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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE, 27 April 2008
This review is from: Born Yesterday: The News as a Novel (Paperback)
In 'Born Yesterday: The News As A Novel' Gordon Burn guides us through the big British news events of 2007, focusing particularly on the handover of power from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown and on the dissapearance of Madeleine McCann - as seen through the prism of the modern, 24/7 mass media - with literary skill and journalistic exactitude.

Burn clearly has some important things to say about the way the modern mass media effects our lives. The use of Marketing techniques to try to 'sell' an image to the public of Gordon Brown in order to win public approval and the attempt to 'sell' Madeleine McCann's image as a means of keeping her memory alive are both particularly salient in the book. The gap/discrepancy between media image and everyday reality, or in the words of Burn, between 'What is organic and what is artificially simulated' forms the heart the book.

'A narrative. A story. It is this...more than anything, a government must have if it is going to succeed. A story. A narrative to inspire supporters and enthuse the electorate.'

'Madeleine's eyes that had been styilised into media emblems...It had been a controversial decision to go big on the defect in Madeleine's eye and make this her distinguishing mark, the one certain way of identifying her. Because what follows from that, if the kidnapper wants to disguise the fact that the girl with him is the girl in question? Answer: damage the eye in some way...'Certainly we thought it was possible...But in terms of marketing it was a good ploy.''

Burn is a very good writer and one that makes you think about the society in which you live. The themes explored in the book are themes Burn has explored before but here they are brought to their obvious conclusion. Themes of obsession with fame and celebrity allied to a modern mass media feeding the frenzy predominate.

The line between the 'fake' world of what we used to refer to as showbusiness, and it's glorification of celeb culture on the one hand, and the 'real' world as represented by salient figures in the news in 2007 (like Gordon Brown and the McCanns) on the other hand are seen here to be blurrred by the refracted light of a modern mass media seemingly intent upon blurring that boundary ever further.
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