Friday, February 5, 2010

Time to Read.

In a recent Q&A with Prospect, Martin Amis first claimed to agree with Dryden that "literature is instruction and delight" and is ought to be enjoyed. So far so traditional, so good. In his next answer he dismisses young, contemporary authors: 
 I don’t read them. I read my friends: Will Self and Zadie Smith. But it’s a fantastically uneconomical way of reading, to read your youngers. No-one knows if they are any good. Only time knows that.
Ian Leslie more or less agrees. Norman Geras in my opinion correctly calls it a " cramped approach from someone who's talking up the tienjoyment of reading". Sure, time is a scare commodity (if you want to introduce economical terms into a discussion about reading, which I fear you have to). So I can't entirely agree with Norman Geras either: You probably can't read it all. Most people just don't have the time or energy for that. But to dismiss young authors because they haven't  passed the test of time, or, like all the authors he mentiones before, are part of the canon. In times of loads and loads of user-generated reviews etc. I can easily and quickly determine how big the chances are that I will enjoy any given book. There just is no more need for a strict canon anymore, for literature passing the test of time.
When talking about reading as joy and delight, such normative statements are problematic, anyway.

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