Thoughts on reading and education

A superb rant from Susan Hill about a survey claiming to show that when women have babies they stop reading sensible books like War and Peace and turn to chick lit and material such as Colleen McCloughlin's autobiography. Each to her own: I used my own brief periods of maternity leave to catch up on Middlemarch and re-read some weighty Dickens novels, as although one could not read for too long at a time, one had plenty of short timeframes at many intervals during the day and night during this strange phase of life.
Susan goes on to fulminate against the Daily Mail who recruited "some jobsworth to talk to us about the survey, explain it to us, and make us feel OK about it or .. or otherwise justify her pay packet.  This woman is called Director of the 2008 Year of Reading.l I bet her pay packet is pretty thick. Anyway, she says, ( or rather, let`s get this straight, she is QUOTED by the Daily Mail as saying, ) ' It`s really important to read what you love and what fits in with your lifestyle.' Excuse me ? Who the bloody hell IS this woman and how dare she patronise me in this way, tell me what it is good to read, talk to me about my 'lifestyle' ??" And so on.
Susan also has a go at an article in the Wall St Journal in 2000 by one Harold Bloom, "a man, as you may well never have heard of him and I wish I had not, who claims to know what the Best Books, or the Literary Canon, are, and why and to tell us how Important they are. I want to tie him up and force feed him with John Carey`s little masterpiece, 'What Use are the Arts?' until he says he is sorry. Of J.K.Rowling he said, after being extremely rude about the Harry Potter books, 'Is there any redeeming educational use to Rowling?' When said H Bloom has got as many people reading, longing to read, staying up until midnight to get their hands on a book and then sitting down on the pavement to start it, when he has done the zillionth fraction of what Jo Rowling has done for books and reading and so, indirectly, for education, then he has the right to pontificate."
Absolutely. As Miss Jean Brodie pointed out, 'education' comes from the Latin 'to lead out'. Stimulating the imagination, 'leading out',  is what education is all about: honours are due to J K Rowling in that regard. Education isn't about force-feeding people with what some establishment politburo (or Mr Harold Bloom) thinks they should know. With her extensive Latin knowledge, Miss Brodie pointed out, again correctly, that this is an 'intrusion', not an education.

Petrona (and Theakston’s) in the Guardian

Alerted by the ever-vigilant Crime Fiction Reader of It's a Crime!, I bring you the breaking news that Petrona features in today's (Saturday) Guardian newspaper (review page 23). My post about my lunch with Dr Grump (Too groovy for scholarship) features as the first item in a group of blog posts discussing overcrowding in the British Library. Fame! Readers of the newspaper edition are referred to the Guardian books blog online, but nothing is there. At 1920 in the UK, the top post is dated Friday, so perhaps entries go up a day late. There is no sign of  the piece on the newspaper part of the website either. But "tomorrow is another day".  

While on the topic of book blogs, Karen at Euro Crime has highlighted the Theakston's Old Peculier "crime novel of the year" long list, with links to reviews of the books concerned at Euro Crime. Karen points out that of the 20 books, only four are by women. Shocking! Most of the books that I have read on the list are good, but certainly recent works by Ruth Rendell, Kitty Sewell, Diane Setterfield, Anne Cleeves, Jessica Mann, Tana French, Mo Hayder, Nicci French, Laura Stratton and Catherine Sampson are the peers of those on the list I've read, and I gather so are Catherine O'Flynn, Aliya Whiteley, Deanna Raybourn and I am sure others. The Guardian (again) is sniffy about the prize in any event, because the readers don't really get to choose the winner, even though it is a "readers' " competition. In the comments to the Guardian piece, Maxim Jarubowski points out that small, independent publishers are unfairly omitted in favour of "all the usual suspects with marketing budgets behind them". He doesn't give examples, however. I've read great fiction this past year in books published by independents such as Bitter Lemon Press, Arcadia and others, but they've all been translations, which I think are not eligible.