Like most people, I like to imagine that I am utterly unique. A true original. An anti-sheep, a lone wolf; a blazer of trails rather than a treader of pre-worn paths; a sternly individual savant whose cultural decisions spring from a peerless inner well of aesthetic instinct rather than being blown from one shiny object to the other by the whimsical winds of common opinion.
I am, of course, totally deluded. As I write this I am wearing an apparently underivative outfit of skinny indigo jeans and silky camel T-shirt; but of course, skinnies have been a ubiquitous emblem of unimaginative fashion slavery since 2005 and the T-shirt is a high street attempt to channel last year’s Chloe catwalk. I am surrounded by Apple technology; I am eating porridge. I am a sitting cliché.
But surely, I protest, my literary choices are less predictable? I am no three-for-two ho or top ten slave. I am currently reading a dog-eared old copy of Anne Enwright’s 2007 novel The Gathering, pilfered from the shelf of a relocating friend. It’s successor, waiting on my desk, will be Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel R. Delaney, an 80s sci-fi cult classic pressed upon me by a colleague. Most of my reading recommendations come from word of mouth, and I will purposefully make random selections in bookshops because I like a cover or a title. However, I have a sinking feeling that randomness doesn’t come into it at all. Am I always simply consuming whatever has been deemed ‘it lit’ by some marketing wonk, albeit several years late?