Elsbeth's editorial in the latest issue has obviously touched a nerve as several readers have sent in responses, the following being from
Eileen Shaw, Leeds.
"I think we are even more in danger, these days, of losing our notion of reading as an adventure. Some publishers like to stick to novels with a guaranteed audience - chick lit, lad lit, historical romps, da Vinci code sagas, etc. Readers are thereby being 'trained' to read only a limited set of fiction genres. The result is that books which require the reader to work a little bit or which don't have an immediately recognisable signature-set (those elements by which we recognise what kind of book we are reading) are less valued than those which offer a formula the reader feels safer with. Zadie Smith calls this "system writing" - the books that present a self-sufficient system of ideas and provide and tend to provide a kind of collectivisation of thought. What I feel we are missing by systemising our reading and accepting imitations so unreflectingly (the latest Harry Potter clone, the next Marion Keyes copy) is that we are also narrowing our capactity for appreciating the imagination and creativity that goes into the writing of individual, idiosyncratic books. Books such as those by A S Byatt, Geoff Dyer or Adam Thorpe, Louise Dean or Nicola Barker to name just a few. These are writers that don't just write the same book over and over again, or copy the latest trend (Vampires!). These are books that tell their own particular, relative truths and I feel we are in danger of neglecting writers with true originality. We must beware of opening a book and shutting down our mind the moment it starts asking us questions."