_ arsons


He was there on the frontline of popular culture, sending back fiery features on the dangerous delirium of popular music. Then he got older and wizened. But that’s enough about Craig McLean. Here’s an interview with Tony Parsons.

For once the boot is on the other foot. The jobbing journalist. previously the hip young gunslinger who was the scourge and the chronicler of punk, is now on the receiving end ofthe probing proboscis of the media. There‘s a book to be promoted. prostituted. It’s a collection of his articles. is called Dispatches From The F rmtt Line Of Popular Culture. and Tony Parsons is struggling to cope.

‘You find yourselfdoing stuff like a chatshow on Sky which you normally wouldn‘t touch with a bargepole,‘ say those familiar east end flat vowels. ‘That’s gonna be really weird it’s a discussion on male aggression me. John McVicar and Gary Mason. Quite how this is gonna sell one copy of my book I don‘t know . . .’

Such are the perils ofthe pundit-for-hire. These days, 38-year-old Parsons is most widely-known as a regular commentator on The Late Show (recent topics ofdiseussion: babies and four-hour productions of Hamlet). ‘l don‘t feel very comfortable being a

3 feel like some Tory backbencher.‘

' The Clash on the London Underground. He quit

; while he was still ahead (and still alive) to return to l novel writing he'd written one when he was

: sixteen. called The Kids. It was about some kids.

' l was

Tony Parsons and spyglass

pundit.’ he insists. ‘lt‘s great if people like your

good as The Clash should havejust gone down the work, but you don‘t want to be a rent-a-quote. you

toilet is some small tragedy I think.’

And what of the young whippersnappers making music these days? Last year Parsons (in)famously declared ‘pop is dead‘ on Channel 4's Without Walls. He still gets a buzz from discovering hot new bands. ‘but when you‘re a wizened old veteran like me you

can see through things quicker. Bands get held up as the next big new thing and you think well, a band like Elastica. who so clearly to me are a tenth-rate

band, they‘re absolutely nothing special‘.

So what do you do but broaden your creative palette and pop up on the box spouting forth on baby poo

, and creaking sagas about inadequate Danish princes?

Tony Parsons gets invited onto art shows because he

has a working-class accent and thereby injects blunt pragmatism into anally-retentive arts programmes.

What else? The voice of youth, of the street? ‘Delinitely not!’ he chokes a laugh. ‘l’ve got a

fourteen-year-old son. if they want the voice of youth they should hire him. And I do go down to the

Back in the (g)oldcn days Parsons was a teenage scribe at NMli. drafting drug-fired diatribes on the virtues of the Anarchy tour or on taking speed with

growing up in the east end. Yes. it was autobiographical. No. it didn't set the world on fire.

He began writing for posh, adult organs like The Daily 'I'elegruph and Arena. Travel pieces. author profiles, non-rock ‘n' roll-type stuff here resurrected in the book. technically they are a line read. but viscerally they can‘t compare with his early. febrile music pieces. Now these are vibrant signs of the times, and the book’s best bits to boot.

‘The Sex Pistols and The Clash had come and gone. been born and died. in the space between the first and second Stone Roses album. It was moving at a more ' tobacconisrs for a packet of R0103, But that's about as breakneck pace. 1 don‘t know that was necessarin 1 close to [he street as 1 get,‘ better a lot of talent was squandered by those times. i and a lot of that was the due to the nature of the l Dispatches From The F rmtt Line ()anpu/ar Culture drugs that everybody was taking. That a band as l is published 1))“ Virgin at {ID-.99.

_ Reading the disk

Man has always entertained himself by telling stories, it’s only the tool by which the stories are told that has changed throughout history. First came oral tales around the campfire, then drawings on cave walls. Chiselled tablets were a portable innovation, and the development of paper made this more practical. But since William Caxton invented the printing press, nothing much has really changed. Penguin’s recent publication on floppy disk of Peter James’s novel Host could, however, usher in a new age. ‘Over the next 40 years, books in printed form will become a bit like leatherbound volumes are now, a kind of nostalgic thing,’ suggests the author. He foresees a future where

avid readers will bury their noses in a high-definition, easy-to-read computer screen, the size of a paperback but only quarter of an inch thick and weighing next to nothing. As well as holding several novels, its memory

interactive factor to a minimum. ‘I still feel very strongly that the way in which a book is published shouldn’t affect the basic rules of storytelling,’ says James. ‘When you pick up a book, particularly in the thriller/horror genre, you want to know that you’re in safe hands, that the author will get you into all kinds of scary situations and hopefully get you out again at the end.’ As a story, Host is perfectly suited to its new format - a gripping thriller that brings together the two scientific cutting-edge areas of cryonics and research into downloading human consciousness onto a computer. On the page, it’s extremely hard to put down; in the electronic format, I suppose you’d have to say that, once you start it, it’s impossible to switch off. (Alan Morrison) Host is published by Penguin for the Apple Mac, priced £12.99, and is available exclusively from Dillons, with other stores following after i Christmas.

will include the Oxford English . Dictionary and Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Want a new book? Just call '= up your store, plug in the computer and the latest title will be downloaded ,i; at top speed.

| As the first electronic novel, Host might then be looked upon as a museum piece, but it’s an adventurous 1 step in the right direction - especially when it is claimed that about 80 per cent of British boys under sixteen never read books, but are extremely computer literate. Available for the Apple Macintosh (and early next year for the IBM PC), it takes only a few minutes to load and demands, in hardware terms, about 4000k in 9 Hypercard and, should you wish to view the author’s short video introduction, Quicktime. The latter is a little gimmicky; more useful are the pages of research and background i information that become accessible ; by clicking on certain underlined i words and phrases in the main text. In

i this way, the book keeps its

Peter James

The List l8 November—l December lQQd 73