Saturday 25 August 2012


Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson is one of our most successful recent novelists and author of The Finkler Question which won The Man Booker Prize in 2010. He is  a journalist, broadcaster and novelist born in Manchester in 1942.

In the article below he berates us readers for killing the novel.

Reading his article entitled, “ Readers are killing the novel, warns Jacobson,” Source Books and many of their readers come immediately to mind. Source Books is a publishing company with  many  parts to its octopus like, many limbed body,  the most life withering and  destructive tentacle  of which publishes Jane Austen  spin offs. I should say more specifically, Pride and Prejudice spin offs. Darcy and Elizabeth must appear. That is the only one of  Jane Austen’s creative  works  that  has the pulling power to  sell. Yes, it's all about money and the duping of innocent ladies who are happy receiving pin money to sweat away over writing  nice sweet sentences for Source Books.  Surely anybody aware of this should hear the warning bells immediately and certainly not read this stuff. However some people apparently do read it.

So what is Howard Jacobson’s main point? It is that we as readers are reduced to liking novels that have a character with whom we empathise.  That is not what Jacobson thinks reading should be about and it is not what I think reading is about.

One of my favourite analysts of good writing, Pie Corbett, an ex teacher, writes,
” Literature should jolt the senses, making us feel alive... we should  have only time to  read books that bite and sting…if books we read do not wake us up  with a blow to  the head what’s the point in reading? A book must be an axe which smashes the frozen sea within us.”

When I read I want to be challenged, made to think and have my world turned upside down. I want to be made to feel uncomfortable and challenged. The comfortable safe world of another Pride and Prejudice spin off is doing two things, killing the novel  and killing  me.

Here is Howard Jacobson’s article:

1 comment:

  1. Ah Tony! You're back on your soapbox. (Do you have that in England or just Hyde Park corner?) I disagree with Jacobson--and you. There are thousands and thousands of books to choose from. The novel is alive and well. If Jacobson doesn't want to read Austen re-imaginings, then he doesn't have to. No one is pointing a gun at him. These stories are like a hot cup of tea on a cold winter's evening. They are within people's comfort zone. Nothing wrong with that. Jane Austen is one of the greatest authors in English or any language for that matter. She's doing fine. No worries.

    As for Sourcebooks, it is pretty much out of the Austen business, but the independents have taken up where Sourcebooks has ended and that includes me.