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Comment from the book world in March 2018

March 2018

'A new counter-culture'

12 March 2018

‘Books begin to feel more and more like a new counter-culture. There seems a new power animating books that was absent for many years, and that has to do with the form. It's said that reality has outstripped fiction but I don't think that's true. We need fiction more than ever to define reality afresh.

Politics has collapsed as a place where questions can be asked. The media has largely collapsed and in that space, books remain to ask the questions. Even if they do it badly, they still do it.'

Richard Flanagan, author of The Narrow Road to the Deep South, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2014, First Person and four other novels, in the Bookseller


‘A mouthpiece for race, gender and culture’?

5 March 2018

‘I never conceived of myself as a mouthpiece. Nor do I think of myself as telling "my stories", exactly. I think of myself as thinking about all sorts of things, on the page, in public. I try to point out the idiosyncratic way I think and the commonality I'm seeking. Something like: "I'm thinking this - are you, reader?" But I don't mind if the answer turns out to be no. I'm less interested in convincing people of an argument than in modelling a style of thinking. That's what's important to me in the literary world: ways of seeing and thinking...

I like to hear a variety of voices, but they don't have to be personal stories. What I'm really interested in is other conceptions. People have radically different minds, in my view, and I want to be exposed to as many of them as possible. I think there can be almost as much difference, experientially speaking, between you and the person next to you on the bus as there is between me and my pug. And if, as too often happens, publishing houses choose only writers they recognise, from their own milieu, their own backgrounds, class, perceived community etc, well, then you get far less variety in this pool of minds and we all miss out. Writers principally - but readers too.'

Zadie Smith, author of the book of essays Feel Free and the novels White Teeth and Saving Time in the Observer