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Fallen on hard times

Pen
The race is on to turn the economic crisis into best selling fiction
The recession has had an appalling effect on jobs and the markets - but what will it do to art and culture?

Bank collapses and unprecedented economic turmoil may be dire news for most, but to aspiring novelists it may be the break they have long been waiting for.

The Great Depression of the 1920s inspired writers like John Steinbeck to chart the miseries suffered by the poor in The Grapes of Wrath.

Martin Baker, author and former financial journalist, believes now is the time for artists to respond to what is going on in the global markets today.

"I think it's a function of art to hold a mirror up to society.

"I think publishing and journalism haven't done such a great job of that and now we're facing a huge, long wet Wednesday afternoon for a couple of years - and that's an opportunity for a voyage of discovery internally - an opportunity for inward reflection."

Looking for inspiration for a great work of your own? Here are some of the epoch defining works from the past.

LITTLE DORRIT

BBC production of Little Dorrit
Charles Dickens' satirical masterpiece plots the turbulent lives of the inmates of Marshalsea debtor's prison in London.

The novel's namesake, Little Dorrit, was born in the prison but her life is turned around when she meets Arthur Clennam, who saves her family from poverty - only to become impoverished himself.

THE GRAPES OF WRATH
Dust storm Cimarron County

John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his description of the lives of the Joad family, 'okie' farmers whose crops are wiped out when the dust bowl hits Oklahoma.

Forced to leave their land to find work, they travel across the US in a worn-out Hudson truck, only to find starvation, misery, strikes and violence in a country ruined by the Great Depression.

BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES
The Chrysler Building in Manhattan

Tom Wolfe's satire of 1980s New York centres on the life of Sherman McCoy, a bond trader on Wall Street and self-defined "master of the universe".

His life of wealth and arrogance is shattered when he commits a hit and run on a young black man down a backstreet.

The incident draws him into the dirty politics and race battles of 1980s New York and brings out the massive inequalities created by the huge success of Wall Street.

MONEY: A SUICIDE NOTE

Front cover of Money by Martin Amis
Martin Amis' novel is the story of anti-hero John Self, a successful director of commercials who flies between London and New York in his quest to have his first feature film produced.

Overweight and prone to boils, the character spends a great deal of the book drinking, smoking and using pornography.

The characters inhabit an alternative universe where consumables are subversively renamed - a car branded the Fiasco, for instance.


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