Friday, April 23, 2010

Opinionated observation...

Following on from my St. George's Day post, Obliging observance, earlier today, I was trying to figure out why the UK and Ireland celebrate World Book Day on a different date to the rest of the world (btw, I've taken the day off; celebrating an unofficial bank holiday)

April 23rd has long been considered a symbolic date for world literature: two of the world's most celebrated authors, Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare (who are, incidentally, also the world's two most translated authors!) - and putting aside the Julian and Gregorian calendar differences - both died on this day and in the same year (1616) as did "Inca" Garcilaso de la Vega. Catalan author Josep Pla also died on 23rd April. The date also coincides with the birth of Colombian writer Manuel Mejía Vallejo, French novelist Maurice Druon, Vladimir Nabokov (he of Lolita fame...and ignoring Julian/Gregorian calendar differences again - Russia being amongst the very last countries to change, only about 90 years ago!) and the Icelandic novelist and Nobel Prize in Literature winner Halldór Laxness. Other writers born on this day - not so famous but certainly well known - include Ngaio Marsh (NZ, one of the original four 'Queens of Crime') and Charles Farrar Browne (US, nom de plume, Artemus Ward).

Now given all that - and I'm sure there's more* - it was a natural choice for International Book Day: to "pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity".

So, going back to my point (*yes there's more: dig a little deeper and you find that William Wordsworth and Rupert Brooke - both surely in anyone's Top Ten (or even Top 5!) English poets - also both died on 23rd April!) , given ALL the aformentioned, why did the UK decide to have a different day. I think I know, and IMHO it's not the official 'excuse':

"The initiative is so well established in schools here that we want to make sure that the Day happens in term time to really make the most of this opportunity to celebrate books and reading", sorry but that's bollocks: don't get me wrong, all those books, quick-read, vouchers, getting children reading etc, that's fine, that's great! But I think it's New-Labour-Tony-Blair smarm speak. "Now HOLD ON" (I hear you say), I know it's a registered charity (although we know that in many cases registered charities are 'government initiatives'...and by pure coincidence that very question is the 2nd of their FAQs) ...BUT, why do I think it's bollocks you ask? Well, there are 35 possible dates for Easter Sunday: from March 22 to April 25: look at this handy graph (2nd graph down, it makes what I'm getting at a lot clearer). April 25th is the latest possible date so even when schools have 2 weeks Easter holiday - with Easter weekend in the middle - the latest the term time break-up is ever going to be is 17/18th April so very roughly 80% or more of all "normal" International Book Days would be in term time.

You may have lost track by now so I'll say what I think: Tony Blair launched the UK individual different from the rest of the world book day in 1998 as a chance to spin: you remember, the sun always shone, cool Brittania, things could only bet better? Well IMHO this was (a) another great story for Saint Tony and boost the Fab we're so cool and nice look how we're giving book vouchers to children New Labour and (b) a conscious decision purely and simply to NOT HAVE IT on 23rd April (i.e. St George's Day) because New Labour are bunch of inept, corrupt, anti-English slimeball fuckwits (Blair was the eptiome of this) and I hope they get obliterated on May 6th, which incidently, was April 23rd in Shakespeare's day!

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Paul said...

"William Wordsworth and Rupert Brooke - both surely in anyone's Top Ten (or even Top 5!) English poets -"

I wouldn't have either to be honest. Siegfried Sassoon, Thomas Gray, Benjamin Zephaniah, Rudyard Kipling and Lord George Gordon Byron would be the Top 5 followed by A E Housman, Milton, Donne, Shakespeare and Keats.

I agree with a lot of the rest of your piece apart from May 6th - that's just being silly!

Span Ows said...

You have put me to shame; you're right of course and there probably a good deal more to ad to not make a lot of people's top 20 or more! I was getting carried away with so many literary nmaes born/died on 23rd April!

Heres some more...from memory and in not the order or particular favourites (and even some not English!): William Blake, Coleridge, Tennyson, 'Pisco Sour' Shelley, Edmund Spenser, Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Morris.

T. S. Eliot (OK, he started as a yank! And by complete coincidence I commented on 'The Hollow Men in the Gaurdian today!) W. H. Auden (who did the opposite swap to Eliot re citizenship, Dylan Thomas (boyo), Thomas Hardy, Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis...Re Brooke I know your preferred Sassoon from the Remembrance Day posts. There's aslo Wilfred Owen.

And to add to my shame I hadn't even considered modern poets. I did "Poets of our Time" at school and really enjoyed it (along with Romeo and Juliet amongst other things in Eng Lit, got an A!!!) Ted Hughes and John Betjeman (they're "modern" but not as per your Ben Zeph modern! but they're the ones I most remember)

May 6th...hehehehe...bring it on!

Paul said...

I know lists are always subjective anyway but your response shows what a great library of poets we have in this country. I have 'local' connections with both Shelley and Hardy of course.

Robert Browning came to mind as soon as I had pressed the 'post' button and of course The Rime (not rhyme) Of The Ancient Mariner by Coleridge is astonishing and meets the criteria for people who think poetry should always ryhme (with an h).