the cerebral envelope. When I read Dylan Thomas I come away with the feeling I've learned nothing. When I read Stanislaw Lem or Italo Calvino or Milorad Pavic I come away with the feeling that I know a little more about epistemology, ontology, teleology, semantics, syncretism, ergodics, etc, etc.

I'm aware that education isn't the primary function of literature, certainly not of fiction or poetry. But it's a side effect, a bonus, call it what you will, that I absolutely demand from my favoured authors. Maybe I have this attitude because my background is in engineering: I never studied the Arts in any formal sense. I don't begrudge the existence of the flowery lyricists, nor even the monomorphic realists, but I remain bewildered by the dearth of authentic ideas writers in the Welsh cultural landscape. Apart from myself, there seem to be none at all.

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