THE WEEK IN BOOKS
Like an electrical storm that makes everything around it spark and sting, the convulsion of rival histories in the wake of Margaret Thatcher's death has touched, and energised, all topics. I couldn't even begin to list the potential absentees from Granta's new team of the Best of Young British Novelists without thinking of the North- South divides of the 1980s. The magazine's select score does of course move outside the metropolis for several of its names, from Ross Raisin (Leeds) and Sunjeev Sahota (Derby/Sheffield) to Sarah Hall (Cumbria) and Jenni Fagan (Portobello - by the sea east of Edinburgh, not Notting Hill).
Yet once I began to tally some other estimable under-40s, it soon grew clear how many potential candidates hailed from the north (and west) of a country increasingly dominated by a capital that now operates - in literature as much as in banking - as a wholly globalised city-state. The absence of Nottingham's supremely accomplished Jon McGregor from the Granta list is, for me, the yawning hole in this squad. It also misses the exquisite Mancunian minimalism of Gwendoline Riley; the poetic Derbyshire drama of Edward Hogan; the Scouse passion and sweep of Helen Walsh; the shape- shifting Welsh wizardry of Rebbecca Ray; the comic ingenuity of her compatriot Joe Dunthorne; not to mention the Lancastrian ferocity and tenderness of Jenn Ashworth.
I'm not accusing anyone of prejudice against voices and visions that may lie beyond the services at Watford Gap. Think of these writers as potential additions to the Granta roll-call rather than competitive substitutions. However, some of the critical chatter around the Top 20 of 2013 points to the evolution of a blinkered new orthodoxy.
This tends to set an ideal of "globalised" authorship, supposedly more in touch with the forces and issues that matter in our integrated world, against fiction from some parochial or "provincial" backwater, deemed out of date and out of touch. …