Thursday 14 June 2018

Shriver Stirs It Up

'From now until 2025, literary excellence will be secondary to ticking all those ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual preference and crap-education boxes. We can safely infer ... that if an agent submits a manuscript written by a gay transgender Caribbean who dropped out of school at seven and powers around town on a mobility scooter, it will be published, whether or not said manuscript is an incoherent, tedious, meandering and insensible pile of mixed-paper recycling.' 
  Predictably enough, these forthright words from Lionel Shriver have stirred up an almighty brouhaha in the wonderful world of publishing, and she has been dropped from the judging panel for a writing competition run by Mslexia magazine. Shriver was writing in response to the news that Penguin Random House intends that by 2025 its author list will reflect the 'diversity' of society as a whole. This can of course only be achieved by a quota system, and quotas can only lead to the kind of scenario so graphically outlined by Shriver.
  The response of the editor of Mslexia is interesting. Why on earth should women writers – or any writers not living in a totalitarian state – need a 'safe space' to publish their work? If any writers are in need of a 'safe space' it might soon be those who dare to question the 'diversity' dogma that now seems to have the publishing industry, as well as so many other institutions, firmly in its grip.


  1. I sometimes wonder how people in the future will look back at this time, when we dispensed with such old fashioned notions as 'merit' and replaced them with ideas like 'virtue'. Seems like the road to nonsense to me, Kenneth Clarke will be spinning in his grave like a turbine.

  2. A new form of sustainable energy?

  3. This is coming to be a ritual (see James Damore), and one that generates little insight or (for me) interest.

    At our distance from the early 20th Century, we can see that not every daring novel that set off a court case was particularly good. The US banned Ulysses, but one of the states banned Replenishing Emily. Shriver's statement is bold, as the consequences show, but not especially clever, especially original, or perhaps accurate as a prediction.

    The notion of judging a contest for Mslexia brings to mind Lincoln's story about the man who was ridden out of town on a rail: if not for the honor, he'd just as soon have walked. I hope that she will enjoy the free time now available, and I wonder whether she suffers from the temptation to work out anagrams of "Mslexia".