Thursday, May 04, 2006

"We live in a culture of radio and television interviews, newspaper profiles, public readings with question-and-answer sessions, which has ensured that novels themselves -- far from being seen as self-contained statements, as having anything remotely final about them -- have merely become one (early) stage in a larger process: a process devoted, essentially, to the scrutiny and interrogation of writers' lives in the name of that insatiable curiosity which feeds on anyone reckless enough to set themselves up as a public figure. No one retains any real sense of the novel itself, in other words, as a reliable model of human nature: we have lost all semblance of that kind of faith in literature, or in the trustworthiness of writers. Which means, in effect, that we no longer read literature at all: we cross-examine it, forensically, in the light of its writers' lives, assuming that it's in the gaps, the interstices, the shortfalls between theory and practice that the real truths about human nature will emerge. This has brought about a radical change of emphasis, enambling a situation in which people know far more about Philip Larkin's political beliefs, or Ted Hughes's treatment of his wife, than they know (or care) about their poetry. A situation in which the actor Kate Winselt can declare, triumphantly and without irony, that she is a 'huge fan' of Iris Murdoch even though she has never read any of her books."

Jonathan Coe (Like a Fiery Elephant -- The Story of B.S. Johnson)


Anonymous James said...

Brilliant biography--the kind that makes you want to run out and buy all the books Johnson wrote.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Laird Hunt said...

Indeed, that's the thing to do...

4:21 PM  

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