Gordon Burn

This article is from 2008

Gordon Burn

Upsetting the traditionalists with novelised news

‘I hate plots. Soon as I know that a film or a book or TV show has a plot, my brain can’t cope with it. If I’m watching a film and I don’t know or have forgotten what the storyline is and I’m supposed to work out who this or that person is, I just fall asleep.’ This statement probably won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone familiar with the work of Gordon Burn, the Newcastle-born London-based journalist, author and chronicler of everyone from George Best to Fred West. Atmosphere, location and the steady compilation of little things that finally amount to something far bigger is Burn’s modus operandi.

In Born Yesterday: The News as a Novel, he shines a bright beam onto the British summer of 2007, a time of political upheaval with Blair finally handing power over to Brown, the creeping trauma of the McCanns and the blazing headlines made by an assault on Glasgow Airport. All the while, Burn makes a mountain out of the many fragments of connections and observations he makes about the incidents and characters involved in this novelised snapshot of history. ‘I like to think it’s pushing things forward a little bit, though some might say it’s going backwards. Those who wanted to defend the ramparts of traditional fiction weren’t keen but younger reviewers got it.’ Still, if stuffy traditionalists are getting uptight over something as memorable as Born Yesterday, it must mean Gordon Burn is doing something right.

21 Aug (with Glyn Maxwell), 4.30pm, £6 (£4).