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on 7 January 2012
"Knowing the truth, knowing it with such certainty as can withstand the cross-currents of vulgar experience and so stay immune to the temptations of narrow and partial interests, is exactly the quality that sets the few apart from the many - and stands them above the crowd," thus posited Zygmunt Bauman (memorably) in his under-celebrated disquisition 'Modernity and Ambivalence'.
Bauman, 86, was making the (axiomatically synchronic) point that modern social forms and institutions no longer have enough time or space to solidify, to coadunate. The staunch Baumanista, Peter Ustinov, summed this thusly: `within this 'liquid' society individuals find they are now required to fuse together for themselves social objects snatched from an infinitely variegated cultural continuum with the aim of forming a series of short-term projects and episodes which (sadly) usually fail to form the kind of sequence that concepts like "career" and "progress" and "chat" [my addition] could be meaningfully applied to' (Ustinov P., 'Against Banter', 1974, Spixworth Univ. Press)
Bauman, who only took up sociology when his career as a professional table-tennis player was stymied by a skin condition that affected his grip, was a keen proponent of the theory that an individual engages in society within a conduit of liquid reflexivity - and the parallels with Partridge are too compelling to ignore.
Alan Partridge, broadcaster, elite chatterer, mid-morning gabfest grandee, has become a triumphant raconteur synonymous with the superfluidity of our modern digital media and its incumbent twitter (to borrow a phrase from the zeitgeist). The bon vivancy of Alan's success, however, masks his most important utility - the insidious edge he uses to scythe through the pinioned infrastructures of light entertainment broadcasting; an edge which enables him to reach counter-intuitive heights of fame and popularity.
This edge, so often overlooked, is his consistent, unyielding use of antithetic positioning within the activity of interlocution (cf. Chegwin's law of banter/anti-banter). It is this unyielding antithetical approach to discussion and debate which brought Alan invaluable notoriety when he shot dead one of his guests (Forbes McAllister) live on air whilst examining Lord Byron's duelling pistol. It is this unyielding antithetical approach to discussion and debate which brought Alan some more invaluable notoriety when a cadre of nettled farmers dumped a dead cow on his head during the filming of a corporate infomercial on a canal boat in the Fens. Ustinov called this approach to discourse 'Positronic Confabulation'; it is Anti-Chat and it only exists when metabolized in fugs of innervated banter - forged from the bursts of energy released during the fission of chatter and chattee.
A-ha belies A-grrrr.
Or does it? I don't think so. Why? Well, the more I study 'Alan Partridge: Every Ruddy Word' the more I find the reductive reasoning of Positronic Confabulation both glib and vulgar. 'Every Ruddy Word' is a magnificent canon, an epic Jacka-nacka-nory that exposes to a wider world the existence of a volatile triumvirate controlling the personality of our modern media: morality, hubris and greed (naked). We, the reader, are shown this rambunctious triple-snouted synod in all its maniacal fury, told how it unleashes whiplashes of thunder across evening line-ups, bends and twists daytime schedules inside furnaces of solipsistic rage; bequeathing hours of live snooker with one hand then destroying a chain of traffic updates with the other. A second series is incinerated on a vicious whim; a heart breaks, a dove smacks into a crane and dies instantly.
At this book's core lies an ethical un-ambivalence that leaves the reader engrossed to the point of discombobulation and feeling slightly sick. Especially if it's read on a bumpy bus ride. Who really are the villains, the anti-chatterers? The BBC? Yes. Tony Hayers? Yes yes yes yes yes. Sue Cook? Yes. Alan? No.
This book is `old testament' stuff now, Alan's quill is begetting new ruddy words as we speak, and eventually a new canon will emerge (tainted, alas, by association with Murdoch's heinous neo-liberal empire of death). Recently Alan released an autobiography, 'Sky, Partridge', ooops 'I, Partridge' which is funnier than snorting a tin of nitrous oxide then watching a hundred Jethros burn to death.
But talk of things to come is folly, the future lies in the hands of giant broadcasting exo-brains - self-aware super-computers that will one day run multi-channel television from huge orbiting space platforms. No, the present is our concern, and the present here is 'Every Ruddy Word'; it is here where we find the true nub of Partridge, Alan's eukaryotic kernel. This magnum opus is 'a priori' Alan, corpus Partridge, it is 'Man and Superman' marinated in 'Nausea' and served on a twelve-inch plate in a Swaffham diner. Side clump of cress? You betcha.
Alan bestrides every page in this book like a titular titan. When he said: 'Nobody wants to see an erection, unless it's in the mirror, isn't that right guys?' he irrevocably ascended to the role of spokesman for a generation of over-forties men. When he said: 'Do you like my cones? They're little ones. I got them from a cycling test centre.' he did the same for over-fifties women everywhere (women in their forties remained unmoved).
From Longstanton to Thetford, from Flitwick to Terrington Saint Clement, legions of soul-searching over-forties/fifties battle-hardened tellurian soldiers are waddling waste-deep through golden fields of rape testifying at the top of their wizened voices that to understand Alan is to understand thyself: "Knowing Alan....Knowing Me!" Aha-men.