Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Literary values

Also on the Bookseller site this week, author Anthony Horowitz writes in his blog about the place of literary fiction in the new world of publishing, where books are viewed largely as commodities, and the market is led by titles written by celebrity chefs. He quotes from an interview with Giles Foden, professor of creative writing at UEA, who says:

"The idea of what constitutes literary value has changed or become less consensual. It's harder to establish what is good and what is not, and that is one of the things that forms the canon. Barnes, Amis, McEwan were the last people through the door, and then the door closed, and then the building fell down."

As Horowitz points out, although writers of literary fiction and other genres account for one third of all book publishing revenue, "literary values now end with a lot of noughts."


Harry said...

And the remarkable growth in British book festivals, which now seem to take place all the year round in the most unlikely venues up and down the land, seems to have been driven by an alliance between mass-market publishers and local tourist boards. They give the celebrity chefs and other TV types the chance to flog a few more copies of their coffee-table tomes, but truly great writers of a more literary bent are usually conspicuous by their absence.


Eric Dickens said...

Harry mentions book festivals. I have, in my time, written to the organisers of such gatherings pointing out that maybe they should invite a few authors in from that distant continent known as Europe, next time round. You get wishy-washy replies.

British book festivals seem to be populated by a those authors that are professional book-circuiteers, plus a number of TV & political celebrities who have nothing to do with general fiction or poetry, but may well have "written" a ghosted autobiography.

Sorry chaps, but this is just not on, as my snooty headmaster would have said forty years ago. I'm utterly fed up of the way bookshops in Britain are crammed full of display tables with lightweight so-called bestsellers. I rather hope that the celebrity bla-bla-bla market implodes during this recession and that people suddenly discover things like poetry (real, not the laureate stuff), and other serious literature.

I'm an idealist but don't expect miracles, although I wouldn't mind the odd pleasant surprise next time I walk into a branch of Waterstones. Display tables with a surfeit of translations would be nice. Linked up, this time, with one of the book festivals, which has had the gumption to invite foreigners, for a change.