Friday, September 19, 2008

A cardinal sin?

While we’re on the topic of bad writing … British novelist Andrew O’Hagan, who I recall was quite a hit at the 2007 Sydney Writers’ Festival, now seems to be auditioning for the next series of Grumpy (not quite so) Old Men.

During a panel session at the recent Edinburgh Writers’ Festival, he started by committing something akin to treason in the world of UK publishing by criticising the morning TV hosts Richard and Judy. While no-one denies that R&J’s book recommendations have shifted a lot of ‘units’, O’Hagan had the temerity to suggest that ‘they think the British reading public is stupid’ and that the kinds of titles selected ‘oversell a reduced, unimaginative notion of what people's literary enjoyment might be.’

He then added that he was disappointed by so many students taking creative writing courses, and recalled a visit to one such course at a famous institution. He complained that ‘some students were more interested in finding an agent in the United States than in improving their writing.’

‘When you speak to students, if you teach on a creative writing course, often what you find is that they are not interested in life at the level of the sentence,’ he said. ‘When you try to activate some interest, they find that slightly distracting. What they want to talk about is what it would be like to be a famous novelist.’

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