SEEKING a link between soccer and literature may not be the easiest thing in the world, but that’s just what Mark and Tim at The Big Green Bookshop (http://woodgreenbookshop.blogspot.com/2010/06/and-its-shakespeare-to-take-final.html) have managed to do.
They have produced a team of literary hard kickers, drawing their inspiration from PD James, President of the Society of Authors, who stated in a recent speech that England produced the greatest poet – Shakespeare.
Instead I brought on Geoffrey Chaucer, John Milton, Virginia Woolf, Edith Nesbit, Roger McGough and Dennis Potter.
Above all, ‘Paradise Lost’ is suffused with hope for Man as he is given the chance to form a new relationship with God.
Milton’s language may be complex, but the ideas contained therein have inspired a wealth of art, music and literature – and they have made people think about the nature (and attraction) of evil.
In her novels and essays she gave voice to women, without resorting to the angry polemic of later feminist writers.
She took the craft of writing very seriously, keeping notebooks where she tracked her experiments as she sought new ways to capture character and express what she had to say, and these give an insight into the creative process.
I included Edith Nesbit because she broke the mould for children’s authors, paving the way for today’s writers, who make their characters tackle real, tough choices, even in imaginary worlds.
She wrote about real children, who may have magical adventures, but remain firmly rooted in the real world, and have to face the consequences of their actions. And she did so using language her young readers could understand, without being condescending or patronising. Most of all, she made reading fun.
Similarly, I selected Roger McGough because he makes us realise poetry can be fun: that it is not difficult, or scary, or only for ‘posh’ people.
Purists may dismiss him, claiming his early work was nothing more than quirky and funny, but over the years it has deepened and matured, with layer upon layer of meaning.
He may noy be classed as one of the literary ‘greats, but he has done much to publicise and promote poetry and his influence on readers is incalculable: he has helped change the language of poetry for ever, writing about things they know, in language they understand, making them feel that they too could write.
I opted for Potter because he wrote specifically for the modern media of television, rather than for the stage, using popular culture, references and allusions – especially music and song.
Whether or not you like his work, you cannot deny he was a trail-blazer, using modern techniques to alter our perceptions of reality as he tackled some dark issues.
Like the original list, mine is headed by Shakespeare. He drew material from a wealth of sources to conjure his own inimitable work.
His own matchless prose never faltered. Erudite and scholarly, the structure of his writing was perfect, always well balanced, always correct, and always with the right word in the right place.
I did wonder if he should be included with a list of novelists, dramatists and poets, but it is difficult to know how to categorise Johnson – and all writers all owe him a debt of gratitude.
But I genuinely believe she deserves her place in the team. She steps away from the florid, sentimental gothic genre of the 18th Century, mocking its melodrama and lack of reality.
Her novels centre on women and their place in the world. Each is a comedy of manners, brought to life by Austen’s sharp writing, her ironic tone, her eye for the ridiculous and her clearly drawn characters.
Read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and you will see that people have not changed much on the last two centuries: Kitty and Lydia Bennett would be perfectly at home laughing and giggling with today’s boy-mad teenagers.
Austen’s work has been emulated by many, including 21st Century ‘chick lit’ writers and romantic novelists – to say nothing of films and TV series.
Her heroines, unlike many of those who went before, are not pretty or wealthy. Instead they are strong independent women who work for a living and asserted their right to feel and think as they chose.
They make their own way in life, doing what they think is right, refusing to be influenced by the opin ions of others.
His descriptive powers were second to none (look at his description of fog in the opening chapter of Bleak House), and he created characters who seem to have taken on a life of their own and passed into English folklore – Scrooge for example, or Mr Pickwick.
His convoluted plots relied heavily on coincidence but, nevertheless, they keep us reading to find out what happens.
Additionally, he used his novels to expose many of the social injustices and double standards of Victorian life, so his sphere of influence extended beyond the literary world to politicians and social reformers, who campaigned for improvements.