I grew into Billy Bragg more than I grew up with him. Workers Playtime, released in 1988, I listen a lot more to now than I ever did before. It contains “Waiting for the Great Leap Forward”, an irresistible anthem about the complications of trying to restructure the socio-political environment through pop music and Bragg’s best known song. I titled a novel “If You’ve Got a Blacklist, I Want to Be On It,”, a lyric from this song, and sent it around to literary agents. This turned out to be a poor title. In the subject line of a follow-up e-mail I wrote the title of my novel—if you’ve got a blacklist, I want to be on it. I received a response back, almost immediately. The entirety of this literary agent’s e-mail, in all caps, read: “REQUEST GRANTED!” She had read the title of my book, interpreted it as some irritating wannabe author getting mad at her over having received a rejection letter or something, and decided to push back or lash out or whichever one it is when you are having a meltdown in your literary agency in Toronto’s office and feel like taking it out on someone less important than you.
If I ever have another novel based on a lyric from a Billy Bragg song to shop around futilely, I hope that I have had the good sense to title that one Between Marx and Marzipan. Between Marx and Marzipan, a novel by Colin Snowsell. Fuck yeah, I could make that work, just watch. 1) I like Marx. 2) I know how to bake, maybe not with marzipan exactly, but I like the sound of marzipan, it’s a good word, and really that is the whole point. I like the sound of every single thing on Workers Playtime, that’s what I came out today to say, but “The Short Answer” seems to get short shrift, and that I cannot—nay, I will not—abide.
The young Susannah York, a British actor, pictured below, passed away in 2011.