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V.S. Naipaul on Young People These Days

Written by Chris Routledge, 26th September 2007

He's been everywhere the last week or so. V.S. Naipaul has a book to sell and he seems to think he will do it by going on the radio to talk about how literary culture is dying; how the novel is finished, repetitive, in terminal decline. His curmudgeonly outburst on the BBC's Today programme coincides with rumblings from the United States about the condition of newspaper book reviewing (bad) and the consequences for publishing of Google's book scanning antics (bad for business). This may well be the age of the grumpy old man, but that doesn't mean we have to listen to them. I read a comment somewhere today in relation to 'cyber-bullying' arguing that countries are run by people nearing retirement age who have absolutely no idea how under 30s live their lives and who confirm their ignorance by adding e- or cyber- to everything. Zoe Williams at The Guardian seems quite annoyed by Naipaul's latest too. She says:

At one point, he starts off about Cambridge criticism. You lean in, thinking he might be about to say something of meaning about the poets and independent publishing houses working in Cambridge right now and for the past two decades - and it turns out he's talking about FR sodding Leavis! Overall, it is just a shame. Bits of his new book might be inflammatory, but mainly he is too pompous to inflame anyone, and even his harshest attacks are too dated and meaningless to stick ...

F.R. sodding Leavis indeed. In all of this Naipaul does have one good idea: sack all literature academics and make them work on the buses. But maybe limit it to one day a week, on license from the lecture theatre. And make Nobel Prize for Literature winners work as traffic wardens at the same time.

Posted by Chris Routledge

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