I'm suffering a crisp-related crisis of confidence this week. I suspect that I might be a Pringle, you see. I have begun to believe that I am an overpackaged nugget of pretence; a saltily seductive, easily digested yet inherently unnutritious snack full of superfluous ingredients that leave you feeling empty but craving more. I fear that I hydrogenate our subtle, slippery society into a gelid slice of smarts, processing the Real Cultural McCoy into a pallid pop-tart parody of what it really is. I despair that I am a fast food footnote in the great moveable feast of art, and that my only legacy will be as a brief, unwelcome burp in the minds of the unfortunate few who were bored enough to scoop the odd tube of my cerebral crap from entertainment's aisles.
Oh God. It all started with AA Gill (as so much does) complaining in The Sunday Times with his customary acuity that TV comedy has lost its sense of belly-laugh humour in favour of 'one-line salty cleverness: the Pringle'. Then two days later I came across Benjamin Kunkel's brilliant essay on reading and writing online, which compares the addictive way in which we consume digital content to the sinister pull of Procter & Gamble's famed potato chip.
And now I've finally got round to starting the frigteningly masterful Possession. This tale of academic obsessives has reminded me not only that most of us are mere leeches, living off the lifeblood of the great and clinging onto our puny revelations like lemmings on a cultural cliff, but that so few writers achieve what AS Byatt does: genuine alchemy, which forges cohesive originality from the fragments of the past.
The thing is, as a commentator cum reviewer cum rambler online, I know that I'm a Pringle, and it doesn't bother me. I accept that my output is exaggeratedly engineered for the medium: shiny, snappy and synaptic; a smooth mashing of memes and mores into an overflavoured energy hit. But what about my embryonic attempt at long-form fiction, which is creeping so slowly and insecurely into the light? Will it wither in the unforgiving beam of Truth like a slug doused in Pringly salt? In short, now that I've so compulsively popped, will I be able to stop?
We shall see. In the meantime, I shall resign myself to a literary career as a Sour Cream and Chives: a little bit tart; a whole lot of odd; goes surprisingly well with gin.