03 April 2009

Zalewski, Daniel. “The Background Hum.” The New Yorker 23 Feb. 2009, 46-61.

That down there was my 200th post, by the way. The one about sex and eating. The momentous one.

Still writing comps papers, meaning I'm not reading anything substantial. This article, though, from a back issue I hadn't really picked up when it came, gave me something I just put in the paper I just Finished! So I'm almost done. In two weeks I'll be reading again.

At any rate, it's an extremely thorough profile of Ian McEwan's life and work. Very well researched. very glitzy, too, ending as it does at McEwan's 60th birthday bash at the London Zoo, where Martin Amis and Zadie Smith make glitzy cameos. Here's the part I want to talk about:
Three years ago, McEwan culled the fiction library of his London town house, in Fitzroy Square. He and his younger son, Greg, handed out thirty novels in a nearby park. In an essay for the Guardian, McEwan reported that "every young woman we approached ... was eager and grateful to take a book," whereas the men "could not be persuaded. 'Nah, nah. Not for me. Thanks, mate, but no.'" The researcher's conclusion: "When women stop reading, the novel will be dead." (46)
I've been looking a lot at 20th/21st-century claims on the death of the novel for this paper, and this is my favorite one. It's also, I think, the most authoritative. Men write about the death of the novel, and then proceed not really to buy a lot of novels, or, if they do, not to have any idea who it is that's buying their own novels. Women write novels and buy them and write more.

This, I'm pretty sure, has always been the case.


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