What Do You Think?

Decades ago in the mid 1980s, months after I had just moved to Dubai to work, I became a member of the Dubai Arts Society. As members we used to meet in a villa near the beach. One of the rooms was turned into a library. It was a lending library where the books were donated by members and other people.


It didn’t take us long to form a writer’s circle. Our group was the most cosmopolitan, perhaps because it had members from everywhere with different nationalities and religions and cultural backgrounds.

During Christmas holidays the centre was once visited by Mr. Peter Gosling, a writer from England. So on the spot a creative writing workshop was offered and I grabbed the opportunity to join. It was like a dream come true. At the end of the workshop, he gave me the following advice:

“When you have written your book remember to send it to a British publisher first. You might have a chance to be published in England but not in the States.”

To be honest I was puzzled by this. I didn’t understand why he said what he said then. I still don’t. But recently I read Lewis Lapham’s letter offering advice to his nephew (who had decided to become a writer):

“The existence of a literature presupposes a literature and coherent public that has both the time to read and a need to take seriously the works of the literary imagination. I’m not sure whether the United States ever had such a public; certainly it hasn’t had one for the last thirty years. What we have instead is an opening-night crowd, astonished by celebrity and opulent spectacle, tolerating only those authors who present themselves as freaks and wonders and offer the scandal of their lives as proof of their act. Lacking even one critic whose judgment means anything, the management of the nation’s literary affairs falls naturally into the hands of accountants and press agents- i.e., life-forms native to the “deserts of materialism.”

Walk into the brightly packaged clutter of the nearest book-store, and what do you see? Mostly what you would see in The National Enquirer or on Entertainment Tonight- movie-star gossip, secrets of the pyramids and the stock market, guides to better health, confessions of accomplished swindlers and convicted murderers, beauty tips from notorious madams, the latest bulletins updating the E.T.A. for the end of the world.”

What do you think?


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4 Responses to What Do You Think?

  1. It’s partially true, but I wouldn’t say it’s all true. You can go into a bookstore and see many other good books as well. David Baldacci, Nicholas Sparks, etc.

    • chichikir says:

      Recently I went to a bookstore (Chapters, the biggest chain in Canada) downtown, looking for Hemingways’s “A Moveable Feast”, which they didn’t have. Books by Sparks and Baldacci were available. But unlike Hemingway, Tolstoy, Fitzgerald, Toni Morrison (to name a few) Sparks and Baldacci are not classroom material, (i.e. literature). Are they celebrity writers, yes. And I love to read them especially “Wish You Well” by David Baldacci and “True Believer” by Nicholas Sparks are among my favorites. 🙂

  2. Daniel says:

    “An opening night crowd, astonished by celebrity” is a wonderful summary of our national mood. Thanks for a great post!

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