When you’re dead you don’t need to worry about image. Groaning away in last season’s dust sheets or Jimmy Choos is one and the same thing. And it doesn’t matter how many likes you get because you don’t have a FB page. There has not yet been a generation of computer literate ghosts to worry about their image on social media.
How will manifestations of ghostliness be dealt with in literary fashion as we move further into the 21st century and is there anyone left to care?
I am fascinated by how and when spirits will modernize. What will happen to the ghost in the machine, given that self development is unlikely in the beyond. Not for these modern ghosts the task of operating as Dickensian warning signs; no dreary chain rattling or informing the living of their error of their ways. The new ghosts will surely want to trend on twitter. Maybe they will copy humanity and become abusive, distributing fake news. Who knows. Maybe they will just go because humanity will no longer have the element of any spiritual belief that sustains the realm of the other.
I have experienced apparitions of a sort the film industry became bored with decades ago; you know the watch out, ghost! sort of ghost with misty bits and drifty bits and stormy bits. In short, a coughing, banging about, whispering cliché. Hark! Is that the sound of paying customers yawning! We are bored ghost. Away with thee and thy foleying nonsense. There are more lethal darknesses upon us.
What is the mystery that brings prose writers and poets back to the hinterlands of dream and being? The hope of standing on the pinafores of giants and creating some Brontë-esque masterpiece for without the realm of the psychological many of our great works could not exist. Jane Eyre to quote the most obvious example.
Yet increasingly the realm of the unknown is being beaten around its metaphorical head by tub thumping 21st century bureaucracies and an educational system that penalises young people; that teaches them not to dream of anything other than being fed into the maw of a capitalist system they increasingly see as irrelevant to their future. Because the future of our young people is inextricably linked to climate change and its potential disasters. As usual, politicians are light years behind on this thinking. The children are way ahead as we have seen in the last couple of weeks.
The literary ghost is still a manifestation of spirit rather than a collection of undeleted files left lying around in the ether. Let us celebrate this. Despite the cliché of knocking and whispering and sounds of the audience yawning, I kind of hope he stays that way. But maybe he or she doesn’t want our hope. Like Greta Thunberg – the young Swedish climate activist – the ghosts want us to panic.