It’s that time of year when newspapers resort to cheap filler by asking the literati what they’ll be reading on holiday. The Independent offered its list (much of which was, in fairness, quite interesting, bar the usual odd bits of self-promotion), and included this gem from Margaret Drabble (a novelist for whom I have very little time, anyway, and less so now).
I’ll be reading Owen Sheers’s new novel, I Saw a Man, despite the extremely boring and irrelevant discussions about genre fiction that are accompanying its publication. It’s said to be a page-turner, but no harm in that, and he has an excellent track record in other fields, so I’m looking forward to it. I read Ishiguro’s Buried Giant as soon as it came out, and although I don’t read much fantasy fiction, I loved his ogres as much as he does and felt very sorry for them. I can see the genre problem, though – I wouldn’t have read this book had it not been by him. And, for intellectual ballast, I shall catch up with Helen Small’sThe Value of the Humanities, a book which we shall be needing as the new government revamps its education policies. She always has fine, balanced and persuasive arguments, and how we need them now.
It’s not even the comments about genre that irritate me, given I’m perennially tired with them too, yet still feel the need to try to redress the balance.
No, it’s the sheer disdain the piece exudes, even for these novels she’s supposedly keen to read.
‘It’s said to be a page-turner, but no harm in that, and he has an excellent track record in other fields’. So that’s all right, then. I was worried there for a moment.
Or: ‘I can see the genre problem, though – I wouldn’t have read this book had it not been by him.’ But, but, but, I thought she didn’t care about ‘extremely boring and irrelevant discussions about genre fiction’, yet they would have stopped her reading the novel if it hadn’t been by Ishiguro.
And then, the killer … ‘for intellectual ballast’. It’s hard to feel warmth towards a novelist who appears to think so little of novels.