Dylan Jones: 'Anyone who has ever read Gordon Burn will understand that his work will live on longer than he thought it might'

Talk of the Town

Share
Related Topics

I first met Gordon Burn towards the end of 1987. He'd just interviewed Tom Wolfe and wanted to know if we wanted to run it in Arena. Of course we did – why would you not agree to publish anything by Gordon? – and over the next five years or so he wrote many fine things for the magazine, including interviews with Nik Cohn, Sting and Antony Sher. I remember him being one of the most considered journalists I'd ever met, a man who never took an assignment unless he was convinced he could actually improve our understanding of it. He was competitive, but rarely with other people; he was competitive with the ridiculously high standards he set himself.

He followed me to various Sunday newspapers, and we always stayed in contact, usually convening late at night in the Groucho Club, which he appeared to use as an unofficial office. And even when we didn't see each other, I'd always read what he had to say, even if I had little or no interest in the subject itself.

When Gordon died last summer, he was already editing what turned out to be his posthumous collection of writings, Sex & Violence, Death & Silence (Faber & Faber, £20), a rather remarkable book that slipped out without much fanfare just before Christmas. It's subtitled "Encounters with Recent Art", yet it is so much more than that, being a 35-year trawl through British popular culture, taking in everything from Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst (who always considered Gordon to be something of a genius) to The Clash, Helmut Newton and Charles Saatchi. There's a sort-of foreword to the book that takes the form of an interview with Hirst by David Peace, in which they discuss Gordon's apparent lack of interest in his legacy. But anyone who has ever read anything by Gordon – and this book is a good place to start – will understand that his work will live on a lot longer than he perhaps thought it might.

"So what do you think he'd have made of this?" asks Peace in the book. "Us talking about him?"

"He'd have hated it," says Hirst. "He'd have said, 'Shut up. Have a f****** beer.'"

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Peter Mandelson first resigned from the cabinet on 23 December 1998  

2015's dim-sum index has too many courses

John Rentoul
 

I'm just as merry without a drink, thank you

Fiona Sturges
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015